“The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends. He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who gives to the needy.”Proverbs 14:20-21
Many of the Proverbs stand on their own, and can be read and reflected on one verse at a time. Indeed, that is often the best way to digest these words of wisdom, appreciate and apply them. However, sometimes it is helpful to look at 2 verses together, rather than on their own. This is one such time.
The reason is because in their wisdom, some of the Proverbs declare the reality of what is, rather than what should be. Others describe an ideal, and give us something to work toward in order to move us beyond the reality of what is. Many of the Proverbs about bribes do this. Are bribes good or bad? It depends on which Proverb you read. Here in vs. 20 we see a statement of what is, followed by a dream of what could/should be. It isn’t that the poor should be shunned by their neighbors and that the rich should have many friends. That’s just what often happens, as vs. 20 points out. Vs. 21 goes on to explore this idea further, and declares that it is a sin to despise one’s neighbor (we can assume based on being poor), and that we are blessed when we give to the needy. In other words, we SHOULD help the poor. We SHOULD be friends with our neighbors despite their apparent lack of resources.
I remember my days in seminary, when none of us had very much. A couple who lived across the hall from us were having a baby, and their resources were pretty dried up. We anonymously dropped off groceries one day, even though we didn’t have a lot to spare. In blessing them, we were blessed even more. Other times, people have blessed us when we had needs that we couldn’t meet. God gives to us so that we can share those blessings with others.
Do you live your life to bless others with what you have been given?