Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
This proverb is likely intended to complement the previous proverb:
The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
but the rich has many friends.
The poor may be disliked by his neighbor, but that neighbor then is sinning. Here’s the point. Our attitude towards out neighbor is not to be controlled by the condition of our neighbor. Remember Jesus’ teaching through his parable of the Good Samaritan. The question is not to be Who is my neighbor? but To whom will I be a neighbor? And the answer is that we are to treat everyone as our neighbors whom we are to love.
Again, the focus here is on the status of our neighbor. We don’t choose to love or withhold love according to his income, social status, or other classification. Our neighbor’s attitude toward us will influence our behavior towards him. If he is friendly, we will be friendly; if he is hostile, we will be guarded. Even so, we are still called by Christ to love him. If he is hostile, we are still to pray for him and look for opportunity to do him good. If he is reserved towards us, we are still to look for ways to befriend him. Let us be generous to our neighbors who are poor in social graces and poor in loving. For our Lord was generous to us while we were poor in righteousness and love toward him.
And let us love our neighbor especially if he is poor. We are to love poor and rich alike, but Scripture tends to speak up for the poor and to urge us to give special regard to the economically poor. We are quick to blame them for their poverty. Scripture is not blind to laziness and sin that leads to poverty; even so, again and again God’s Word instructs us to be generous and compassionate.
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