"He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished."(New International Version)Mock Defined from Webster's
"Whoever mocks poor people insults their Creator; gloating over misfortune is a punishable crime. (The Message)"
1: to treat with contempt or ridicule : deride
2: to disappoint the hopes of
3: defy , challenge
4 a: to imitate (as a mannerism) closely : mimic b: to mimic in sport or derision
Contempt defined from Webster's
1 a: the act of despising : the state of mind of one who despises : disdain b: lack of respect or reverence for something
2: the state of being despised
3: willful disobedience to or open disrespect of a court, judge, or legislative body
I don't know why, but when I look at this verse and these definitions, I think about being in Junior High and High School. I was a teenager during the 80's, which was an incredibly fashion conscious decade. In my little world, everyone wore polo shirts, but not just any polo shirts-they had to be Izod or Polo brand. Nothing else would do. I remember my mom finding me a silky white polyester Izod shirt from a thrift store. Sure, it had the emblem, but it was polyester. It was an old guy's golf shirt. It was what a poor poser would wear. Which is what I was. I wore it to school, but I could tell I wasn't fooling anyone.
When I finally got my 100% cotton, royal blue Izod shirt, with an alligator, it was like I had finally arrived. The cool kids even pointed it out, and I received just a taste of affirmation. But it didn't last, and I was relegated to that group somewhere between utter loser and barely socially acceptable.
I have been treated with contempt and mocked before. The majority of us have. What I never really questioned was why they had the right to treat me and my other non-Izod wearing friends with contempt.
How did these social mores develop in a group of High School kids that we would judge each other on what brand of clothes we wore? I mean, I was covered, I didn't smell and I wasn't wearing stripes and polka dots in colors that didn't match, but still, in my school, your status was judged on what you wore.
The short answer is that it was learned behavior. Learned from the media, learned from parents, and then learned from peers. Values were passed on that taught my classmates how to judge a person's worth and value in society. When people did not live up to those values, it was deemed OK to treat them with contempt, mock them, deride them, put them down.
Now, we know there is nothing new under the sun. These verses show us that showing contempt for people based on how wealthy they are has always been around. Even now, we hear people joke about people living in trailer parks or in the projects, or make fun of people that work at McDonald's. We joke about people driving broken down cars. I remember working at a warehouse where it was common to make fun of the guys in the prison work release program, because they drove scooters because they weren't allowed to have a car. Jokes about illegal aliens were really common in that warehouse too.
I won't use them, but we all have those rude names we use to describe those of our race or cultural group when we want to describe the poor screw-ups that never figure anything out and are always without money but always buy hope from a lottery ticket, and comfort in a bottle.
Back to the verses, treating the poor with contempt, mocking and despising them is nothing new, and its still current. While I'm not crazy about stating God desires a classless society, this verse does show that God does not see things the same way we do. He sees contempt for anyone he created as contempt for him. While God does not automatically see wealth as an indicator of intelligence, wisdom or character, he does however talk about problems that are exclusive to rich people and poor people alone-more on that later.
"Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all." Proverbs 22:2 (New International Version)