The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. – Proverbs 29:7 (NIV)
Poverty is certainly a growing issue of debate and concern today. Unemployment rates, foreclosure listings and protests have been media regulars for the last few years. A sour economy has soured our attitude toward the rich, but the real question is how has it changed our attitude toward the poor?
More and more, the burden of the poor seems to be pushed onto the government, but it is clear in the passage that this is the responsibility of the righteous. Unfortunately, we have grown used to the system taking care of those in need. We assume that there is a program or benefit available to fix people’s problems, but systems have no compassion or hope or healing. Systems are not driven by love or fueled by faith. Systems don’t save people, they just solve problems. Righteousness can do better.
It is the righteous who want to provide more than gold or silver can buy. As much as the poor may need financial help, they need love, compassion and encouragement in equal or greater measure. In fact, poverty is less a battle over finances and more over the attitude and inclination of the heart. This is true for both the experience of poverty and the perception of the poor. When define ourselves or others by what we lack, it can lead to all sorts of injustice. To truly see justice for the poor we need to preach the truth and live the truth.
Paul had learned the secret of contentment regardless of his circumstances. This is the most just way to approach poverty and wealth. When we learn how to be content, we are released to be gracious and giving to others and not be concerned for ourselves. This is how we can act justly. This is how we can overcome the spirit of poverty in ourselves and others. This is how we can continue to minister to the needs of others even if we are not what others would call wealthy.
Lord, help us to care for the needs of others and give with a generous spirit. May we overcome poverty in our hearts and minds so that it does not define us or the world around us. Help us to live justly with our finances. Amen.