“Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him.”Proverbs 14:3
Not all the proverbs are focused on personal behavior, but many of them have a social nature. Chapter 14 has many of these, describing just rule, righteous governance, and social issues. Proverbs 14:31 relates to how we treat the poor and the needy, and makes it quite clear that our treatment of those who have less is in direct correlation to our relationship to God. The prophets stress this. Indeed the ancient laws of Moses direct that farmers are not to harvest to the boundaries of their fields but to leave that area for the poor to glean. The Book of Ruth is about such practice.
Here is where the “rubber hits the road.” How are we impacting the poor? Do we even think of the poor in our daily chores? How do our investments affect others less fortunate than we? In 1908 Methodism became the first Protestant church to devise Social Principles which are still being updated in our Book of Discipline. Wesley reached out to the poor in all his ministry. He urged literacy so folks could read scripture and founded a school for poor children. At that time some Christians felt that if you were poor that was how God destined you to be. Alas, many New England businessmen believed this.
How we treat the poor reflects on our faith and our relationship to God. How we include the poor in our ministries as a church reflects on our congregation’s faith in God. It’s a sobering thought. And it is a challenge to our churches and to our society.