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Mercy for the Poor, Honor for the Maker of the Poor

Note from the Society for Protestant Reformed Special Education: “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Day” at Heritage Christian school quickly becomes one of the favorite school days for students and staff alike. On this special day, volunteers pour into the school to present a particular disability to the students, generating in them a deeper love for our special needs children and a keener awareness of their God-given disabilities. Each year, this day is a tremendous success. To begin this year’s “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Day,” Seminarian Brian Feenstra led the school chapel reflecting on our calling to honor the Maker of the poor by showing mercy to all, especially those with special needs. What follows is his speech. 

Psalm 119:14 “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

Proverbs 17:5 “Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”

Proverbs 14:31 “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”

God is the God of the poor. That is what we sing in Psalter 112, stanza 4:

Although I poor and needy be,

The Lord in love takes thought for me;

Thou art my help in time of need,

My Saviour, Lord, art Thou;

Then, O my God, I pray, I plead,

Stay not, but save me now.

This is a theme that runs throughout the Scriptures. God loves the poor. God helps the poor. God saves the poor. God defends the poor. These two passages from Proverbs teach us how God views the poor, and how we are called to treat the poor.

Who are the poor?  To be poor means to lack something.  The poor person does not have something that he needs.  The poor person does not have enough.  Usually we think of poor people as people who do not have enough money.  But a person can be poor if he lacks ANYTHING that he needs.  A person can be poor if he does not have enough strength, knowledge, ability, friendship, or anything else that he needs. So as we consider the poor, do not think only about money, but also about other things of which our classmates and friends do not have enough.

What do the poor have to do with the event that we celebrate today, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”?  Today is a day to learn about the poor among us, and what we can do to help them.  We are especially concerned with those who have disabilities and special needs. But we are also concerned about every one of our classmates who are poor: those who have troubles, difficulties, or weaknesses.  And let us not be uncomfortable to think of our classmates as poor this morning.  Being poor is nothing to be ashamed of, which is why I began that way that I did. We are all poor. We all have troubles and difficulties and weaknesses. And we all need help from one another.  When we give that help to the poor, we honor our Maker, the God who loves the poor.

The Mockery of the Poor

Mocking the poor is laughing at the poor for their problems or difficulties. Oppressing the poor is hurting them and holding them down, so that pain from being poor is made even worse.

There are many examples of the mockery and oppression of the poor in Scripture. Jesus pointed out the wickedness of the Pharisees because they mocked and oppressed the poor. The Pharisees liked the rich people better than the poor people. When the rich man came into church, the Pharisees would give him the best seat. But when a poor man came to church, they gave him the worst seat or no seat at all. This is one of many instances in which the Pharisees did not love the poor and seek to do them good.

The greatest example of the poor being mocked and oppressed is with Jesus himself. The world mocked and hurt our poor Savior, Jesus Christ, as he hung on the cross.  They laughed and shouted at him: if you are the son of God, get yourself down from that cross; you saved others but you cannot even save yourself!  They spit in his face and slapped him. Men mocked and oppressed Jesus.

These proverbs imply that the poor are often mocked and oppressed. It is always our tendency to mock and hurt one another other, especially the poor.  It is not all that hard for us to mock a poor person for his problems. Much easier it is to avoid helping them, and instead join in mocking them.

I still remember how that happened when I was in school.  We had a wonderful special needs girl in our class. She was so sweet. She almost always had a smile on her face and a positive attitude even though she could not walk, could barely talk, and would never learn most of the things that the rest of us were able to learn. But I also remember a few people saying mean things to her and about her.  How sad!  Even more sad was that I did not say anything to stop the mockery. I was afraid to defend her.  It was much easier to join in and speak lowly of her behind her back.  And that still bothers me to this day.

Why are the poor mocked and hurt? The poor are not great in the eyes of men.  The wicked world says that the poor are weak.  The wicked world praises the rich, the professional athletes, and the good singers. But we would be wrong to think that the famous people of this world are more important than the poor.

Mocking the poor is rooted in pride. We are tempted to mock the poor and hurt them because we think that we are better than they are. Do you think that you are better than any of your classmates? Do you think that you are better than anyone who has disabilities or special needs?  Do you think that being a fast runner makes you better?  Do you think that being smarter makes you better?  You are not!  Thinking that you are better is pride.

And thinking that you are better than the poor is sin. Mocking the poor because you think you are better is even worse.  God hates it when we mock the poor, because he is the maker of the poor.

The Maker of the Poor

God is the maker of all men. God created all of us, each a special creation of God.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made by our maker (Ps. 139:14). We are an amazing creation of God. The creation of man is so amazing that no scientist will ever discover all there is to know about man’s body. We are masterpieces of our maker.

God made each one of his masterpieces different.  God made both the poor man and the rich man.  That is what 1 Samuel 2:7–8 teaches us: “The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.”  God made the boy who can run fast, as well as the girl who needs a walker to walk around.  God made the smartest girl in the class, as well as the boy who cannot understand his math. Both the strongest and the weakest are all masterpieces, amazing creations.

Because God is my maker, I may not be unhappy with who I am. He made me just the way that he wanted me to be.  I may not be unhappy with what I look like. I may not be disappointed with my abilities.  And I may not be jealous with what God gave others.  God is my maker.  He made me just right.  I must be content with the way that God made both me and my neighbor. Why do we not always see that? Why is it that we look at the poor person as though he or she is not a masterpiece, but a monster?  Because we forget that God is our maker. How do you see yourself?  How do you see your classmates? You are God’s handiwork, a marvelous creation.

Thus, mocking the poor is reproaching God, who is the maker of the poor.  That is what makes the sin of mocking the poor so terrible. Reproaching God is telling God that he did not do a good job—his masterpieces do not look so nice. This is the opposite of honoring God.  Honoring God is praising him for the wonderful work he has done.

The point of this proverb is that when you mock and hurt the poor, you tell God that his work is bad.   God made all men. Man is his handiwork.  When you mock God’s creature, you are mocking God himself. God also chose what to give every man.  God chose who would be poor and who would be rich. God chose who would be a fast runner and who would not even be able to walk.  God chose some people to have disabilities and special needs. The maker makes everyone just the way he wanted, and he gives them exactly what he wanted to give them.

Who are we to tell God that his work is bad?  We are nothing. We may never disapprove of God’s work. His work is perfect. Do you realize that when you make fun of someone for being poor that you are spitting on God’s masterpiece? Let us not mock or hurt the poor, but have mercy on them.

Honoring the Maker of the Poor through Mercy

Our calling is to have mercy on the poor. Mercy is feeling the pain of the poor person who is in trouble and helping them out of that trouble.  This is the very opposite of mocking them and hurting them.  Mercy is helping them.

It is as though the poor person is stuck in the mud-pit.  Mercy is seeing his pain and feeling it myself. It hurts me to see him in such terrible pain.  I want to help him! I need to help him!  So I reach for his hand and drag him out of that mud-pit.

How do we show mercy for the poor in our class?  Love the poor, and desire to help them.  Put their needs above your desires.  Eat your lunch with your classmates who have special needs, and spend your recess time with them.  I think you will soon find that both of you will enjoy it. Make a special point to include those with special needs in your conversation.  Pick first the players who are normally picked last. Defend the poor person that everyone mocks on the bus.  Leave an encouraging note in the desk of that person who does not have very many friends.  That is a very short list that all of you need to make longer. Do all that you can to show mercy toward the poor.

Do that because this is what Christ did for us. This is the gospel. Christ had mercy for us poor sinners.  Christ saw us hopelessly stuck in the mud-pit, the pit of sin. Because he loved us, he felt bad for us, and desired us to be free of our sin.  So he went down into that mud pit of sin, covering himself with our muddy sin, and pulled us out. He cleaned us up and gave us new clothes.  Christ, the glorious Lord, was mocked and hurt for us. He died in the place of poor sinners to pay their debt.   He did not save us from our sins because we deserved it. He had mercy on us because he loved us who were poor sinners.

We are followers of Christ!  The things that he did for us, we want to do for others.  If we love Christ, then we will have mercy on the poor.  We will help our classmates out of the mud too.  No, we can never clean away sin like Christ did for us, but God certainly calls us to help our poor classmates in their troubles.

When we show mercy to the poor, we give honor to the God who made them.  Helping our classmates who have needs gives praise to God.  Having mercy on the poor shows that we think highly of God’s masterpieces.  I pray that you learn much today at school that will teach you how to be merciful to the poor.  For then you will learn to praise God for his fearful and wonderful creation of man.