This is the last post in our January 2017 series looking at a verse or two from a different chapter of Proverbs each day.
Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. ~Proverbs 31:9
Often when we hear “Proverbs 31,” we think of the profile of an excellent wife / godly woman. And rightly we should, as that poem to end Proverbs takes up two-thirds of the chapter. However, before we read about the excellent woman, we find nine verses of advice from a king named Lemuel that he learned from his mother.
Her wisdom comes in the form of moral and ethical commands to encourage her son to rule well. These commands include sexual faithfulness, sobriety, and caring for the needy.
Verses 8 and 9, especially, speak to a king using his power to help the needy in the world. In most circumstances, people in need lack a voice. They need help—someone to come alongside them and to stand up for them. Whose voice is more powerful in the land than the king (or, whoever holds the greatest seat of political power)?
It is easy for any of us to fall to the temptation of favoring those who help or benefit us in some way. We are tempted to give preference to those who can give back and we overlook those who cannot. The old saying comes to bear: “What have you done for me lately?”
A king who “judges righteously” will not be persuaded by money, esteem, or power; just as God judges righteously and cannot be purchased, bribed, or influenced by another. He will genuinely care for the poor and needy in his land.
But we should not limit this advice only to those in power. We each have our own spheres of influence. We might not have a national voice like a king or president, but we have our towns, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. In these places, are we more interested in gaining favors and being served by others, or are we more willing to favor the needy and serve others like Jesus served us (John 13)? Our sphere may well be miniscule compared to a nation, but we are still able to “defend the rights of the poor and needy” around us.