“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”
Children do foolish things. It’s simply the nature of being a child. This verse communicates the simple truth that children need to be taught how to live effectively. The word for discipline used here is musar, which we have already seen many times in Proverbs. It is the process of disciplined training that teaches children to be wise rather than foolish.
“Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.”
People who are selfish, greedy, and indifferent to the poor will eventually fall into poverty. Scripture admonishes us to be generous, and do what we can to care for the needy.
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” (Proverbs 14.31)
To oppress the poor is not just an attack on them, but also on God the Creator of all people. One of signs of the true presence of Christ in a person’s life is their attitude and action toward the poor. Jesus made this quite clear in Matthew 25 when he spoke of the judgment he would render at his second coming.
When the Lord returns and takes his throne, he will separate the sheep from the goats: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25:31-33)
The sheep — which is a metaphor for those who have trusted in Christ and been transformed by his redeeming grace — are placed on the Lord’s right. A distinguishing characteristic of the true followers of Jesus is their care for the marginalized, the poor, and the neglected of society.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)
The goats — which is a metaphor for those who have not trusted in Christ — are placed on the Lord’s left. A distinguishing characteristic of this group is their indifference toward the marginalized, the poor, and the neglected of society.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46)
To neglect the poor is to dishonor God, and to honor the poor is to honor God. To feed and clothe a needy stranger is, in effect, to do so for the divine King.
Keep in mind that people are not saved because they care for the poor. Rather, redeemed people care for the poor because they have personally experienced the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, and they seek to extend that grace to others.