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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Proverbs 22

Verses 1-29

"Withhold not correction from the child; if thou beat him with the rod he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from Sheol."- Proverbs 23:13-14

IN Lecture IV we examined two of the main principles which should be inculcated on children in a Christian home. In the present lecture we approach the question of education again. It is necessary for us to examine two features of parental training on which the book of Proverbs lays repeated stress. First, the need of method in bringing up the young; and second, the way of punishing their delinquencies.

In the first we have an eternal principle, which applies and must apply as long as human nature endures, a principle which is even emphasized by the demands of our Christian faith. In the second we have a principle which is so modified and altered by the Christian spirit, that unless we make the largest allowance for the change, it may be, as it often has been, misleading and hurtful in a high degree. If we could trace out all the dark cruelties and injustice, the vindictiveness, the stupidity of parents, guardians, and teachers, who have sheltered themselves under the authority of the text, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall, drive it far from him," {Proverbs 22:15} we might read with a new application our Savior’s stern censure of accepting the letter of Scripture in place of coming to Him and learning of Him who is meek and lowly of heart. {John 5:39}

But our first duty is to understand the wholesome and eternally valid teaching that is here given us about education. "Train up a child in the way he should go." We gain a good deal in vividness if we go back to the meaning of the word which is rendered "train." Derived from a noun which signifies the palate and the inner part of the mouth, its literal meaning is "to put into the mouth." The metaphor suggested is that of feeding an infant. Every parent recognizes the necessity of giving to the helpless children suitable nourishment. At first the mother feeds the babe at the breast. After the weaning she still feeds it with food carefully chosen and prepared. As the child grows older she changes the food, but she does not relax her care; and the father admits the responsibility of procuring the necessary diet for his little one, a responsibility which does not cease until the child is fully grown, fully formed, and fully able to provide for himself. Here is the suitable analogy for mental, moral, and spiritual teaching. The parents must feed their child with morsels suitable to his age, with the "milk of the word" at first, afterwards with strong meat. It all requires infinite care and forethought and wisdom, for there is a certain way of development, a certain ideal which the child must realize, and if the training be on the lines of that development, according to that "way," if it is to achieve that ideal, the teaching must all be accurately adapted to the age or stage of development, and to the particular character and disposition of the child. If the preliminary work of the parents is wisely done, if the influence exercised by them while their child is still entirely in their hands is exactly what it ought to be, there is no fear for the rest of life-"when he is old he will not depart from it." A great master of modern literature, who wandered through many ways of thought far from the opinions and faith of his parents, when in his old age he sat down to write the reminiscences of his life, discovered that the original bent given to his mind by his peasant parents had remained unexhausted to the end. Many beliefs currently held had faded and grown dim, much of the historical foundation of his religion had crumbled away, but there was a truth which he had learned from his mother’s lips and had seen exemplified in his father’s life, and it returned to him in its full force, and remained unsubmerged in the tides of doubt, unaffected by the breath of change, it even acquired a fresh hold upon him in the decline of his days: -The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

It is a good illustration of the unrivalled power of the parents over a man’s life. "The Lord hath given the father honor over the children, and hath confirmed the authority of the mother over the sons," says Ecclesiasticus (Sirach 30:2). It is a rare opportunity which is given to parents. No sphere of influence which they may acquire can be like it; it may be wider, but it can never be so intense or so decisive. A father who abdicates the throne on which God has set him, who foregoes the honor which God has given him, or turns it into dishonor, must one day answer for his base renunciation before the Eternal Father. A mother who uses the authority over her sons which God has given her, merely to gratify her own vanity and selfishness, and to retain a love which she has ceased to deserve; or one who wantonly throws away the authority because its exercise makes large demands upon the spirit, has much to answer for at the Divine judgment-seat. Parental powers are so absolute, parental possibilities are so great, parental joys are so rare and wonderful, that they must of necessity be balanced by corresponding disadvantages in case of failure. "He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow, and the father of a fool hath no joy." {Proverbs 17:21} "A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him." {Proverbs 17:25; Proverbs 19:13; Proverbs 19:26} It must therefore constantly press upon all wise parents, how are they to act, what methods are they to adopt, in order to rightly discharge their duties, and to win that precious reward of "a wise son?" {Proverbs 15:20 Cf. Proverbs 10:1, Proverbs 27:22, Proverbs 9:3} "My son, if thy heart be wise, my heart shall be glad, even mine, yea, my reins shall rejoice when thy lips speak right things." "The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice, and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him." {Proverbs 23:15-16; Proverbs 23:24}

The answer which is constantly suggested by the book of Proverbs, and especially by our text, is this:-A successful parent will be one who makes the training of the children a constant and religious study. It is the last subject in the world to be left to haphazard. From the first a clear aim must be kept in view. "Is my great object that this boy shall be a true, a noble, a God-fearing man, serving his day and generation in the way God shall appoint? Is this object purged of all meaner thought? Can I renounce the idea of worldly success for him, and be indifferent to wealth and reputation, to comfort and ease for him?" When this question is satisfactorily settled, then comes a second, How is the aim to be realized? Is not the parent at once driven to God with the cry, "Who is sufficient for these things?" A mistake may be so fatal, and it is so hard to clearly see, to rightly judge, to firmly act, that nothing can avail but the direct teaching, inspiration, and power of the Spirit of God. Happy are the father and the mother who have been forced in their helplessness to seek that Divine help from the very first!

If we only knew it, all education is useless apart from the Spirit of God. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." And liberty is just what is most needed. Mechanical schemes, cut-and-dried precepts, are quite insufficient. Moving in the liberty of the Spirit you have insight and adaptiveness; at once you perceive that each child is a separate study, and must be approached in a different way. One is sanguine and over-confident, and he must constantly be humbled; another is diffident and desponding, and must be encouraged with the bright word of sympathy, spoken at the right moment. "I see it all, my child; I know what a fight it is in which you are engaged." One is a born skeptic, and would know the reason why; he must be met with patient and comprehending arguments according to his mental powers. Another has no speculative instincts, and questions have to be raised, doubts suggested, in order to save him from drifting into the easygoing acceptance of everything which he is told. One seems naturally inclined to be religious, and must be carefully watched lest the sensitiveness should become morbid, and a dominant thought should lead to mania, melancholy, or a possible reaction. Another seems to have no religious instinct, and the opportunity must be sought for awaking the sense of need, rousing the conscience, opening the eyes to God.

But again, in proportion as parents are led by the Spirit, and make their sacred charge a matter of constant and beseeching prayer, they will in their own person and conduct represent God to the children, and so supplement all the possible defects of the express training and discipline. If the command "Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long" {Proverbs 23:17} is to have any weight with the child, he must live with those who themselves are in the fear of the Lord all the day long. A man must live near to God if he is to make God real to his children. A mother must hold very real converse with her Lord if His reality is to become obvious to her little ones. "As a child," says one, "I always had a feeling that God and Jesus were such particular friends of mamma’s, and were honored more than words could tell." If such an impression is to be created, depend upon it God and Jesus must be particular friends of yours. No talk, however pious, can create that impression unless the hallowed friendship actually exists.

Again, led by the Spirit, we are filled with Divine love; and no training of children can have any valuable or permanent effect which does not issue from, which is not guided by, and does not result in, love. For love is the Divine educator. It is this which accounts for the frequently observed anomaly that children who seem to have inferior home advantages and very inadequate education turn out better than others for whom no labor or expense or care seems to be grudged. If love is not there, all the efforts will fail. Love is the only atmosphere in which the spirits of little children can grow. Without it the wisest precepts only choke, and the best-prepared knowledge proves innutritious. It must be a large love, a wise love, an inclusive love, such as God alone can shed abroad in the heart. Love of that kind is very frequently found in "huts where poor men lie," and consequently the children issuing out of them have been better trained than those whose parents have handed them over to loveless tutors or underlings.

And this may perhaps fitly lead us to consider the other point which is before us-the prominence which is, in the Proverbs, given to chastisement. "He that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him, chasteneth him betimes." {Proverbs 13:24} "Chasten thy son, seeing there is hope, and set not thy heart on his destruction." {Proverbs 19:18} "Stripes that wound are a cleansing of evil, strokes of the recesses of the belly." {Proverbs 20:30} "Withhold not correction from the child; when thou beatest him with a rod he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from Sheol." {Proverbs 23:13-14} "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself causeth shame to his mother." {Proverbs 29:15} "Correct thy son and he shall give thee rest, yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul." {Proverbs 29:17}

Corporal punishment seems to the Christian, and to the common sense of a society which is the product of the Christian spirit, degrading, brutalizing, and essentially futile! It can only have even a modicum of good effect where it is inflicted by a loving hand, and in a loving spirit, without a trace of temper or cruelty, and obviously costing more to inflict than to bear. But even with all these conditions granted it is a most unsatisfactory method of punishment; it arouses vindictive feelings and savage passions. A whipped boy is almost sure to bully the next creature weaker than himself that he encounters; and acting only as a deterrent, it never reaches the conscience, or creates a sense of revolt from the sin for the sin’s sake, which is the object of all wise, or at least of all paternal, punishment. We can only, therefore, set aside the precept to use the rod as one which was in harmony with darker and harder times before the Savior of the world had come to reveal the inner life and to teach us how we are to deal with those mysterious and wonderful beings, our fellow-creatures.

But with this modification, and substituting "wise and merciful punishments" for "rod and stripes," these teachings remain of permanent validity. Our Heavenly Father chastens His children; by most gracious punishments He brings home to them the sense of sin, and leads them to repentance and amendment. And earthly parents, in proportion as they are led by the Spirit and filled with love, will correct their children, not for their own pleasure, but for their children’s good. The truth which underlies these apparently harsh injunctions is this: Love inflicts punishments, nor are any punishments so severe as those which Love inflicts; and only the punishments which Love inflicts are able to reform and to save the character of the delinquent.

We all of us know that weak and sentimental nature-too common among modern parents-which shrinks from inflicting pain under all. circumstances. Seizing on the ill-understood doctrine that Love is the sovereign power in life and in education, it pleads in the name of Love that the offender may be spared, that he may escape the due penalty of his fault. That is not a love like God’s love: and if you are careful to observe, it has not the remedial or saving effect which the love of God has. "He that declines to punish his child hates him; he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." In the poor child’s heart so much foolishness is bound up, so much willfulness and temper, so much vanity and pride, so much sensuality and selfishness, so much unwholesome craving for amusement, it is so natural to the child to make pleasure the be-all and the end-all of life, that, if all this foolishness is to be driven away, there must be much sharp discipline and painful correction. The Divine method of punishment seems to be to let men eat of the fruit of their doings until they loathe it. They rebelliously call out for meat in the wilderness, and it turns into a satiety, a bitterness, and a plague, while it is between their teeth. Is it possible that parents too, under the guidance of the Spirit, may chasten their children in the same way, bringing home to the willful the painful effects of willfulness, to the vain the ridiculous effects of vanity, to the selfish the disastrous issue of selfishness, to the sensual the ruin and the misery of sensuality? Might not the most effectual punishment for every fault be an enforced quiet in which the culprit is confronted with the inevitable outcome of the sin? Does not even the hardest heart begin to melt, does not the dullest conscience begin to grow sensitive, when the sure results of evil are aptly portrayed before the mind? What pride would have courage to grow if it had a glimpse of the hard, dry, loveless, unloved, heart which is its inevitable fruit? What young man would venture to take the first downward steps in impurity if he had ever formed a conception of the devastation of brain and heart and life which must ensue?

The rod cannot open the eyes; it can but set the cunning intellect to work to find a way of enjoying the sin and escaping the rod. But the opening of the eyes-at which all true punishment must aim-reveals a rod which is bound up with the sin, sure as the sin itself. It is the parents’ solemn task - and many an inward sorrow must it cost-to bring, home to his child’s heart these truths of experience which the child cannot at present know. Wise penalties and "reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself causeth shame to his mother." {Proverbs 29:15}

There is a voice, the voice of Divine Wisdom, which speaks continually to every, parent, to every teacher of youth: "Incline thine ear," it says, "and hear the words of the wise, and apply thy heart unto my knowledge"-without attention and application this heavenly wisdom cannot be known. "For it is a pleasant thing," so the voice continues, "if thou keep these words within thee if they be established together upon thy lips. That thy trust may be in the Lord,"-without whom the best-meant efforts will fail, -" I have made them known to thee this day, even to thee. Have not I written to thee excellent things of counsels and knowledge, to make thee know the certainty of the words of truth, that thou mayest carry back words of truth to them," those helpless and ignorant children whose needs "send thee" to me for instruction? {Proverbs 23:17-21}

The failures are numerous, disastrous, heartbreaking, but they are unnecessary. Your children are holy; they belong to the Saviour in whom you yourselves believe. Grasp that truth; go to Him in sublime faith. "Lord, it is not with Thee to save a part, to choose this one and save that. Thou wilt glorify Thyself in every one." (The Education of a Christian Home) Surrender yourself to Him that He may use you to exhibit His Divine graces and saving love to the children. Live with Him daily, that the glory of the communion may not pass away from your face, or appear only by fits and starts-and so train up your child according to his way; and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Verses 1-29

"He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed, for he giveth of his bread to the poor."- Proverbs 22:9

"He that oppresseth the poor, it is for his increase; he that giveth to the rich it is for want."- Proverbs 22:16

"Rob not the poor because he is poor, neither oppress the humble in the gate; for the Lord will plead their cause and despoil of life those that despoil them."- Proverbs 22:22-23

IF we would understand and lay to heart the very striking lessons of this book on the treatment of the poor, it will he well for us to observe that there are four words in the Hebrew original which are rendered by our English words "poor" or "needy." These words we will try to discriminate and to use with more exactness in the present lecture, that we may not miss any of the teaching by the blur and obscurity of careless language. First, there is a word (ld;) for which we will reserve our English word "poor"; it signifies a person who is weak and uninfluential, but not necessarily destitute or even in want. The "poor" are those who form the vast majority of every society, and are sometimes described by the word "masses." Secondly, there is a word (Vl;) which may be rendered "needy." It covers those who are in actual want, people who through bereavement, or infirmity, or unavoidable calamity are unable to secure a sufficiency of the necessaries of life. Thirdly, there is a word which we may perhaps render by "humble," for though it more literally describes the afflicted and sad, it contains within it a hint of moral commendation which suggests a transition from the idea of simple weakness and helplessness to that of patient and humble dependence on God. Lastly, there is a word which we will render "destitute." If we keep these notions-"poor," "needy," "humble," "destitute"-distinct, and yet combined, to form one conception, we shall find that the proverbs before us refer to that large section of mankind who are in a worldly and material sense considered the least fortunate; those to whom it is a lifelong effort merely to live; those who have no margin of security on which to fall hack in case of disaster or sickness; those who are engaged in precarious employments or in casual labor; those who may keep their heads above water by diligence and unremitting exertions, but may at any time go under; those who owing to this constant pressure of the elementary needs have but little leisure to cultivate their faculties, and little opportunity to maintain their rights. We are to think of the large class of persons who in more primitive times are slaves, who in feudal times are serfs, who in modern times are called the proletariat; those in whose interest the laws of society have not hitherto been framed, because they have not until quite recently been admitted to any substantial share in the work of legislation; those who have always found it peculiarly difficult to secure justice, because justice is a costly commodity, and they have no means to spare since "the destruction of the poor is precisely their poverty." {Proverbs 10:15} We are not to think of the idle and the vicious, who are so often classed with the poor, because they, like the poor, are without means, -we must rigorously exclude these, for they are not in the mind of the writer when he gives us these golden precepts. We must remember that it is part of our peculiar English system, the result of our boasted Poor Law, to discredit the very word poverty, by refusing to discriminate between the poor in the scriptural sense, who are honorable and even noble, and the pauper in the modern sense, who is almost always the scum of a corrupt social order, in four cases out of five a drunkard, and in the fifth case the product of someone else’s moral failings. It requires quite an effort for us to see and realize what the Scriptures mean by the poor. We have to slip away from all the wretched associations of the Poor House, the Poor Law, and the Guardians. We have to bring before our minds a class which in a wholesome state of society would be a small, numerable minority, but in our own unwholesome state of society are a large and well-nigh innumerable majority, -not only the destitute and the actually needy, but all the people who have no land on which to live, no house which they can call their own, no reserve fund, no possibility of a reserve fund, against the unavoidable calamities and chances of life, the people who are trodden down-who tread each other down-in the race of competition; all those, too, who, according to the godless dogma of the day, must go to the wall because they are weak, and must give up the idea of surviving because only the fittest must expect to survive. There rise up before our imagination the toiling millions of Europe-of England-worn, pale, despondent, apathetic, and resigned or bitter, desperate, and resentful; not destitute, though they include the destitute; not needy, though they include the needy; but poor, without strength except in combination, and often when combined without light or leading.

I. Now the first thing we have to observe is that the poor, in the sense we have tried to define, are a special concern to the Lord. "Rob not the poor," says the text, "because he is poor, neither oppress the humble in the gate, for the Lord will plead their cause, and despoil of life those that despoil them." "Remove not the ancient landmark, and enter not into the fields of the fatherless; for their Redeemer is strong, He shall plead their cause against thee." {Proverbs 23:10-11} "The Lord will establish the border of the widow." {Proverbs 15:25} So intimate is the connection between the Lord and His poor creatures that "he that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker, but he that hath mercy on the destitute honoreth." {Proverbs 14:31} "Whoso mocketh the needy reproacheth his Maker, and he that is glad at calamity shall not be unpunished." {Proverbs 17:5} On the other hand, "He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and his good deed will He pay him again." {Proverbs 19:17}

Not, of course, that there is any favouritism with God, not that He has an interest in a man because of his means or lack of means; but just because of His large and comprehensive impartiality. "The needy man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord lighteneth the eyes of them both." {Proverbs 19:13} "The rich and the needy meet together, the Lord is the Maker of them all." {Proverbs 22:2} His special interest in the poor arises only from their special need, from the mute cry which goes up to Him, from the appeal to Him as their only friend, deliverer, and protector: just as His lesser interest in the rich arises from their self-satisfied independence of Him, from their infatuated trust in themselves, and from their conviction that already all things belong to them. We should make a mistake if we supposed that the Lord recognizes any class distinctions, or that He valued a man because he is poor, just as we value a man because he is rich. The truth rather is that He absolutely ignores the class distinctions, regarding the mingled mass of human beings, rich and poor, oppressor and oppressed, as on a plane of dead equality, and then distinguishing between them on a totally different principle, -on a moral, a spiritual principle; and, if there is any preference, it is on the ground of certain valuable moral effects which poverty sometimes produces that He takes the poor into his peculiar and tender care, honoring them with so close a friendship that service to them becomes service to Him.

This is certainly good news to the masses. "You are undistinguished, and unobserved,"-the voice of wisdom seems to say, -"In this world, with its false distinctions and perverted ideals, you feel at a constant disadvantage. You dare hardly claim the rights of your manhood and your womanhood. This great personage, possessing half a city, drawing as much unearned money every day as you can earn ‘by unremitting toil in fifteen or twenty years, seems to overshadow and to dwarf you. And there are these multitudes of easy, comfortable, resplendent persons who live in large mansions and dress in costly garments, while you and your family live in a couple of precarious rooms at a weekly rental, and find it all you can do to get clean and decent clothes for your backs. These moneyed people are held in much estimation; you, so far as you know, are held in none. Their doings-births, marriages, deaths-create quite stir in the world; you slip into the world, through it, and out of it, without attracting any attention. But be assured things wear a different appearance from the standpoint of God. Realize how you and your fellow-men appear to Him, and you at once recover self-respect, and hold up your head in His presence as a man. That simple truth which the Ayrshire peasant sang you may take as God’s truth, as His revelation; it is the way in which He habitually thinks of you."

How the scales seem to fall away from one’s eyes directly we are enabled to see men and things as God sees them! The sacred worth of humanity shines far brighter than any of its tinsel trappings. We learn to estimate ourselves aright, undisturbed and unabashed by the false estimates which are current in the world. Our true distinction is that we are men, that we belong to a race which was made in the image of God, was dear to His heart, and is redeemed by His love. The equality we claim for men is not a leveling down-it is quite the reverse; it is raising them up to the higher level which they have deserted and forgotten; it is teaching then to live as men, distinguished not by their accidental circumstances or possessions, but by their manhood itself. It is giving men self-respect instead of self-esteem, teaching them not to vaunt themselves as one against another, but to claim their high and honorable title, one and all, as the sons of God.

II. But now it follows that, if the Lord Himself espouses the cause of the poor, and even identifies Himself with them, ill-treatment of them, injustice to them, or even a willful neglect of them and disregard of their interests, must be a sin and a very terrible sin. "He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth; but he that hath pity on the humble, happy is he." {Proverbs 14:21} In the East to this day the proverb, "He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him; but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it," has its full significance. But even in the West, where the name of Christ is borne by the nations, it is a common thing for one or two greedy and selfish capitalists to form a "corner"-as the commercial slang of the day denominates it-in some article of industry, i.e., to secure all the raw material in the market, and to hold it until a famine price can be demanded. Meanwhile, the mills are idle, the looms are silent, the workpeople are unemployed, and their families suffer. Our moral sense is not yet sufficiently cultivated to condemn this hideous selfishness as severely as it deserves, and to regard the perpetrators of it as enemies of the human race. "The people curse" them, that is all. But as we have seen that the cause of the wage-earners is the cause of the Lord, we may rest quite confident that He to whom vengeance belongs enters every action of the kind in His inerasable accounts, and reserves the inevitable punishment for these "oppressors of the poor."

There is another evil of modern industrial life which is alluded to in the Proverbs before us. No oppression of the poor is more terrible than that which is exercised by those who themselves are needy. The system which results from necessity of this kind is termed "sweating." The hungry contractor undertakes the job at the lowest possible price, and secures his profit by getting hungrier and weaker creatures than himself to do the work at a price lower than possible, literally at starvation wages. What force, then, to modern ears is there in the saying, "A needy man that oppresseth the Door is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food!"

The Divine oversight of these industrial abuses is not, as we sometimes suppose, pretermitted. Wisdom and Justice and Love hold the reins, and though the rapacity and cupidity of men seem to have a wide range, they are inevitably pulled up in the end, if not in this partial and transient life, yet in that long Eternity through which the Eternal will work out His purposes. As He Himself sides with the poor and pities them, and turns with indignation against their oppressors, it follows necessarily that he that augments his substance by usury and increase gathereth it for him that pities the poor. In fact, the merciful and pitiful nature has all the forces that rule the universe on its side, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary: "The merciful man doeth good to his own soul, but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh." {Proverbs 11:17}

It is the strange paradox of all selfishness that the selfish man is really quite blind to his own true interests. He most conscientiously lives for himself, and seeks his own good, but the good he sought proves to be his evil, and of all his innumerable foes he finds at last that he himself is the worst. The selfish man is always coming to want, while the unselfish man whose whole thought has been for others is richly provided for. "He that giveth unto the needy shall not lack, but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse." {Proverbs 28:27} "There is that scattereth and increaseth yet more, and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth only to want." {Proverbs 11:24}

"He that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse!" Yes, nothing is more striking than this truth, that not only positive oppression of the poor, but mere indifference to their state, mere neglect of their sufferings, involves us in sin. There are many who can honestly say that they have not deliberately wronged their fellow men, and will on that ground plead innocent; but that is not enough. We are as members one of another responsible in a degree for all the injustice and cruelty which are practiced in the society to which we belong. If we are drawing an income from invested money, we are responsible for the cruel exactions of excessive work, for the heartless disregard of life and limb, and for the constant under-payment of the workers which makes the dividends so princely. Nay, when we buy and use the cheap goods, which are cheap because they have been made at the cost of health and happiness and life to our brothers and our sisters, their blood is upon our heads, though we choose to forget it. For listen-"Whoso stoppeth ears at the cry of the poor," whoso tries to ignore that there is a labor question, and that the cry for increased or even regular wages, and for tolerable homes, and wholesome conditions of work, is a reality, and in form of unions, or strikes, or low wails of despair, is addressed to us all-"he shall cry and shall not be heard." {Proverbs 21:13} Such is the inexorable law of God. And again: "Deliver those that are carried away unto death,"-those who are sacrificing the sweetness of life, the sap of the bones, the health of the marrow, to the ruthless exigencies of the industrial machine; "and those tottering to slaughter see thou hold back,"-not leaving them to "dree their own sad weird," helpless and unregarded. "If thou say, Behold we knew not this man,"-how could we make ourselves acquainted with all the toiling masses of the city by whose labor we lived and were maintained in comfort?-"Doth not He that weigheth the hearts consider it; and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it, and shall not He render to every man according to his work?" {Proverbs 24:11-12} That is to say, if we plead, "When saw we Thee ahungered, or athirst, or sick and in prison, and came not to Thee?" Our Lord will say, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me." And we "shall go away" into everlasting punishment, while the righteous go into life eternal.

III. For it follows, from the whole consideration of this subject, that those who make their life a ministry to the poor obtain a blessing, -yes, the only true and permanent blessing that life is capable of yielding. "He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor." {Proverbs 22:9} The very form of the saying is significant. Does it not imply: "It is obvious that to give our bread to the poor is a blessing to ourselves, so obvious that it needs only to be stated to be admitted, and therefore, as the bountiful eye, the philanthropic observation, the readiness to see suffering and to search out the sufferers, necessarily leads to this generous distribution, it must be a blessing to its possessor"? Indeed, this is a true test of righteousness, as the Lord teaches in the parable just quoted. It is "the righteous that takes knowledge of the cause of the poor, while the wicked understands not to know it." {Proverbs 29:7} A religion which takes no knowledge of the masses is a false religion; a Church and a Ministry which "understand not to know" the condition of the people and the needs of the poor are not Christ’s Church and Christ’s Ministry, but flagrantly apostate; and nothing is plainer than this-that from such a Church and Ministry He will accept no orthodoxy of belief or valiant defense of the creed in lieu of obedience to all His plain and unmistakable commandments. If we look at governments, the test is practically the same. "The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established forever." And it is because the Messianic King, alone of all sovereigns and governments, rightly and fully understands and maintains the cause of the poor, that He alone of sovereigns shall be established for ever, and of the increase of His government there shall be no end. And for the flagrant neglect of this vital question on the part of all governing persons and assemblies, that King will call to account those pompous and wordy magnates who have borne the sword in vain, considering all interests rather than those of the poor, whom they were specially appointed to judge; and of the needy, to whose succor they were peculiarly bound to run. And what holds in the state holds in the family. The virtuous woman, and head of the household-she whom God can approve and welcome into everlasting habitations-is emphatically not she who is always striving for social aggrandizement, always seeking for her children wealthy settlements and spurious honors; but is one who "spreadeth out her hand to the poor, yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy." {Proverbs 31:20} Well may we try to take God’s view of this question, to understand what He means by the poor, and how He regards them, and how He expects us to treat them. For this, if it is not the secret and the center of all true religious life, is at least the infallible test of whether our religious life is true or not. By our treatment of His poor, the Son of Man, who is to judge the world, declares that we shall be judged. "By that we shall be condemned or by that we shall be acquitted."

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Proverbs 22". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/teb/proverbs-22.html.