Summary: Part 19 of the Sermon Series, "Rich Man Poor Man in Proverbs"
"Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse" (Prov. 28:27).
The antithetical saying in Proverbs 28:27 contrasts between giving and not giving to the poor. In the following chiastic structure, we can compare the two sub-statements:
A Whoever gives to the poor
B will not want
B1 will get many a curse
A1 He who hides his eyes
The sage contrasts between the giver of the poor in Line A and the one hiding his eyes in Line A1. The lack of “want” of the giver in Line B parallels the load of “curses” of the one who hides his eyes in Line B1.
The saying uses a blessing-curse antithetical formula. There is the blessing of provision for the giver to the poor. On the other hand, there is the curse for the greedy.
We note two principles here. First, give to the poor and you will not become poor. Second, however, hide your eyes from the poor and you will receive many curses. The writer paints an amazing paradox—he who gives more to the poor shall have more. However, he who keeps more from the poor shall receive more curses.
Hiding one’s eyes is the opposite of giving to the poor. To hide one’s eyes is not to give to the poor. To give to the poor is to be generous. To hide your eyes to the poor is to be greedy. To give to the poor is to be selfless. To hide your eyes to the poor is to be selfish.
In a study on charitable giving in August 2013 conducted by Blackbaud, Inc. and reported in Forbes, the largest contributors are the Boomers (aged 49-67). They gave “an estimated total of $61.9 billion per year (43% of all the dollars donated). Matures [68 or older] accounted for 26% of the donations; Gen X [33 to 48], 20%; and Gen Y [18 to 32] 11%.86
I wonder why young people do not give as much of their income to the poor. It may be because they are poor themselves, jobless, or relying on their parents’ support. Perhaps, their selfishness consumes them.
There is another interesting fact of charitable giving by the rich and the poor. In an article in April 2013, Kate Rogers writes that, “in 2011, Americans with earnings in the top 20% of income levels contributed, on average, 1.3% of their income to charity.” However, those in the bottom 20% of income levels gave 3.2% of their income to charity. The lowest income people gave more than double of what the highest income people gave to charity.87
Why do the poor give more to the poor than the rich do? Perhaps, because they know what it means to be poor. They face the poor at ground zero, relating with them more often than the rich. The rich, on the other hand, tend to be detached from the poor, making them less sensitive to the needs of the poor.
Mother Teresa, the missionary to the poorest of the poor, was traveling to New Guinea. A Franciscan monk asked Mother Teresa. “If I pay my own fare to New Guinea, can I sit next to you on the plane so I can talk to you and learn from you?”
Mother Teresa looked at him. “You have enough money to pay airfare to New Guinea?” she asked. “Yes,” he replied eagerly.
“Then give that money to the poor,” she said. “You’ll learn more from that than anything I can tell you.”88
Close your eyes to the poor and the poor will curse you. The poor will call on God to punish you for your selfishness and God will hear it. "Turn not away thine eye from the needy, And give him none occasion to curse thee: For if he curse thee in the bitterness of his soul, His prayer shall be heard of him that made him" (Sir. 4:5-6).89
Worse—God Himself will curse you for your selfishness. "The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous" (Prov. 3:33).
The curses are not merely “theological” but “social.” The deprived poor shall curse the selfish rich. They expose class discord.90
Thus, we see an ironic contrast in Proverbs 28:27. Whoever gives to the poor shall not become poor. However, whoever does not give to the poor shall become rich—rich with many curses.
86 Deborah L. Jacobs, “Charitable Giving: Baby Boomers Donate More, Study Shows,” Personal Finance, Forbes. Cited September 15, 2015. Online: http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2013/08/08/ charitable-giving-baby-boomers-donate-more-study-shows/.
87 Kate Rogers, “Poor, Middle Class and Rich: Who Gives and Who Doesn’t?,” Fox Business. Cited September 15, 2015. Online: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/04/24/poor-middle-class-and-rich-who-gives-and-who-doesnt/.
88 “Illustration: Service, the Poor,” Sermons and Illustrations, Preaching. Cited March 31, 2012. Online: http://www.preaching.com/ sermon-illustrations/11706975/.
89 The Cambridge Paragraph Bible, cxix.
90 Garrett, Poverbs, 227.