#GrowWise. How Wise People Treat the Poor

January 19, 2015

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Proverbs 19:17  (read the whole chapter)

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will reward them for what they have done.



On the one hand, Proverbs seems to say in many places that people become poor because of unwise decisions (foolishness, folly, laziness, not responsive to correction, etc.). On the other hand, a clear characteristic of wise people is the way they handle and help the poor.

It’s a bit of a conundrum. It seems the wise help those who make unwise decisions. Let’s be clear. Just because a person is poor does not mean they have made unwise choices. In fact, this is a point of deep Holy Spirit inspired self examination for many of us. Those of us who are not poor tend to approach the poor with the prejudgment that they somehow deserve to be poor because of their unwise decisions. “It’s their own fault,” we tell ourselves, in an effort to excuse ourselves from helping them. “Get a job!” we want to tell them.

Proverbs shows us what wisdom looks like when it comes to the poor.

Regardless of why people find themselves in poverty, it is a horribly unkind reality. Everything conspires against the poor and seemingly everyone. From today’s chapter we see this:

The poor are shunned by all their relatives—
    how much more do their friends avoid them!
Though the poor pursue them with pleading,
    they are nowhere to be found. v.7

In other words, financial poverty creates the downward spiraling dynamics of familial poverty, relational poverty, emotional poverty, physical poverty and on it goes. Poverty is a diabolical reality, and to the extent we judge the poor for their poverty we perpetuate the cycle.

At the same time, do we continue to pour water into a leaking bucket? One can argue that giving money to the poor can also perpetuate the cycle.

What are we to do? It’s a terribly complex problem.

Proverbs give us guidance. For instance, it says we probably shouldn’t co-sign on any debts. Today’s text couldn’t be more clear though:

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will reward them for what they have done.

We will do well to remember: Jesus is poor. He translates the passage like this:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:31-40.

The biblical connection is undeniable. Helping the poor = Lending to the Lord. Wisdom makes sure the connection is undeniable in our lives.

I’ll see you tomorrow in Proverbs 20.


J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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Comments and Discussion

6 Responses

  1. Good article. Though I’m wondering what your further thoughts would be on the scripture you used from Matt25. Specifically, “Truly I tell you, what ever you did for one of the least of these MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF MINE, you did for me.” (emphasis mine). It seems our Lord is referring to Christians helping their poorer brothers and sisters in the Lord. Not the poor public at large. Is this not a correct assessment?
    Interested in your thoughts on this. Thank you in advance.

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