Proverbs 17:5  “Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;”

Really?  Does God think that we might mock the poor?   Obviously He does, otherwise He would not have put this in the Bible.

But let’s think a little bit about what “mock” might mean:

Obviously, it means the typical meaning – to make fun of – to ridicule.   

  • “Hah, you’re driving a 1999 Ford Escort because that’s all you can afford?” 
  • “You see that guy sitting over in the corner in the library?   He sits there to stay warm because it’s the only place he has!”

But what about a couple of other variations on what “mock” might mean?

    • Disrespect – volunteering at a soup kitchen and making fun of the way a homeless person smells?Soup Kitchen by ssa.gov
    • Disrespect – donating clothes or other things that are dirty, worn and deserving of the trash but you give them to a third world mission “because it’s better than they have.”
    • Disrespect – being on a short term mission trip and wearing matching t-shirts that say,  “Bringing Jesus to __________.”   There are very few places that would take short term mission trips that haven’t already heard of Jesus.   But that kind of an attitude doesn’t show Jesus.
    • Disrespect – taking pictures of the poor, the downtrodden, the ill and injured without asking them first.
    • Disrespect –  sharing pictures of the sick, the poor, the malnourished in ways that rob them of dignity or is used only to manipulate potential donors and not done with dignity.

And what about mocking by being quiet?

  • Being quiet when you hear allegations of abuse.
  • Being quiet when justice doesn’t prevail.
  • Being quiet when you see evidence of resources that are supposed to go toward the poor that are going elsewhere?

I believe it is also possible to mock the poor by being one-sided:

  • Tell the stories of the poor, the poverty, the illness – without describing the inner courage and inner beauty that you see.
  • Show the pictures of the run down huts and the tar paper shacks without also sharing the natural beauty that God has  put around those who are suffering and poor.2012-08-04 17.44.06
  • Behaving and working and treating the poor like they know less than we do.   Just because we were born in the First World doesn’t mean that we have it right.   Respect the culture, respect their dignity and work with them.    That means that you don’t do things that will damage their economy – actually you structure your support to help their economy.

At first glance, “mock the poor” seems very easy to avoid.   But it’s not actually so easy.    There are a lot of intricacies in how we interact with the poor.    Those intricacies make it tricky.

We all need to be aware of what we say, the message we send with our words and with our actions and how it reflects on our God.

And how it reflects on us.

We all, especially the poor, deserve better.

Tom