(Proverbs 14:31 KJV) He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
Have you ever tried to see how far you can drive your car without any correction on the steering wheel? Aim as carefully as you can and lock your arms. You will see that almost immediately the car begins to drift either right or left. Maybe you have been successful in this, I have not. And so it is in much of life. We head in the right direction but tend to begin drifting one way or the other. Constant alertness is necessary to keep “in the lane.” Thus it is with me and the poor. I react to what I see as attempts to manipulate the poor for political gain and tend to overlook verses like this that force me back into the lane.
As followers of Jesus Christ we are not to oppress the poor. The world “oppresseth” (6231) the “poor” (1800b). We are not to be like the world. But we need to understand what it means to oppress someone. Our culture of welfare and entitlements gets this word wreathed in emotional baggage that changes its meaning. Webster defines this “To load or burden with unreasonable impositions; to treat with unjust severity, rigor or hardship....” It is not oppression to expect able bodied people to work for their food. It is oppression to expect them to pay taxes while the rich are totally exempt. An example of the latter is David killing the lamb of the poor man to feed a visitor and exempting the flocks of the rich. Oppression is not paying minimum wage for working at a fast food chain. It is not demonstrated by hiring teenagers to work in their yard and paying them less than union wages. It is oppressive to hire illegal aliens to work for you and paying less than the going wage for that work, knowing they cannot complain.
Most of us don’t face situations where we oppress the poor. But we do contribute to situations that allow it. Oppression can take the form of government handouts that weaken the moral fiber and independence of all levels of society. People are trained to expect others to provide for them when they could be providing for themselves. It creates poverty. Oppression can be practiced in education. Teachers who give students answers instead of requiring the student to find it themselves are oppressors. Schools that force teachers to give passing grades when the student has not earned them are oppressors. Forcing children into school and not giving them an education is oppressive. I speak here from the position of a teacher watching it happen.
So? Neither you nor I can right all the wrongs of our world. We can work on our corner. We can make sure that we are being honest and honorable with people. We can vote for people who favor responsibility. We can get involved in our local community. Find a place to reduce oppression.