The Rich Rule over the Poor

In my personal time with the Lord this morning, I was reading from Proverbs 22. I’ve often quoted the latter part of verse 7, but have not paid that much attention to the first part:

“The rich rule over the poor,

    And the borrower is servant to the lender.”

Hmmm…….the rich rule over the poor. Since the Scriptures are infallible and inspired, then this is true: not just because we can observe it from our experiences, but also because God has given us this truth in the Scriptures.

Juxtaposed with verse 6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.”), one can see how training children about the bondage of debt is so very important: “the placement of Proverbs 22:7 makes clear that proper upbringing in wisdom and righteousness is crucial if a child is to avoid the bondage and poverty indicated in this verse.” It was interesting that the Lord laid out one of the blessings for following Him would be freedom from debt: “You will lend to many nations but not borrow” (Deut. 15:6; Deut. 28:12) In Deut.15.6, they are told that they will rule over many nations and that none will rule over them. Perhaps Proverbs 22.7 is echoing 15.6?

The rich do rule over the poor and their rule becomes especially dangerous and prone to corruption when they collude with the government. Some call it crony capitalism. But what you’ll find, regardless of which party is in power, is that the rich in this country give generously to their campaigns so that they have access to political power. The combination of money and political power will result, over time, in the building of extractive institutions, which will lead to a system whereby very few have nearly all the wealth and they use the force of government to extract as much wealth as possible from the masses who are made to be slaves for them. They can achieve this because they have sufficient military power and the willingness to use it to their advantage. This line of thinking is argued (compellingly, IMHO) in the book Why Nations Fail.

This is why, IMHO, it is right to fight for individual liberties and restraint on the exercise of corporate and government power over the masses. Political power must be kept distributed to the point where it is difficult for those who wish to consolidate power to do so. Economic power must be distributed through the lowering of barriers of entry to new markets. Economic power is also distributed when private property rights are respected and enforced, contracts are enforced and justice is served without prejudice to one’s station in life.

At this time, in our country, we are witnessing the coalescing of power between the rich and those in government. It has been going on for some time, but its’ pace is accelerating:

  • Billionaire owners and millionaire players demand the public pay for their offices, fields, courts and locations at which they play their games
  • Unions worth tens of millions of dollars consistently funnel the large majority of their monies to the same political party
  • Actors and entertainers worth hundreds of millions of dollars consistently give large donations to the same political party
  • Corporations give millions to the party in power just so they can have a seat at the power table and influence legislation to be more advantageous for them

I own a small business and could use $100,000 to help my cash flow by consolidating my company’s debts. I went to the Small Business Administration and was turned down – flatly, I might add. Yet those close to the Obama administration find they are able to get hundreds of millions of dollars from the government to spend on green business ventures that are sure to fail. But I, as a small business owner, who has no connection to the President whatsoever, can’t get a loan (not a gift, mind you) for an ongoing business venture that is not sure to fail.

This is the essence of the rich ruling over the poor. Those who have money have power. When Christ commands us in Matthew 5 to “give to him who asks of you and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you”, He’s not just asking us to give some money to the poor, He’s also asking us to give up some power that we have through the ownership of that money. We are not to rule over anyone, since it is the Lord who rules over all creation and owns “the cattle on a thousand hills”. We are not to seek power or riches, since we know that this is a passing world and the real reality is found in heaven. I’ve observed that most of those who walk closely with the Lord tend to be economically poor mainly, because, they are free from the bondage of loving and needing material things. Being poor, in and of itself, is not a sign of maturity in the Lord. But it is often a by-product.

The rich rule over the poor. This is a true statement. If you happen to be rich and have read this far, I would encourage you to go the Lord and find out how you are to steward that which the Lord has given you. Your ability to product wealth has come directly from God Himself (Deut. 8), so you really have no reason to think that your money is yours. It’s not. It belongs to the Lord and He has entrusted it to you. But in your exercise of your wealth, do not use your power to further your own wealth. Instead, use it as a means of serving God and then your fellow man.

Bill English, CEO