He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich – both come to poverty. (NIV)
There is a school of thought that says that without poverty wealth could not exist; that one man’s poverty is another man’s riches. But I’m not rich you say! I work hard to pay my mortgage and my car loan, and to feed and clothe my family. However, if you have a mortgage on a property that boasts running water, heat and light, etc., then you are rich in comparison to many fellow citizens of planet earth.
Is it wrong then to own property? I don’t think so, but I do believe that it is necessary for all of us to examine ourselves, and the way that we live. Do we give, and are we generous in our giving? Or do we keep all that we have for ourselves justifying our actions by believing that we cannot afford to give? Is giving just about money? What about time? What about company? And at its most basic level what about a smile or a greeting for each person you meet? Just yesterday I said good morning to a man sweeping the floor at Dublin Airport. All the other passengers walked past without looking at him. It cost me nothing, but by his response I knew that my greeting was appreciated.
There is also a danger of pride in financial giving. Carefully setting aside that 10% tithe and feeling good about it is not what giving is all about. Jesus pointed out the poor widow who put all that she had in the offertory box. Tony Campolo once said that we should forget about the 10% we tithe and question what we do with the 90% we keep for ourselves. One thing for certain is that whatever we have in material terms it cannot leave the planet with us. So why then do we hoard? Could it be that this proverb is aimed at all of us, to encourage generosity in all aspects of our daily lives?