The Spirit of Oppression
7 For oppression makes a wise man mad,
And a bribe corrupts the heart.
8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.
9 Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger resides in the bosom of fools.
10 Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.
Previously, Solomon talked about the oppressor and the oppressed. Here, his proverbs reflect similar sentiments. These verses highlight the actions of an oppressor or what the oppressed might experience: the sentiments can go either way. Solomon previously exemplified how oppression violates us spiritually regardless of what side of it we are on. Here we see a bit more of how it affects us.
If one is oppressing, he will grow in madness as the power he gains is never enough. If one is oppressed, they will eventually “snap” as a result of the unfairness and eventually will act out. It intrigues me that the word “bribe” here originally meant gift. Maybe this was what a bribe was considered. Nonetheless, once the spirit of oppression has set in, it is easy for anything to corrupt the heart even more. We have heard this in more modern language, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Solomon’s next verse reflects his wisdom; that those who stay themselves from corruption will be found faultless in the end and it is worthwhile to avoid corruption and be patient for the end of the oppression or corruption because the truth will be revealed. Those who oppress or are corrupt believe that in order to maintain their position they must increasingly oppress or corrupt. Similarly, those who are oppressed believe they must “fight back” or “fight fire with fire,” however Solomon here exhorts us to maintain patience because “all will come out in the wash.”
He continues to help us by reminding us not to be quickly angered by oppression because we are simply stooping to the level of our oppressors. Letting anger consume us is giving the battle over to the oppressors. Verse 10 reminds me of the story of Israel wandering in the desert where they continually complain that it was better for them to be in Egyptian captivity than to be free wandering in the desert. As Solomon says, it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. We must beware of our frustrations and not let it dictate our actions. Especially for the righteous when they see injustice, it is easy to emotionally act out yet produce more harm than good.
Therefore, we must learn patience, temperance, and obtain wisdom. This is especially difficult in the world of foreign aid/ assistance. People see injustices and act irrationally without complete thought and actually cause more harm than good. We read about this in Quit Whining: our lack of patience is not wise, it is foolish. Our emotional reactions are wasted and unhelpful. They are all a result of us giving in to the oppressor under the weight of oppression. Solomon advises us to stay the course. Remain steadfast and as Peter would say, “stand firm in the grace of God.”
This is the perseverance of faith we continue to hear about throughout the Scriptures. This world continues to think that oppression and obtaining power is the answer to fulfillment but as Solomon continues to teach us, this is but vanity and chasing after wind. As advice to us, he tells us not to let it bring us down or corrupt us, yet to remain hopeful in the one thing that remains constant: God’s enduring love. He is the light at the end of our tunnel.