The Problem of Poverty and False Witness

December 07, 2017

Proverbs 19:4 

Wealth makes many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbors. 

Sadly enough, impoverished neighborhoods are often the seedbeds of illegitimacy, drug use, and crime. Usually, the rich want to separate themselves from these social settings. Yet it seems that the miserable curses that facilitate the breakdown of character in poor societies quickly seep into the rich neighborhoods as well.

The beggars you find on street corners in large cities are typically very alone. They may have cast off their families through drunkenness or fits of violent anger. In most cases, they refuse to maintain close relationships in a church where brothers and sisters would address their character issues and attempt to hold them accountable. Meanwhile, our state-based social systems discourage a charity that is local, relational, and voluntary; this further isolates the poor from those who could help them. 

So how does one “fix” this problem of the poor? While Jesus Christ made a ministry out of helping the helpless, He assured His disciples at the end that “the poor you will always have with you.” Truly, He did not come to fix the problem of poverty. He came to fix the problem of sin! Nevertheless, the church community is to be made up of rich and poor alike. The rich are to give of their goods generously to those in need, while retaining mutually accountable, respectful, and loving relationships within the body of the church. Because those who are wealthy have more resources and time to serve others, they will have more “friends.” But a warm and relational church should provide the best opportunity for the integration of society, which is much better than the forced redistribution of wealth, forced integration of school systems, and other similar programs. Although the principle in this proverb can still apply within the New Testament era church, you will be less likely to find it in the world today. 

Proverbs 19:5 

A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaks lies shall not escape. 

Occasionally, the media will report on a murder case in which an innocent man was executed for the crime he did not commit. After the fact, some witness admits to having provided false testimony in the court trial. Humanists seek solutions to problems by insisting on perfect justice, which usually involves the incorporation of the police state on one hand (with cameras tracking every move you make), or a softening of the penalties and the total minimization of the ethical import of human crimes on the other hand. In other words, man will turn to both tyranny and anarchy in order to establish his “utopia” of perfect justice. This is all based on the assumption that there is no God Who is the very standard of justice and righteousness. Man creates his own sham justice when he denies God’s standard. 

But what do we say about the innocent man executed because of false testimony given in court? Of course, biblical law requires that a man offering such testimony in a murder trial be subject to the death penalty himself (Deut. 19:16–18). If our courts would maintain biblical laws on witnesses in court, we would have far fewer of these cases. Moreover, biblical law requires that every matter be established on the account of two or three witnesses. But in the ultimate sense, we trust that there is a God Whose eyes are everywhere, “beholding the evil and the good,” and perfect justice will be established in the courts of heaven. We are not cosmic dust floating about in a causeless, material universe. We are moral creatures, created with a strong sense of justice—because we are created in the image of God, Who Himself is the very standard of justice. We must believe that this God is capable of administering perfect justice in the realm of time and eternity. No false witness will ever escape His purview, no matter how carefully he covers his footsteps. 

Family Discussion Questions:

1. How do we “fix” the problem of poverty? 

2. How well do we integrate poorer people in our church assembly? 

3. What is the biblical punishment for a false witness in a trial? 

4. What happens to the man who bears false witness in a trial, but nobody catches him at it?

5. Knowing that God will administer justice in the end, how does this affect the way that you react to injustices?