22 Do not rob the poor because he is poor, nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; 23 For the Lord will plead their cause, and plunder the soul of those who plunder them. (Proverbs 22:22–23, NKJV)
Perverting justice is a form of robbery. The upright of heart will not steal from anyone at any time (Ephesian 4:28). Yet, some take advantage of the poor because their hearts are given to wicked selfishness and the arrogance of power. “Might makes right” to far too many, and as a result, the poor and disadvantaged suffer at the hands of oppressors. Justice is blind – a truth God spoke long before the blindfolded Lady Justice was ever sculpted. Moses told Israel, “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s” (Deuteronomy 1:17). God’s law to Israel warned against perverting the just of the poor: “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute” (Exodus 23:6). It also warned against showing partiality to the poor: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). Poverty is not the rich man’s reason to plunder, nor is poverty a just reason to pervert justice. Divine justice is impartial, and ours must be, too. God will punish injustice and oppression.
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23–26, NKJV)
It is not riches that will keep a person out of heaven, but how one views and uses his wealth. Just before Jesus said these words, a rich young man had turned away from following Him after Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21-22). His love of money prevented him from following Jesus. When we love money and material things more than putting Jesus first and obeying Him, then we will not be saved (1 Tim. 6:10). You had just as soon try to pass a camel through a needle’s eye, as try to get to heaven serving riches. God has and will save rich people (Abraham, for example, Gen. 24:35). Jesus is not saying wealth is evil. But, it is evil to love money more than God. Godliness with contentment is the lesson we must all learn and live, whether we are rich or poor (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:18–20, NKJV)
Jesus was a poor man. He was often sustained by the goodwill sharing of others as He preached the gospel of the kingdom throughout the regions of Judea, Galilee, and beyond (Lk. 8:1-3). As Jesus was about to cross over to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, a scribe said he would follow Jesus wherever He went. Jesus challenged his willingness to sacrifice to follow Him. How very different from the Prosperity Theology preached by the positive attitude preachers of today! They preach physical health and material blessings if only you will claim it for yourself in the name of Jesus. (We wonder why Paul didn’t make such a claim when Jesus denied him healing in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10?) No, we are not entitled to health and wealth. Whatever blessings we have, let us use them to honor God and help others (1 Tim. 6:17-19). And above all, may we sacrifice everything it takes to follow Jesus where He goes (Jno. 10:27-28; 14:6).
1 Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? 2 For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, NKJV)
Men’s view of God is very often far too small and finite. The true and living God is not contained in the walls of temples made by human hands. All things were created and are sustained by His word. He is Sovereign over heaven and earth. Yet, God will give attention to every soul who acknowledges the impoverished nature of the soul and utterly depends on Him. The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:6). While billions of people turn their attention to religious temples and shrines made by human hands, God turns His attention to those who “tremble at His word.” God is not impressed by architectural feats. He is impressed by hearts and lives that reverence and obey His word. Let us be among the number who hold God in complete reverence, who tremble at His word, and willingly obey Him in all things (Matthew 7:21; Colossians 3:17).