” 23 Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, And for lack of justice there is waste.” (Pro 13:23 NKJ)
So here’s an interesting verse I came across today, in my sermon preparation. I think it demonstrates, among other things, the problem with drawing conclusions about someone because they are poor.
So at first, you look at the verse, and given a lot of other things the Proverbs say, you might think that the man is poor because he won’t till his ground (it’s fallow). But the second half of the verse subverts your expectations. The waste here is not because of the laziness of the man, it’s because of the lack of justice.
If a man believes that the produce of his labor will likely be stolen from him, why plow the ground? If a man knows that people may contract with him for work and then break the contract, with no likelihood of anyone forcing him to keep it, then why would he do the work in the first place? If the rich and powerful in society are immune from the law and can do what they want with no consequences, then in frustration and despair many will simply check out of the economic system altogether, and much valuable work that could be done won’t be done.
I think work is its own reward. But the fact is, people do what you pay them to do. I cannot claim I would work as much as I have if I did not get paid for it. I am no more immune to incentives than anyone else.
But then one thing it shows, that we really need to do in this country if we are to have economic recovery and prosperity, is to reinforce the rule of law. And for there to be true rule of law, that law has to be simple and transparent so that people who cannot afford expensive lawyers can nonetheless navigate it and understand it. An incredibly complex law, such as we have, benefits the rich and powerful, and is almost as bad (worse in some ways) as having no law at all, since the more complex it is, the more the rich and powerful can hire lawyers to twist it to their own advantage.