“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all.” Proverbs 22:1-2
Reflection: This instructional or wisdom saying is directed at the rich and powerful, not the poor. It is a reminder to the rich and powerful to treat the poor and powerless with dignity, justice, generosity, and compassion because God cares and advocates for them.
Poverty is real in our Great Plains Kansas/Nebraska area. In 2016, Kansas ranked 20th and Nebraska 15th in the U.S. in the percentage of people who fell below the 2016 poverty line – $24,340 for a family of four. Also, Kansas ranked 36th and Nebraska 39th in the rate of households that at some point during the year experienced difficulty providing enough food due to a lack of money or resources (talkpoverty.org).
There is a tendency to blame the poor for their poverty. Behaviors such as poor life choices, a lazy work ethic, having too many children, a lack of education, and so on are often cited. While we find passages in scripture where laziness is mentioned as a root cause of poverty (Prov. 6:6, 10:4-5, 13:4, etc.), more often, the prophets cite social structures at the macro-level as the root cause of poverty. The prophets denounced social structures built upon greed, injustice, inequality, and segregation that caused disparities and poverty.
Congregations receive a “good name” before the Lord when they alleviate the acute and chronic pangs of hunger and poverty with immediate assistance ministries such as food banks and clothing closets. And, they receive a “good name” before the Lord that is better than silver or gold when they implement initiatives and advocate for policies and just structures that eliminate barriers the poor and powerless confront so that all can access and enjoy the fullness of life. As individuals, we also receive a “good name” before the Lord when we treat the poor with human dignity and honor because in so doing, we align ourselves with God’s love and care for them who rises to argue their case (Isaiah 3:13).
Prayer: Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen