Monday, February 18, 2013

Proverbs 29:7 The more things change - Part I

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. 

Remember the old saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same"? Some people today are concerned about the overwhelming numbers of people who are considered "below the poverty line" and need assistance. Some people grumble about the programs in place to help them. I share the concerns of those who feel that many have a sense of entitlement, and do not feel the need to work to provide for themselves and their families.

But let's look at the Biblical view on all of this, shall we? You see, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The poor have always been "with us" and there is a lot to glean from the Bible.

In the ancient world, to be poor was truly calamitous. Let's say that you were recently widowed -- you'd have what your husband had worked for and you had helped him to pull together, right? 
Wrong.
You would have nothing --- a widow did not inherit from her husband.

How about if your mom and dad passed away, leaving you orphaned. You'd inherit from them, right?
Wrong. You have nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.

That is why God's law provided for the poor. Our Father has always tenderly loved those who truly have no way to provide for themselves. Written into His law were provisions to help:

Economic helps:  
            "Waste not" --- the corners of fields and the grapes dropped by workers were specifically left behind for the poor to gather and use. They could also eat from land that lay idle in the Sabbath years.
             "Protection from loan sharks" --- if someone owed you money, you could not take their garments, which could keep them warm, and you could not take their tools, because then they could not make a living and pay you back.
              "Pay him when he works" --- the poor, especially, were to be paid when they finished a job, because they needed it so desperately.
              "Celebrate!" --- every 50 years, there was a year of jubilee, and debts were canceled, lands were restored, and people were freed from indentured service.
              "He's kin to me" --- kinsman redeemers could help to repurchase their relatives' land, or rescue widows from their plight, as in the case of Naomi, Ruth, and their kinsman, Boaz.
Social helps:
                     "Justice is blind" --- over and over in the Old Testament, God declared that being just to the poor and defending the cause of the needy were dear to His heart. In fact, in Jeremiah 22:16, He said that to do these is the essence of knowing Him.
                     "He was my brother" --- Levirate marriage is a term that means widows could marry their husband's brothers in the hope of securing a male heir; someone to care for them in their old age.
Community worship helps:
                     "The right to rest" --- servants and slaves (and even animals) were to participate in the Sabbath rest commanded by the Lord.
                   "A sliding scale" --- poor people were allowed to purchase less costly sacrifices that they could afford, and still participate in temple worship.
                   "That tenth" --- one of the tithes was specifically for the yearly feast given to the fatherless, widows and other poor people. 
These concepts and others that I haven't touched on, demonstrate God's love and deep concern for the plight of the poor. Ignoring or taking advantage of them would bring His wrath and possibly His judgement. Caring for them was a huge sign of obedience to His law.

Tomorrow, let's look at New Testament attitudes, and what our own should be . . .

2 comments:

CATachresis said...

In Ps 19 v 7 it says "The Law of the Lord is perfect (whole) causing the soul to return". Yes you are so right, the provision God makes covers every aspect. He has a large heart. :)

Belinda said...

I do truly care about those who are in such need. It's only right that we should care. I agree with you on those who have a sense of entitlement though. They are capable of working, but have no intention of doing so. That is not what God is talking about in this verse.
There are some, who know no other way however. Their parents didn't work, and they were raised that way. I don't know how to feel about that actually.
Our church has a food pantry that opens once a month. The workers have expressed a concern for those who "work the system" and don't really need the food, or go to every handout in town every chance they get, even when they don't need it. They/we decided that it's not our place to JUDGE that. God knows the heart. So, I guess I've just answered my own question. Ha!