Pete Buttigieg Brings Proverbs Into the Democratic Debate

Searches for the lesser-known verse tripled on Bible Gateway.

During the first of two Democratic presidential debates on CNN this week, candidate Pete Buttigieg quoted from the Old Testament in his remarks on the economy.

“Minimum wage is just too low,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor said. “So-called conservative Christian senators right now in the Senate are blocking a bill to raise the minimum wage when Scripture says that whoever oppresses the poor taunts their Maker.”

Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, was referencing Proverbs 14:31 (NIV): “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Other translations such as the NASB use the wording “taunts their Maker.” Proverbs 17:5 has a similar line: “Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.”

Believers across the political spectrum pay attention when a candidate evokes Scripture, and searches for Proverbs 14:31 on Bible Gateway tripled after Buttigieg’s remarks.

Even for Christians, the verse does not rank among the most-quoted Proverbs (the top being Prov. 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…”), and other passages (such as the Sermon on the Mount) tend to come up more regularly when discussing the Christian call to care for the poor.

Just over half of Americans (55%) support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, according to a survey by The Hill. Evangelicals watching this week’s debates are about as likely as voters overall (18% compared to 19%) to consider economic policies like wages as the top issue for candidates to address, per a Morning Consult-Politico poll.

Fellow Christians have evoked other passages as a biblical …

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