What does Proverbs 14:31 mean?
ESV: Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
NIV: Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
NASB: One who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, But one who is gracious to the needy honors Him.
CSB: The one who oppresses the poor person insults his Maker, but one who is kind to the needy honors him.
NLT: Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.
KJV: He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
Once again, Solomon champions the cause of the poor. Although he was extremely rich (1 Kings 10:23), he had compassion for the needy and warned that treating the poor unfairly was a serious sin—an actual "insult" to God. The key Hebrew term here is 'ashaq, which also implies fraud, violation, extortion, or taking advantage of others. To treat the needy in an abusive way sneers at God's creative work. The word translated "insults" in the ESV can also be rendered as "taunts" or even "blasphemes." The poor, like all other human beings, are created in God's image (Genesis 1:27), and therefore are infinitely valuable (Galatians 3:28).
Job stated, "If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me, what shall I do when God rises up?" (Job 31:13–14). He further indicates he ought to have his shoulder blade fall from his shoulder and his arm be broken if he has failed to feed and assist the poor and needy (Job 31:16–23).
The better way to treat the hurting and needy is with kindness and charity. The person who generously helps the needy honors his Maker. Helping those who are genuinely poor financially or materially shows reverence for God as the creator of all mankind (Matthew 10:42; 25:40, 45).
Proverbs 14:15–35 continues Solomon's wise sayings, once again mostly contrasting the wicked and the upright. He points out that those who do evil, by rejecting God's wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) are foolish and have no security. Those who do God's will (Proverbs 3:5) are wise and have unfailing security.
This continues a series of literal "proverbs:" short statements of general-case wisdom. The first ten verses of this chapter contrast positive and negative traits related to work ethic, self-control, and seeking wisdom. Then come several verses contrasting the fate of the righteous with that of the wicked. The rest of this passage provides statements on a broad range of subjects.
Proverbs 14 continues King Solomon's wise sayings. In this chapter he discusses a variety of topics such as wisdom and folly, honesty and dishonesty, righteousness and evil, national security and national disgrace, personal security and destruction, the fear of the Lord, generosity, and wise servanthood. This series of astute comments will continue for several more chapters.
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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