Do Not Show Partiality to the Poor

If you hang around here a lot, you’re probably familiar with verses like these:

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” – Proverbs 14:31 (NIV)

Or one of my personal favorites: 

“‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy… Is not that what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 22:16 (NIV)

There are so many verses that demand we deal kindly with those in need around us. But here’s another little nugget from the Bible: 

“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” – Leviticus 19:15, NIV (emphasis added)

Do not show partiality to the poor? The first thing that my mind jumps to is, “God, is this really a big problem? People being too nice to the poor?” This verse is from the chapter that also instructs the people of Israel not to wear clothing woven of two kinds of materials, so is this one of those verses we kind of shrug our shoulders at and move on with our day? Well, if it’s in there, it’s in there for a reason. 

If I were to hazard a guess, I would think that showing favoritism to the great is the bigger issue in the world. But if there were people out there who leaned too far in showing partiality to the poor, who might those people be? Hmm?… Perhaps those engaged in speaking out for the poor, who read lots of blogs on helping the poor, maybe? (Said in my best Dana Carvey Church Lady impression.)

Truth is, it would probably be me … and maybe you (but I’ll let you be the judge of that). If it is true of you, in what ways do you think you might be showing partiality in your own life? For my own life, what I’m immediately convicted of is my sometimes judgment of the rich. I see a person with a big house and fancy car and think, “The nerve of some Christians!” (Without knowing their heart or their checkbook or their history of giving.) That’s yucky. 

What God wants from me (and you) isn’t to become judgmental of the rich and syrupy sappy with the poor. What he wants is JUSTICE, as this verse and so many others make clear. He doesn’t love Sally in Ecuador more than Sally in Virginia simply because of their incomes. What the Lord does love is justice. What a great God we serve. 

So, what little conviction is God worming out of your heart?

33 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Lawrence Smith May 13, 2020

    The most amazing thing that has come to my realization thru my journey in my faith and relationship with my God and savior is that god,s love that’s in your heart will guide your personal will ultimately lead u to compassion.follow your heart and u will always make the right decision in the eyesight of the Lord.thats all that is the answer.

  2. adam ray June 16, 2009

    I think the Bible is pretty clear on giving to the poor, taking care of widows and orphans, and fighting the social injustices in our world.

    With that say i think there is a danger to down play or spin the Bible’s clearer message by misinterpreting a few vague verses like Lev. 19:15 and Mark 14:7 where Jesus says, “you will always have the poor among you.”

    Neither or these passages mean “its ok to only give out of your excess to the poor.” Or, we have no right to judge decisions of others. We have the ability to judge actions and decisions, but we do not judge the whole person (1 Cor. 5:12-6:6, Acts 5, Gal. 2, and other countless examples of christians and OT saints judging other actions).

    Therefore, there is nothing wrong in pointing out that the act of rich living (which applies to anyone in America really because we’re in the top 8% of the world) and sparse giving, if at all, to the poor is in fact Biblically wrong. The Bible calls us to live a reduced-lifestyle.

    It is not our job to ease the guilt of the wealthy or even wealthy Christians that may even give to non-profits.

  3. Tom SIms June 16, 2009

    Your meditation is thoughtful. Your summation is insightful. Your application question cuts to the quick. Excellent post. I love the idea of God worming conviction out of my heart.

  4. Kathleen Popa June 16, 2009

    Such great thinking. Thank you.

  5. Barry Wallace June 10, 2009

    Excellent point, and one I had never even considered a possibility, actually. Thanks for pointing out that passage.

  6. HServante May 2, 2009

    Matthew Henry on Leviticus 19 v 15:

    ‘Judges and all in authority are here commanded to give verdict and judgment without partiality (v. 15); whether they were constituted judges by commission or made so in a particular case by the consent of both parties, as referees or arbitrators, they must do no wrong to either side, but, to the utmost of their skill, must go according to the rules of equity, having respect purely to the merits of the cause, and not to the characters of the person. Justice is not to be perverted, either,
    1. In pity to the poor: Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, Exod.13 v 3. Whatever may be given to a poor man as an alms, yet let nothing be awarded him as his right but what he is legally entitled to, nor let his poverty excuse him from any just punishment for a fault. Or,
    2. In veneration or fear of the mighty, in whose favour judges would be most frequently biased. The Jews say, “Judges were obliged by this law to be so impartial as not to let one of the contending parties sit while the other stood, nor permit one to say what he pleased and bid the other be short; see James 2 v 1-4.’

  7. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom) April 29, 2009

    Wow! What an interesting post. I hadn’t ever noticed that verse before.

  8. Jenny April 29, 2009

    Hi Michael! I agree with what you are saying, and also struggle at times with judging how others spend their money.
    My whole blog would fall into the category of “If you didn’t spend your money on _______ think how many children you could sponsor.” I’m glad you brought up the point of Mathew 6:3-4…before I started my little fundraiser, I really considered this verse and was doubting whether or not I should even do the whole “give up something publicly and get pledges for it” – I did NOT want to do it to get “praise from men” – because I’d much rather have a reward from God in heaven!
    But I also considered Matthew 5:16 “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” My angle on this was that I was tired of seeing unbelievers (ie. Bradjolina) giving money and time to help the poor, while many believers were doing nothing! Now I realize that, of course, celebrities are going to get more publicity. But there still is a large portion of believers who(obviously not the folks who comment on this blog, though! 🙂 ) either a. don’t think they can help or b. think they are too poor to help. And there ARE people in the US who, though not in extreme poverty, are struggling financially. So I wanted to “bring home” the point that if we, in the richer countries, simply give up a luxury/habit (that’s not necessary for survival) that we can help a whole lot. How many people in the US make more than $10,066 a year?
    OK, I’m almost done politely ranting. 🙂 But one more thing – I have a secondary purpose for doing a public fundraiser for Compassion (not quite an ulterior motive, but close! 😉 ) I want unbelievers to see me or whoever else is a believer and goes ‘one year without’ (or makes any other sacrifice for the poor), to know that Christ is real and is changing our lives. And hopefully, one day they too will, “praise [our] Father in heaven”. My blog, my motives, myself – all are WAY imperfect, but thank God that He lets us serve despite our imperfections!
    BTW, I took a peek at you blog – I really like the adoption timeline you put up. And the girls are beautiful!

  9. Michael April 28, 2009

    Amber, very well said. It has become almost fashionable to judge others based on how they spend their money (I’ve done it too). Many of the blogs I’ve read lately say things like, “If you didn’t spend your money on _______ think how many children you could sponsor.”

    “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” (Mathew 6:3-4)

    If we are not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, then surely we shouldn’t be keeping track of others.

  10. Mike Stephens April 28, 2009

    @Caitlin – Caitlin just a quick encouragement: I heard on a radio station that any unbelief is infidelity towards God. And I am listening to this Christian rap song and the line says

    “We haven’t suffered to the point of shedding blood like our Savior.
    So we shouldn’t be unfaithful like Gomer was to Hosea”

  11. Mike Stephens April 28, 2009

    @Chris Giovagnoni – Chris thank you for the voice of reason!!! It is good to know the simple facts sometimes. I can easily see how kids would not or simply could not acclimatize. I may not even acclimatize!!!

    @Caitlin@Mike Stephens – Caitlin you could practically swim to Haiti!!! 😉 You are right on about visiting individually. My plan which almost never goes to plan was to visit the kids I sponsor once on the Sponsor Tour so I am in a group and also to share pictures videos etc. and to make connections with other sponsors. Nicaragua was huge in that arena for me. However like you said it is better I believe also to get to actually see the environment they live in, the project they actually go to and get to meet more of their family. Hindsight is 20/20 so it is easy to talk all day about my trip to Nicaragua but leading up to it I was a little on edge making sure it would really happen!!! I paid for the Philippines basically in 1 month!!! I had the faith but I didn’t think I was going to get that Taxi job and have it work as it did!!! I prayed your surgery would go well and you would heal quickly!!! The only surgery I had was my 4 wisdom teeth and I was out just a few days I think. I have never been to Haiti Caitlin but I have been to the Dominican Republic twice (not with Compassion). You will have an AMAZING time!!! God always has unbelievable things in store!!! I am hoping to buy a video camera before the trip so if you send me your email I will gladly send you some videos of my trip, if you like, so you can get to see a little more of maybe what you can expect in Haiti or what it is like to go on the Sponsor Tour as opposed to individual. ([email protected]) is my email. But either way you will find out firsthand soon enough!!!

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for YOU!!!”

  12. Caitlin April 28, 2009

    Lol, sunscreen is something I never forget! As a child, my pediatrician once told me that if I didn’t have red hair, she would have diagnosed me as albino! So, I put my 70 SPF on and face the world!

    I am so excited for you, Mike, that you get to go visit. I will visit someday, and I thinking when I go, at least to Haiti, that I’ll go on my own, instead of with a tour. I can’t afford a tour, and I would rather spend more time in the area Magarette lives than just one day, even if I only get to see her one day, I want to get to know her world. I had been hoping to go this summer, unfortunately, I believe I’m going to have a surgery instead. Praise God for the medical advances that allow me to be mended, I’ll not call that unfortunate, but I was a little disappointed about the poor timing of it all!

    I counted out the months, and it seems to be the right time to be recieving another letter from Magarette, and from the date on her last(and first) letter, I don’t think she had recieved any of my correspondence yet, so I’m really curious to know what she has to say, now that she’s “met” me, letterwise!

  13. Chris Giovagnoni April 28, 2009

    @Mike Stephens – Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take Bushiri up Kili with you.

    Child visits are single day activities, and as you mentioned climbing Kili is an eight-day trip.

    Also, the staff in Tanzania says that children, especially young children, do not acclimate to the extreme altitude well.

    And of course, there are the issues of liability and child safety.

    If you have additional questions about visiting Bushiri, please send our Visits team an email ([email protected])

  14. Mike Stephens April 28, 2009

    @Caitlin – Caitlin make sure you wear sunscreen and some sunglasses!!! I recommend you go for a nice ride on your bicycle that way as you take in the scenery, the sky, and or the mountains you will forget you are waiting for the letter and when you return from the ride, the letter will be waiting in the mailbox!!!

  15. Mike Stephens April 28, 2009

    Caitlin the other AMAZING thing is that the reason Reneboy wrote the letter this time instead of his dad is b/c his dad cut himself with a bolo knife and it was painful for him to write!!! I know it is over 3 months since the cut but I prayed anyways and feel free to pray his wound heals well as well!!! I am hoping my prayer is in vain as hopefully his wound healed nicely.

  16. Amber Van Schooneveld April 28, 2009

    @Caitlin: Interesting point. It seems like what Satan tries to do with so many good things, take something excellent (God’s care for the poor) and twist it.

  17. Mike Stephens April 28, 2009

    @Caitlin – caitlin you should be jealous it was a very interesting letter!!! For many reasons but one simple one was this. The letter was dated January 24, 2009. In the letter Reneboy said (I prayed for and hoping that one of this day we will meet in personal.) I was already gung-ho about visiting and throwing all my talents and efforts around to earn the money for the trip, but the AMAZING part is I drove a Taxi from Jan 2-Jan 27 to pay for the trip!!! So my thinking was he probably prayed possibly sometime in there or even before for me to visit!!! So that is the amazing part. He prayed, I drove and now we will meet!!! I am not longer driving the Taxi b/c I drove it into the ground literally!!! 😉 I would put 300-400 miles a day on the Taxi!!! But Caitlin I was jealous just like you so what I did was tried to channel that jealousy into prayer, and more prayer, and more prayer until I found some work and then tried to use as much of the money as I could to pay for the sponsor tour!!! As I have said before for me the sponsor tour feels to me like winning a race (once I get it all paid for) And Caitlin I LOVE to win!!! I hope to go to Tanzania next year and climb Kilimanjaro with Bushiri and one other person from the project. My plan is to go with Ultimate Kilimanjaro an American based climbing company that has helped many people of many ages climb Kilimanjaro from all over the U.S. I assume the sponsor tour will be $3-5,000 and the climb with all the guides, porters, cooks, etc. is approx. $2000 per person for the 8 day trip which has an 85% success rate for reaching the summit. My only concern is if Bushiri is too young at 9 years old to climb it. I do not think he is at all. However regardless of how good of shape you are in, different people acclimatize to altitude differently that is why I wanted to opt for the longer 8 day trip to possibly give us 2-3 extra days to reach the summit and or acclimatize if anyone of us is having problems. But I highly encourage you to go visit the kids you sponsor!!! I have only been to Nicaragua, but the Philippines will be here in about 40 days!!! I plan to buy a video camera so I can share the trip with others to encourage them to visit. I also plan to take 1475.6 pictures!!! Mainly of everything to encourage me to visit again in the future once I return home also so others can see what the trip was like in a simple step by step and event by event “show me” type presentation. I told Angelo who I visit there I would dunk a basketball with two hands for him when I visit b/c he wants to be a basketball player but I need to add about 7 inches to my jump in about 1 month!!! So I have my work cut out for me!!! Pray for me Caitlin that I will work hard this last month to dunk and that I would actually be able to dunk for Angelo like I promised!!! I want to take a picture of it and even a video!!! To prove I did it!!! I look forward to seeing your pictures from your next sponsor tour visit Caitlin!!! Make me jealous!!!

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for YOU!!!”

  18. Compassiondave April 28, 2009

    What a wonderful reminder that God does not regard our position in life, but rather our posture towards life.

  19. Juli Jarvis April 28, 2009

    @Amber Van Schooneveld – I would love to! Just need a little time right now, but will do so when I can.

  20. Caitlin April 27, 2009

    @Mike Stephens – P.S. I’m really jealous of your letter, Mike! Hurrah for you! I’m going to take a lawn chair out to my mailbox now….

  21. Caitlin April 27, 2009

    Exaulting the poor, demonzing the rich. It’s amazing how deeply this theory engrained in us without us knowing most of the time. I hadn’t really noticed until recently, but please notice as I did just recently, movies/stories from childhood: Sleeping beauty (Aurora grows up in a humble dwelling while the Evil Queen, and rich, did I mention rich? does her best to wipe Aurora out), Cinderella: Sort of the same story, girl in rags, eveil step mother in ball gowns and jewels, Oliver, Annie, Newsies, King Arthur…the list goes on and on. Now, don’t take this on a different tangent, I am not suggesting a boycott of childhood stories and fairytales, simply suggesting that maybe this weed in our minds was started much earlier than we realized, and maybe we need to strive to warn our newest set of kids about these thoughts before they get rooted in.

  22. Vicki Small April 27, 2009

    @Juli Jarvis – Excellent points, Juli!

  23. Robbie April 27, 2009

    Great post! Thanks so much. I too, will often judge the rich (or what appears to be rich) without knowing anything about them. If I see someone in the church parking lot with a Lexus or BMW or any luxury car I wonder why they have not given that money to the church, or the homeless, or the local food bank. I wonder why they don’t drive an old Nissan (like me). But I don’t know them or their heart.

    I need to stop being judgmental. Thanks again for your post!

  24. Vicki Leavy April 27, 2009

    It is awesome that you have brought this to the front of the room. We all too quickly pity the poor and demonize the wealthy without knowing the hearts of either. We form an assumption. Detesting the rich has become “fashionable” and “correct” for some reason. I think Satin very much likes this. But, all are welcome in God’s Kingdom. There is room enough for everyone. I don’t think money is mentioned in the eight Beatitudes. A person can be wealthy and very poor in spirit or wealthy and in terrible mourning. The poor can be merciful, pure of heart and peacemakers. The rich are uniquely blessed with the opportunity to help the poor and the least of us. We can best honor God by simply loving one another and not judging each other. Thank you for calling this to my attention. If I want this to change, it will have to start with me. Pardon me while I pull this palm tree out of my eye!

  25. Mike Stephens April 27, 2009

    @Amber Van Schooneveld – Also Amber I got to hear Olive at the SW Regional Advocate’s conference that you mentioned in your book!!! So it is great to put some of the pieces together!!!

  26. Mike Stephens April 27, 2009

    @Amber Van Schooneveld – Excellent point Amber!!!

    I actually got my first letter actually written by one of my kids today!!! So that was great!!! I thought it was amazing he said he hoped I would visit someday. What he doesn’t know but will soon is that someday is about 40 days away on June 6-18!!! I told the other 2 I sponsor in the Philippines I was going to visit to help put a little pressure on myself to visit. But I decided not to tell Reneboy who I got the letter from today. He may already know I am coming by now but the letter was written in January when I was just starting to pay for the trip!!!

    15You shall do no injustice in judging a case; you shall not be partial to the poor or show a preference for the mighty, but in righteousness and according to the merits of the case judge your neighbor.

    What a great verse to bring up!!!

    I appreciate you mentioning about Kilimanjaro a few weeks ago. I found a climbing agency called Ultimate Kilimanjaro. They say 85% of all climbers that opt for the 8 day trip make it to the summit. The cost is a little under $2000 per person for the 8 day trip. My question is this: “If and only if I was able to pay for the trip up Kilimanjaro would Compassion allow me to take Bushiri who is 9 years old on the climb? I planned to pay for 3 people so a project worker or an uncle or relative could join. It is only an idea but it is slowly gaining momentum but I wanted to make sure I get the proper approval I need before I give this thing a go!!! If not no worries just visiting will be amazing in itself. (I am not 100% I will even be able to visit next year but I am sure something will really get me going as it usually does) I just thought if I can get permission why not?

  27. Amber Van Schooneveld April 27, 2009

    Juli, you bring up such a vital, and I think subtle point. God has invested each person with dignity–when we are “partial” to the poor in a negative way, are we in a small way not acknowledging their dignity, but diminishing it? Good question, maybe you should write a post on it. 🙂

  28. Juli Jarvis April 27, 2009

    I love the truth Jenny brought to mind — we don’t want to flood them with so many gifts that we fail to direct them to the greatest gift of all — Jesus! We also don’t want them dependent on us rather than on God. And — giving them too many gifts (or even too much attention) can take away their dignity. We need to be ever so sensitive to the worth and dignity of all people, rich or poor. I certainly want to be a part of their support, but keep things in balance by remembering how much I need them as well — their prayers, rich faith, gifts of the spirit and joy. Thank you, God, for this wonderful partnership! Help us keep it all in proper balance!

  29. Britt April 27, 2009

    “For my own life, what I’m immediately convicted of is my sometimes judgment of the rich. I see a person with a big house and fancy car and think, “The nerve of some Christians!” (Without knowing their heart or their checkbook or their history of giving.) That’s yucky.”

    I can relate to that.

    And then I get angry. And THAT’s not what God wants. The “…be slow to anger…” comes to mind.

  30. Lori April 27, 2009

    Thanks for the verses.

  31. Vicki Small April 27, 2009

    Wow. Interesting verse, that. A little known nugget on which I’m sure I’ve never heard a sermon.

  32. Jenny April 27, 2009

    (sorry, i accidentally voted 3 stars…it should be 5!)

  33. Jenny April 27, 2009

    Thank you Amber, for bringing this up! Something that has come to my mind since I’ve started my one-year-without-coke fundraiser is that, even if poverty eradicated, the world won’t all of a sudden become perfect. The US is the richest country on the planet, and we definitely aren’t perfect! Sin creeps in even if there is prosperity, because the problems in our world aren’t just outside of us: they start inside of us. Mark 7:15
    “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.” That is why I love what Compassion does: instead of just giving people bread, they are also given the opportunity to know the Bread of Life.

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