Proverbs 21:13

The Cry of the Poor

Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor,
he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.


1. The book of proverbs is designed to give wisdom and discretion to young men (and young women).

2. One of the major ways in which Solomon teaches wisdom is by pointing out the consequences of our actions, as he does here.

3. It is the old “you reap what you sow” theme that has appeared in many different settings in this book.

4. Here Solomon speaks about the consequences of being a heartless, stingy scrooge… a selfish miser who ignores the plight of others.

5. This proverb doesn’t tell us to DO anything… it simply sets forth the consequences of actions.

6. The application is not stated because it is obvious: don’t do it! Don’t be like the man in this proverb!

Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor…

A. The Cry of the Poor

1. Cry:

a. Outcry; cry of distress; crying out for aid or help; a cry of distress because of war; destruction; pestilence; or poverty.

b. Theological Workbook of the Old Testament: A cry from a disturbed heart, in need of some kind of help.

c. It is a cry for help, but it is also an expression of need.

2. Poor: Lowly; poor; weak; needy; oppressed.

a. Solomon is speaking of a poor man who is suffering great need.

b. This poor man not only has a need, but he is crying out loud for help.

c. Perhaps he is hungry and cold. Perhaps he has no food for his children…

d. Perhaps he has been injured and is unable to work—in the days before workman’s comp. and unemployment checks.

e. Note carefully that Solomon’s description of this man is that he is poor.
• He is not described as being lazy. I think it is assumed that poverty is his real problem—not laziness.
• He is not described as being an alcoholic. There is no hint here that the reason for his poverty is a drug or alcohol addiction.
• II Thess. 3:10 – That is a whole different picture. For those folks Paul gives us some good advice: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
• Prov. 21:25 – The desire of the slothful kills them. There are consequences for such behavior.
• Prov. 23:21 – The drunkard and the glutton SHALL come to poverty. That is God’s plan for such behavior.
• Prov. 21:12 – Consider what we just saw in the previous verse in Proverbs: There are serious built in consequences to wicked (lazy) behavior, and the righteous would do well to observe and take note!

f. As Christians, we should be discerning in giving to those in need.
• Not all those who are suffering from poverty SHOULD be helped.
• Some will only learn by experiencing the painful consequences to their behavior.
• However, we can’t always KNOW the real reason for a man’s poverty… although sometimes it’s obvious.

g. The kind of person Solomon is describing in verse 13 appears to be a man who is simply “poor.”
• No reason for his poverty is given.
• However, in light of what Solomon says elsewhere in the book about laziness and reaping what we sow, it can be assumed that this man is poor… and it is not his fault.
• Honest, hard working, diligent men CAN become poor!

3. We should not automatically assume that a man is poor because of his sin.

a. It is true that the book of Proverbs lists a whole host of SINS that result in poverty. We are warned against becoming poor by engaging in those sins.

b. But that does not mean that ALL poor people are therefore engaged in those sins.

c. We should be careful about that kind of attitude, because in this economy, any one of us could end up poor!

d. Prov. 19:1 – The poor can be godly and upright: Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

e. Prov. 28:11 – The poor can be wise: The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.

f. Jas. 2:5 – The poor can be rich in faith: Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love Him?

g. Mark 12:42 – The poor can be generous in giving: The widow who gave her last mite.

4. Thus, some poor men may CRY OUT in their poverty, crying out for help… for compassion…

a. This seems to be what Solomon had in mind in this proverb.

b. Solomon pictures a man in genuine need. He is poor, and perhaps hungry and cold.

c. He is crying out for help.

B. Whoso Stoppeth His Ears At the Cry of the Poor

1. Stopping one’s ears.

a. To not listen and respond to a visual or audible situation; to refuse to listen to…

b. It is used figuratively to mean “to ignore”…

c. Acts 7:57 – Here men stopped their ears.
• But notice that these men KNEW what Steven was saying.
• They blocked their ears because they did not want to hear any more.
• This implies that they blocked their ears out of conviction.
• Steven spoke truth and they didn’t want to hear it… so they ran to SILENCE the truth by killing him.

d. Solomon is speaking of a man who HEARS the cries of the poor, but (figuratively speaking) puts his fingers in his ears to prevent him from hearing any more.
• They are crying out for help… perhaps requesting food or money… and he resolves NOT to give them a hearing… he turns them away.

e. Thus, this proverb speaks about being directly confronted by poverty… face to face… and hearing the cry… the appeal to help them in their need.
• He is not talking about poverty in general—the problem of world poverty.
• He is speaking about a man who comes across the path of a poor man as he goes about his daily business.
• This is a situation similar to the men whose pathways intersected with a man who was beaten and robbed, in the story of the Good Samaritan.

b. Luke 10:30-34 – The Good Samaritan helped this man.
• The man was beaten and robbed. He is poor now!
• A priest saw him and stopped his eyes.
• A Levite saw him—maybe he even heard him groaning—and stopped his ears from the cry of this poor man.
• But the Samaritan looked, listened, and HELPED!
• He DID something for this poor man.
• And notice that he did not set out to cure world poverty.
• In God’s Providence, the Lord arranged circumstances such that their paths crossed that day.
• These three men heard the cries of this poor, suffering man.
• He was weak, suffering, beaten, and had no money.
• The Good Samaritan did what he could to help.
• The other two men IGNORED his plight.

f. What kind of man would stop his ears at the cry of the poor?

a. The kind of man James describes!

b. Jas. 2:15-16 – Be warmed and filled!
• Here is a man who is directly confronted with a poor man in his need.
• He has the ability to help… he hears the cry for help…
• But he does nothing other than to say, “Be ye warmed and filled.”
• This man ignored the poor man’s plight.

He also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

1. In the second part of this proverb, Solomon speaks about the consequences of “stopping one’s ears.”

a. There are consequences for NOT doing something in this case.

b. Here God states that there are consequences for the selfish miser who ignores the plight of others.

2. The consequence of demonstrating a lack of compassion:

a. He shall cry one day and not be heard.

b. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the man will become poor and cry out for food or clothing.

c. But it does state that he will have a NEED some day… a deep need, and will cry out for relief… but relief shall not be found.

d. In other words, you reap what you sow.

e. Matt. 7:2 – we are judged according to the standards with which we judge others.
• Those who cold heartedly judged that those in need are “on their own” will be judged by that same standard.
• He will discover the hard way that that is not the best standard for dealing with those in need!

3. Deut. 15:7-11 – the Law of Moses required Jews to help a poor brother, just as the New Testament requires us to help a poor brother. (I John 3:17-18)

a. The Jew in Solomon’s example will be judged for not helping the poor man whose cries he ignored.

b. This was done in defiance of the revealed will of God… it was contrary to the Law of Moses.

c. This was no sin of ignorance… but was calculated and deliberate. (You don’t stop your ears by accident!)

4. Of course the opposite is true too. Those who ignore the poor shall be judged; and those who DO give to the poor shall be rewarded.

a. Prov. 28:27 – He that giveth to the poor shall not lack.

b. God rewards gracious generosity with gracious generosity.

5. It is not our responsibility to resolve world hunger.

a. Both Testaments state that the poor we will always have.

b. Poverty will never be cured until the Kingdom.

c. But it IS our responsibility to help those in need whom God sovereignly brings our way… and intersects their need with our ability to help… especially the brethren.

d. Col. 3:12 – Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness…”

e. This is the robe of the new creature in Christ.