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9781949586053

Showing Favor to the Poor

Proverbs 14:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 He who despises his neighbor is a sinner,
    but he who shows kindness to the poor will be happy.

He who despises his neighbor is a sinner: The Hebrew word (בּוּז buz) rendered despise, loathe, scorn, derision, means to look down on another person with contempt, which will likely result in a verbal remark. The neighbor (רֵעַ rea or רֵיעַ rea) may be the person living next door, a co-worker, someone we have an interaction with incidentally, or more intimately a friend, or even a relative. Sinner: (חָטָא chata) In the Scriptures “sinners” is generally used in a more specific way, that is, referring to those willfully living in sin, practicing sin, or have a reputation of sinning.

but he who shows kindness to the poor will be happy: kindness to the poor (חָנַן chanan) means to be merciful or to show compassionate to the poor, and generous if it is within our power. Here the Hebrew is rendered happy, blessed: (אַשְׁרֵי asre) Asre occurs 11 times in the Hebrew Old Testament and makarios 50 times in the Greek New Testament. Happiness and being highly favored by God characterize this joy. It is speaking of a person who is content, full of joy.

Our character is measured by how we treat others, especially the afflicted ones like the poor. Any servant of God who looks down on his poor neighbor with contempt and disdain will reap what he has sown, as Jesus said, “For with the judgment you are judging you will be judged, and by what measure you are measuring, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:2) We should not despise our neighbor because he has a lower status in the world, he lacks a family name of prestige, he has basic education, and lives on a menial income. If we ignore such people, we will be ignored in the end, as it is a sin for us. We will find happiness and contentment with ourselves if we willingly show kindness to the poor. We will be of good character. If we are merciful, compassionate, and generous to the poor, while showing them honor and dignity, we will find happiness, knowing that what we do is right but also that we are highly favored by God because we are doing what is pleasing in the eyes of God. This we will know even more fully after we have received the real life, that is, eternal life. We need to be rich in doing good. As the apostle Paul exhorted, “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant, and to place their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who richly provides us with all the things to enjoy; to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, treasuring up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is the real life.” – 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

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