Recently I spent some time on the South side of Chicago. I came face to face with some of the poorest of the poor. I learned new terms like “food desert” and “structural violence.” I encountered suspicion, friendliness, despair, joy, community, and poverty. I have not gotten over my day in the hood. How do I consider the poor? What is my attitude? As a leader, what is my responsibility?
Proverbs 14:31 states, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults His maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”
Oppression and generosity, two completely antithetical notions.
The objects of both of these expressions are the poor, the needy.
These are the disenfranchised, the marginalized of our society–of any society. The problem is that the poor are made in the image of God too.
If you want to insult God, then certainly engage in oppression of the poor whom He created.
If you want to honor or glorify God then show generosity to the same.
The Hebrew word for “oppress” can mean to press upon, defraud, violate, to drink up, to exploit, or to crush. Oppression usually results from one person despising another person. When you despise someone you hold them in contempt–you see them as insignificant. But the value of being created trumps the value the world places on a person. That is why the concept of creation matters–it gives inherent value.
The Hebrew word for “generosity” can mean to properly stoop in kindness to one in an inferior position, to favor, or to move to favor.
Are the poor and marginalized in an inferior position?
Are they insignificant?
No, they have created value!
Generosity is not primarily transactional.
It is relational.
It is advocational.
I am still in process in my understanding of what it looks like to oppress or to be generous. Even my apathy might be a form of oppression. It certainly leads to ambivalence concerning my generosity.
The mandate is to show generosity–in my learning, my attitude, and through all of my resources.
What will you do?