God desires His children to be especially mindful of the poor. His love and mercy reach down to those in need and in struggles, so it is His love working through us that should prompt us to be quick to help the poor. We’ll look at this in much more depth as we examine God’s teaching on giving, but for now we can look at two specific ways we should treat the poor in our business and work.
Pay Them Quickly
God gave a special law to the Israelites about how they should treat their hired servants who are poor. While we are no longer under the Law, these instructions can help us see at least one way we can be mindful of the needs of the poor. The poor who have no savings to tide them over to their next paycheck may be helped by receiving their paychecks more often. In the Law, God taught the Israelites to pay their poor hired servants every day.
14 You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he be of your brothers, or of your foreigners who are in your land within your gates: 15 in his day you shall give him his hire (paycheck), neither shall the sun go down on it; for he is poor, and sets his heart on it: lest he cry against you to Yahweh, and it be sin to you.
Deuteronomy 24:14-15 (WEB)
As I said before, we are no longer under the Law. But this commandment makes sense even in light of the New Covenant. If we have a poor person who works for us, it would be better to pay them more often because they need the money as soon as they can get it. This is especially true if it would help them avoid using a payday lender. There are other long-term solutions that could help them better manage their money, but this is an easy way to help them avoid the less desirable alternatives (payday loans, credit cards, etc.).
Do Not Show Favoritism to the Rich
Many people respect the rich and treat them better than they would the poor. This could be because of what the rich have done for them in the past, or it could be because of what they think the rich could do for them in the future. Either way, such favoritism and respect based on net worth is not from God. Jesus taught us to “love our neighbors as ourselves”. He didn’t say “love your rich neighbors as yourself, and show a little love for the poor while you’re at it”. There’s no distinction between our neighbors – we are to love all people equally regardless of their position in this world or even whether they show us love. James provides clear teaching on how this applies in our churches, but it should apply equally in all areas of Christian life:
1 My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality. 2 For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in; 3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, “Sit here in a good place”; and you tell the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit by my footstool”; 4 haven’t you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:1-4 (WEB)
When we make distinctions between the rich and the poor, or any other distinction that affects how we treat people, we become judges and fail to follow Jesus’ teaching and His Spirit. The Spirit of Love shows no partiality among people but loves all the same. The application of this teaching can easily be seen for our business lives – we should give the same quality of service to the poor that we would give to the rich. I’m not saying the people should get what they don’t pay for, but they should be treated with the same respect, courtesy, and kindness regardless of how much they buy from us. We must never forget that all people are the work of God’s hands, and we should show no distinction among anyone when it comes to showing love just as God has shown no distinction in the gift of His Son. Job acknowledges the fact that all are made by God and He shows no favoritism:
Who doesn’t respect the persons of princes, nor respects the rich more than the poor; for they all are the work of his hands.
Job 34:19 (WEB)
When God looks at us, He sees each one of us individually and knows us personally. But He loves us all the same, regardless of how righteous or unrighteous or poor or rich we are. He seeks to reconcile all of us to Himself through His Son. It’s with this same love – this blind love – that His Spirit compels us to love our neighbors. This love is not blind to the needs of people, but it is blind to their faults and mistakes. Loving people like God loves them while looking after their needs means that we love the poor as we would anyone else and we do what we can to help them. So be mindful of the poor in your work, and show all people God’s love.