Proverbs 14:31 states, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, / but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” This verse teaches an important biblical principle: our treatment of others reflects (and affects) our relationship with God.
The word translated as “oppresses” can also be translated “slanders.” It includes the idea of putting down or belittling others. Those who belittle or demean the poor show contempt for or insult God. The same principle is also found in Proverbs 17:5, which says, “Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker.” The question remains of why? How does slandering the poor insult God?
The key is found in the word Maker. All people, regardless of their social condition or financial standing, are created by God in His own image (Genesis 1:27). This truth is repeated in Proverbs 22:2, “Rich and poor have this in common: / The LORD is the Maker of them all.” To pour contempt on God’s creation is to slander God.
In Matthew 25:31–45 Jesus speaks of a coming judgment after the tribulation. In verses 41–46 the Lord links one’s treatment of others with a relationship to Himself:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
Jesus clearly notes that the way we treat those in need is how we treat Him.
James 2:1 adds, “Believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” Using the example of how those in the church might respond to a rich man and a poor man (verses 2–4), James reminds his readers that our treatment of the poor is an application of loving our neighbors as ourselves (verse 8). If we do not show concern for the poor, we are not obeying God’s commands.
This, then, shows another way that oppressing the poor shows contempt for God—it is direct disobedience to His commands to love your neighbor as yourself and not to show favoritism. First John 3:17 uses a rhetorical question to make the same point: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
God cares deeply for the poor and expects His followers to also care. More than that, we are to act on that care: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (James 3:18). The way we treat the poor reflects our love for God. When we mistreat the poor, we treat God with contempt.