Proverbs 22:16

“Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,

  or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.”

Proverbs 22:16 ESV

Many may say there is no way this proverb can be true even if you hold the position that proverbs are not iron clad guarantees, but rather generally true or good principles for life. And the reason the critics say this is “because it so contradicts what I see; there are so many obvious examples of rich people oppressing poor people to increase their own wealth and of rich people giving to other rich people, then dying with lots of money.” So, what’s the answer?

The reader must recognize that God looks at things differently than humans generally do. That is to say God recognizes, even values non-material things like integrity and character and soul. Those things are real, but you can’t reach out and touch them. This is illustrated in 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'” That God looks on the heart (non-material) and not on the outward appearance (material) is the reason Proverbs 28:6, for example, can certainly be true even though it feels untrue when the bills are piling up: “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways” (ESV). Understanding that we are both physical and spiritual beings is not only a challenge at times, it is an important key to understanding the book of Proverbs.

Now, back to our original verse: “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” It seems that this proverb is saying the person will come to a poverty of soul not necessarily a poverty of the pocketbook. This type of behavior leads to or reveals an impoverished soul.

Lord, please help me to see thing as you see them, to not be so focused on material things that I don’t give true consideration of matters of the soul.


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