Don’t Heap Contempt On the Poor, Ever. Even if you think they ‘deserve’ it.

So, some colleagues (whom I also count as friends) and I came across this ridiculous list of “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day” on Dave Ramsey’s blog. While I hear that Ramsey’s work has been helpful to many, we were taken aback by the context-free presentation of these (unverified) statistics, all of which paint the rich as enlightened, healthy, intelligent, benevolent, disciplined and the poor as…well, the opposite of all that.

Some things on the list were patently ridiculous, such as #7:

“70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% for poor.”

(Could that have something to do with the fact that poor children of working age have to, you know, GET PAID for their work?)

Anyway, Caryn Rivadeneira, Marlena Graves, and I have offered our responses to this piece in a group post. Below are some of my thoughts from that piece. Click through to read the entire three-part post.

From Proverbs, we might conclude that God rewards the hardworking with wealth, while poverty is the result of laziness. The book is full of aphorisms like, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (10:4) and “Do not love sleep, or else you will come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread” (19:13).

This idea—that people who are poor are poor simply because they haven’t cultivated the right habits—gets labeled as biblical, but tends to foster a contempt for the poor that’s anything but.

Scripture reminds us many times poverty itself is by no means a cursed state (Prov. 15:16) and condemns contempt for the poor: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him” (Prov. 14:31). Deuteronomy 15:7-8 warns Israelites not to be “hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.”

The Bible doesn’t indicate that people must be worthy of such generosity; no provision made for excluding the person from charity because of laziness. We see that kindness and generosity are to be given without reservation, without restriction. Perhaps this is because all good things—including the ability to work hard—come from divine grace. The prosperity that can follow hard work is not exclusively our natural and inevitable reward, but in fact a gift from God.

{Read the whole piece here.}