The rich and the poor have this in common: The LORD made them both. - Proverbs 22:2
In 1999, Kevin Brown was the ace pitcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. That season, Brown started 35 games. His salary for that year was $10,714,286. Assuming that he threw, on average, 100 pitches per game, he earned over $3,000 every time he threw a pitch in earnest! For comparison, a young man earning minimum wage in 1999 needed to work approximately 600 hours to earn the same amount. Rich man, poor man!
Yet by the standards of people living in parts of the Third World, the young man flipping hamburgers is relatively well off. The World Bank, as long ago as 1978, defined “absolute poverty”—the condition in which close to a billion people were living at the time—as “a condition of life so characterized by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency.” John Stott says that while more than a fifth of the world’s population “lack the basic necessities for survival,” about the same number “live in affluence and consume about four-fifths of the world’s income.” Some economists and politicians advocate the redistribution of wealth, which means they tax the wealthy and give it to the poor. Critics of this approach point out that it often serves to trap the poor in a dependency from which they cannot escape.
In bygone days, some commentators stated confidently that God had intentionally made some poor and some rich, so everybody should be satisfied with his or her lot. More recently, the chronic poverty from which many precious people whom the Lord made are suffering has been condemned as a profound “social evil” that should concern every child of God.
The writer of Proverbs had an insight often lacking in such political-economic-social debates. He wrote, “The rich and the poor have this in common: The Lord made them both” (Prov. 22:2). One consequence of the fact that the rich and the poor are both made by God is that no one—rich or poor—is either unloved or insignificant in the Lord’s eyes. It also means that no one, regardless of economic status, is outside the reach and purpose of God’s redemption. And it means that no one should be forced to live in degradation and starvation when those who live in luxury could help to alleviate their state.
Once a man embraces these truths, he will seek practical ways to implement them. How it works out will vary from case to case, but one thing will be constant—the recognition that “if God made me, and he made them, we’re in this together.” The Lord made us all!
For Further Study: Proverbs 22:1-16