Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors Him.
There are over 2,000 verses in the bible that deal with the poor, poverty, and justice. Pastor Tim Keller once remarked that “if you are not regularly doing something to help the poor and oppressed then you have good cause to question whether you are a Christian at all.”Pretty strong words, to say the least.
I’m confident that most of us would say that we don’t do anything to “oppress” the poor, but the word translated as “oppresses” can also be translated “slanders.” It includes the idea of putting down or belittling others. Those who belittle or demean thepoor show contempt for or insult God.Do you ever look down your nose at the poor or the needy? The beggar on the street corner or the sluggard hanging out at the gas station?
Regarding the second half of today’s passage, there is both a positive and a negative application. The bible highlights God’s heart for the poor throughout its pages, and when we care for them, we honor His image that they bear. Conversely, when we turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, we dishonor not only the fact that they are made in God’s image, but we dishonor God by ignoring his abundantly clear call to give sacrificially to help them and care for them.
The great 18thcentury Pastor, Jonathan Edwards, in his discourse on Christian Charity, reminds us that“Christ loved us, was kind to us, and was willing to relieve us, though we were very evil and hateful, of an evil disposition, not deserving of any good . . . so we should be willing to be kind to those who are of an ill disposition, and are very undeserving.” We all need to consider what we are doing – on a regular basis – to help the poor, and contrast that with what God has done to help all of us in our spiritual poverty, both by saving us, and then by sanctifying us. Our response to His charity should be reflected in our response to the plight of the poor.