What does Proverbs 21:13 mean?
ESV: Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
NIV: Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.
NASB: One who shuts his ear to the outcry of the poor Will also call out himself, and not be answered.
CSB: The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered.
NLT: Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.
KJV: Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.
NKJV: Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be heard.
Verse Commentary:
This comment connects to the previous proverb (Proverbs 21:12). That statement indicated that God, "The Righteous One," would ruin those who acted wickedly. Here, we see echoes of the same idea. To ignore legitimate need is a sin (Proverbs 14:31; 17:5; 19:17). Just as those who have no concept of forgiveness prove they are not forgiven (Matthew 6:14–15), showing no sense of grace to those in need suggests someone who has not, themselves, experienced grace (Luke 6:38; John 13:34). Discerning when someone is lazy (2 Thessalonians 3:10) is different from ignoring those who need help (James 1:27). Christians should never turn a deaf ear to those who are in need.

Throughout Scripture God shows compassion for the poor. The epistle of James contends for faith which results in action: producing good works. James 2:8 describes the royal law as, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Verse 13 indicates that "judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy." Acts 2 reports a great turning to the Lord by many who were in Jerusalem for Pentecost. The converts included people from all around the Mediterranean world. They stayed in Jerusalem and became members of the church there. However, they had no visible means of support because they had left their homes and jobs. In response to their need, "all who believed … had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need" (Acts 2:44–45).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 21:1–16 continues Solomon's wise observations (Proverbs 10:1) by acknowledging the Lord's control of kings. He also mentions what the Lord despises: pride, love of money, violence, the conduct of the wicked, the withholding of charity, bribery, and apostasy. On the other hand, he commends righteousness and justice, pure conduct, wise acceptance of instruction, and charity.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter begins and ends with a declaration of God's sovereignty. He alone judges the heart; the Lord considers intentions just as important as physical actions. Other comments include statements about unpleasant spouses, proper perspectives on wealth, work ethic, and the essential nature of godly wisdom. Human wisdom is no match for the sovereign Lord, who alone is ultimately responsible for victory in battle.
Chapter Context:
This is part of the second major section of the book (Proverbs 10—22) featuring nearly four hundred statements. Most of these are two-line comments presenting common sense and general wisdom. The vague theme of chapter 21 is God's control. Man may believe he is in control of his circumstances, but God superintends everything. The chapter begins and ends by assuring the readers that God holds ultimate sway over all things.
Book Summary:
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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