Proverbs 21:12-13 [NET]
The Righteous One considers the house of the wicked;
he overthrows the wicked to their ruin.
The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
he too will cry out and will not be answered.
It runs counter, I think, to our stereotypical understanding of the book of Proverbs when we begin to discover just how insistent the book throughout that godliness involves a genuine and active care by the powerful for the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable in the community. We are prone to think that Proverbs holds up wealth and prosperity as signs of God’s approval and poverty and want as signs of God’s disapproval. These verses show that the book of Proverbs is not so simplistic, and they provide a theological explanation for the complexity to be found in the very character of God’s heart.
This proverb asserts that “the Righteous One” in effect empowers us to define how we want him to respond to us. We show him how we want him to treat us in our need by how we treat the poor and the vulnerable in their need.
If we want grace – blessing without deserving – we show that by blessing the poor without regard to their deserving. If we treat the poor with indifference or outright hostility, we are thereby inviting God to treat us with indifference or with outright hostility.
It seems plain that Jesus had this proverb and others like it in mind when he said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” (Matthew 7:1-2 [NET])
I referred to this as a theological explanation because it is a window into the grace that is the orientation of God’s heart toward us in our sin. In our sin, we are the vulnerable and the helpless. In our sin, we are helpless before the wrath of God. It is God’s bias toward grace, toward mercy, toward blessing to the undeserving that is the foundation of our salvation.
In every way, as in our salvation, we are to follow and embody the gracious heart of God in all our dealings, most particularly toward the poor, the vulnerable, the weak ones around us. To act otherwise is to withhold from others what we have so lavishly received ourselves.
© 2018 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.