The wise teachers of Israel mostly grounded their teachings on the duties and works of charity on the doctrine that: “Behind the poor, Yahweh their Creator and Lord himself is standing”.
This means that the people’s attitude to God will be reflected in their attitudes to the poor, or rather that the people’s attitude towards the poor is invariably directed to God who is standing behind them. Thus, on the one hand, “He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker” and on the other hand “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.” (Prov. 17:5; 19:17). So, what one does to or for the poor, he does to or for God. (cf Matt. 25:40). Likewise, whatever is not done to the poor and needy is not done to the Lord (Matt. 25:45).
God cannot be compared with any one for he does not delight in fraternizing with the wealthy and famous, but has the unique character of identifying with the poor- fighting their cause, rescuing them from their misery, and transforming the paupers into princes (Ps. 113: 5-9; 1 Sam. 2:8). “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.” (Deut. 10:18).
God may not necessarily be against the wealthy and the strong, but he is obviously on the side of the poor as he evidently shows himself to be kindly disposed to them and places emphasis on helping and rescuing them. God has the predicament of the poor at heart, and is always there for them. There are three types of the poor and God attends to them all: He succours the indigent poor, champions the powerless poor, and exalts the humble poor and wants his people to do as he does. He is in fact, contemptuous of those who exploit and maltreat the poor socially, economically or religiously. When the poor cries for help, God hears him and comes to his rescue (Job 5:15; 29:12; 34:28; 36:15. Psa 34: 6; 35:10; 69:33). God helps the poor (Psa. 10:14); provides for their needs (Psa. 68:10; 112:9); protects him (Ps. 12:5), raises him to a higher status (Psa. 113:7); champions his cause and secures justice for him (Psa. 9:48; 140:12).
We should therefore also mind how we ourselves treat the poor for God is behind them.
Reflections on the Bible Readings for Day – Prov. 14:31-15:17; James 4:13-5:11 (Mattins)
The OT is a part of the section of the Book of Proverbs regarded as the main collection of Solomon’s proverbs (10:1-22:16). The second Solomonic collection (25-29) is known as Hezekiah’s collection of Solomon’s proverbs. This section of Proverbs does not appear to have any particular arrangement of topics or issues discussed except that occasionally, two or three proverbs deal with the same subject. The passage for the OT starts with the statement: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God”, gives the explicit implications of oppressing the poor and vice versa – showing contempt to God who made them or honouring God if otherwise. Sharing food (22:9); lending money (28:8), and defending rights are some of the ways given in Proverbs through which kindness can be shown. Those who do such things honour God and are blessed (14:21, 28:27).
The NT started with a condemnation of the arrogance and presumption of the business tycoons, proceeded to the issues of oppression of the poor, and concludes with an exhortation on the oppressed to be patient and not to seek revenge since the judgement of God is around the corner. The oppressive rich are warned of the misery coming on them consequent on God’s judgement on their oppressive acts. They oppressed the poor by hoarding wealth, denying their wages, living in luxury and self-indulgence, and condemning innocent men. By so doing, they played into the hands of God and he will deal with them. He has declared judgement on them.
The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba, FIMC, CMC.