A ruler who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.
A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.
I added the second translation of this verse, because after studying it, I believe it is closest to the meaning Solomon intended. (That is, however, purely my opinion, and I'm not a Hebrew scholar, so please don't fuss at me!)
These are terms that my grandparents used in the days that they cultivated crops on their farm. They were talking about extremely heavy rains; rains that would wash a gully in a newly-plowed field. Storms that came on fast, and so furiously, and poured down so much rain that it seemed it would choke a frog (and he is supposed to be used to the rain, right?).
The end result of these storms is not pretty. You don't get lush fields and waving plants from this kind of rain. It happens so fast that the water is unable to penetrate the earth, soften the soil, and nourish the plant life. It actually runs off - goes downhill and into the streams so fast that it carries precious soil and nutrients along with it. This kind of storm will often strip roots bare of their soil covering, and leave the plants to wither instead of thrive.
Solomon is comparing people to this type of rainstorm. What kind of people? In this particular instance, he notes poor people who oppress the poor. In other words, a person who was poor at some point in his life, and who now is wealthy -- and uses his position to oppress, rather than to assist, people who are still in need. Someone who really ought to say, "I've been there" and give someone a hand up. Instead, they look down on the poor person, and perhaps even do things that cause the unfortunate person to wither instead of to thrive. . . just like the rainstorm we talked about.
We may not be wealthy, and we may not oppress poor people . . . but what about that Christian sister who confides to us about that sin she can't seem to shake? The one that we were able to overcome, by the Holy Spirit's help? Do we offer her encouragement? Do we think (and say) "I've been there" and give her the help she needs, the verses that helped us? If we don't, we are just like that rainstorm that pulls the soil out from under a plant.
And, in reality, what about that Christian brother or sister who is struggling to make ends meet? Perhaps they don't seem "poor" to us, but they are searching for work while raising a family, and must minister to an elderly relative, as well. Do we look down our noses at their noisy (hungry) kids because they don't have nice things, or do we offer to let them use our washer and dryer to clean their family's clothing? We can witness over folded towels just as easily as over a cup of coffee. Do we think proudly about the great job we did, finding a job, and "surely they can do the same...they just have to try harder." Or do we think, "I've been there" and slip a gift card for groceries into their pocket?
Many times after a driving rain, a farmer will go into the fields and gently use his hoe to pull soil back around the roots of storm-ravaged plants. The plants will survive, because of the gentle work the farmer does.
Let's try to be farmers, and help people, instead of being gully-washers, that tear them down!