Proverbs 22:6-9, 16

Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail.
Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor…
Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.”
Proverbs 22:6-9, 16

Many people are very familiar with the line “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” but few realize that this line appears in a passage from Proverbs that largely addresses economic justice. Yet it is both true and wise to consider what we teach our children when it comes to how we handle our money and how money functions in the world.

Proverbs tells us that “The rich rule over the poor…” This is largely true. In both government and business, the poor are far more often the ruled than the rulers. We speak in hierarchical terms about this when we notice those who are “at the top” versus those who are “at the bottom.” Poor people seldom have the capital or the connections to gain the voice afforded to those in elected office. That makes them very vulnerable and it blunts the potential power of sheer people numbers. Do we teach our children to listen for the voices of poor people?

Proverbs tells us that “the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Slavery is a pretty loaded term but there is little doubt of the crippling effect of carrying too much debt. Far too many families struggle under debt loads that limit their lives. Sometimes debt accrues through catastrophic events but, far more often, it creeps up and up and up over time until the mountain seems too high to climb. Many young people today begin their careers knowing that they will be making what amounts to a mortgage payment in repaying student loans. Debt is so easy to get and so hard to get rid of. Do we teach our children that sometimes we just don’t have enough money to do what they want or get what they want? Do we teach our children to save and to wait?

Proverbs tells us that “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity…” Injustice here means the failure to deal fairly and honestly with people. It means taking advantage of people and oppressing people. Proverbs warns us that this will not end well. Do we teach our children to be fair, to be considerate, to resist the temptation to gang up against those less powerful?

Proverbs tells us “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor…” Do we teach our children to be generous? Do we encourage generosity from the moment we first begin entrusting them with the care of their own money? Do we teach our children to share?

Proverbs tells us “Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.” Children are able to understand the consequences of their actions the more closely the consequences are to the actions. If they touch a hot stove they burn their finger. Lesson learned. But the “oppression of the poor” seems a hard concept to teach children. They won’t understand real estate redlining or the exorbitant interest charged to pay day loans, or the practice of flipping used cars, or the lack of affordable grocery stores in low income areas. That will only make sense to them later in life if they are taught along the way to notice how it is that powerful people will sometimes take advantage of powerless people and that it is wrong.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, help us be wise stewards of the money that comes into our lives. Teach us patience and delayed gratification. Teach us to be fair, to be generous, and to be mindful of the needs and abilities of those who have less than they need in their lives. Teach us the values of hard work, of careful stewardship, of integrity in our dealings with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Proverbs 22:6-9, 16”

  1. kirk Says:

    A Men

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