The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. ~Proverbs 22:7 NIV
This verse states a harsh truth: Wealthy people in this world exert tremendous power and influence over those who have less. People who have little material wealth must be prepared to be treated by the rich as if they are slaves. It isn’t fair, or right, or proper, but it is true.
However, the Lord urges you to remember that whether someone is fabulously rich, middle class, or truly destitute, people are only people; they are not God. Just prior to this verse, Proverbs 22:2 reads:
Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.
Don’t be tempted to think that your wealth somehow gains you favor with God. It won’t. Neither will your lack of material possessions. It is not inherently more spiritual to be either poor or rich.
In the New Testament, the Lord gives clear instructions to both slaves and masters who have decided to follow Jesus. To the slave (the borrower), he says in Ephesians 6:5-6:
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
According to this passage, a slave (a borrower) should be obedient. Keep your promises; pay on time. And obey knowing that your real master is Jesus Christ. It is him you seek to honor by living up to the terms of your agreement.
Are you among the wealthy who “rule over the poor?” As a master (or lender), Ephesians 4:1 must be your guide for living:
Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
Justice and fairness can be elusive, but as a wealthy person, the Lord expects you to extend a measure of grace to others – perhaps especially those who are indebted to you. How do you respond when someone pleads, “Be patient with me?”
God has already shown you enough unmerited favor that you can enter heaven – undeservedly. Keep that in mind as you consider how you treat other people less fortunate than you.