Proverbs 31:8 (New International Version, ©2011)
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
This verse reminds me of a line from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Similarly, in A Time to Break Silence, a speech addressing civil rights and the conflict in Vietnam, King agrees with the CLCV statement: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” He goes on, “We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”
There are many ways Prov. 31:8 can be applied to our personal and social spheres. Let’s look at just one. A pressing issue in the U.S. right now is the national budget deficit. A number of Christian leaders are calling for prayer, fasting and advocacy during the month of April as Congress and the president wrestle with budget cuts. Regardless of our political philosophies, may we listen to these Christian leaders and see if we can each support what they are calling for–fiscal responsibility that does not balance the budget on the backs of the poor. Read about it here.
This budget question relates directly to the connection King understood between poverty and war. The reality he describes still appears to be true today as shown in the link above. A poverty program supporting both black and white Americans was showing signs of hope, but…
Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money….So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. (A Time to Break Silence)
[King quotes are taken from A Testament of Hope, Hew York: HarperOne, 1986.]