He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses. Proverbs 28:27
One of the things the Scriptures are certain about is the responsibility of the people of God to give to the poor. This proverb relates this responsibility in a way that reminds us of the Covenant God made with His people. That covenant often gets a bad reputation for being all about "thou shalt nots." Some think it is a religious buzz-kill - that only tells us what we cannot do. Those who think this way don't realize that there is great deal in the Old Testament Law that speaks of showing compassion and mercy.
Israel was an agrarian society - and as such there were a number of laws that encouraged them to provide for the poor. One of the things that they were told was to only harvest the land once - and not go over it a second time. This was the case with ground crops as well as things like olives and fruit which are grown on trees. The extra was to be left for the poor. This was one way they gave to the poor - as well as with what were called, "alms" which were specific financial gifts given to care for the poor in society.
God intended for the poor to receive more than just money or food. The church is better equipped morally to help the poor than the government. Governments most often just give out money. Unfortunately this leads to government programs that do more to harm than help the poor. The phrase a hand up - rather than just a hand out comes to mind. Government has made laws that actually award immoral behavior by offering more help to those who have children out of wedlock. These kind of laws may help with the hand out - but they have a bad tendency to lock people into assisted living - rather than help them to eventually become self-reliant and self-sustaining. When the church offers help, they can address immoral behavior in a way that government cannot do. This is the way God desires for the poor to be blessed. He desires for a person's moral choices to be addressed, for often a mroal choice leads to a blight on our financial state.
We are told here that the one who gives to the poor will never want. Another proverb states that when we give to the poor, we are lending to the Lord. When we do this - God will be sure to bless us and meet our needs. The second half of this proverb addresses what often happens when the poor are neglected. We do this by closing our eyes to the problem and to their needs. We simply shut our eyes - and then shut our hearts to their plight. This, according to God's Word, will bring to the one who does it, many curses. First there is the curse which comes from not obeying God's law. That comes with a withdrawal of blessings from God. But there is also a curse that comes from the poor as well. They watch as the rich pamper themselves and ignore their situation. In some situations this reaches a fever pitch and results in revolutions and other violent confrontations. The French Revolution was such a reaction to the abuses of the rich.
God desires for His people - and His church - to care for and love the poor. Because the church has adbicated her role in this - the government has taken over this task. The result of our disobedience in this area is that the government begins to take greater and greater amounts of money to give to the poor. In the end, we are cursed with over-reaching government intrustion into our finances and our lives. We are also cursed with a government which in time realizes it can control the people through ever increasing gifts to the poor. This leads to a curse on those with any level of financial security in society, because the government must increase its revenues to continue the giveaways. This is why God wants His Word to govern such charity - because without something to guide us - our natural sinful tendencies will lead us to use our gifts to secure power or influence.
He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. Proverbs 11:26
Today's proverb is fascinating to me because it addresses an abuse that often happens in the area of economics. This abuse, though a proven way to make money, results in the inflation of prices for food. What has happened over the course of economic history is that when this is done - and it reaches a critical level in food prices - it leads to riots and in some cases the overthrow of a government.
Our proverb speaks of one who has much grain. Here is a man who has worked hard and labored to produce a crop on his farm. As a result he has a large amount of grain. He can choose to withhold grain from the people and not sell it. By doing this he will drive the price of grain up due to a scarcity of grain in the market place. This will make him very wealthy, but in time it will backfire on him. The people, who need grain, will begin to curse him because his actions are preventing them from eating - or is making it to where being able to provide food is becoming very expensive. The cost is not coming due to natural reasons such as a flood or drought or crop failure. The added cost is coming due to a man's greed. But for the man who sells his grain there will be a blessing - not just a financial one - but one from God Himself. This proverb allows us to consider the whole area of how Biblical authority addresses economic theory.
In our day it is considered a wise business move to hold on to goods until they wind up in short supply. This allows the person who has them to artificially inflate the price of what they sell so that they can make huge profits from it. Such actions eventually become accepted business practices on larger levels so that embargos are used by nations to boost the price of their domestic products. In time groups of businesses form consortiums that try to corner an entire market so that they can set the price wherever they want. The government then steps in a tries to enforce what they call "social justice." They impose restrictions on businesses so that things will be fair. The problem is that in time the government oversteps their bounds and corruption within the government (due to the sin nature in all of us) begins to crystalize. It is then that officials learn how to use their power to corner their own political markets and do the very thing they initially were trying to prevent in the public sector. The problem throughout all this is that the poor are hurt the most by such practices.
Some think wrongly that the end of all labor is to make money. But Scripture militates against that philosophy. God desires us to work hard and be diligent to make a profit - but - He also desires for us to be compassionate in the process. This sets up a very interesting tension in life and in the economic theory that governs Bible-believing Christians. At one end is the philosophy of pure Capitalism. This philosophy functions under the idea that life is about the profit motive at all times. But God warns against a "love of money" which He says is a root of all sorts of evil. At the other end is Socialism and Communism. This philosophy functions under the assumption that a government should rule over all land and production efforts. Their goal is then to take all profits and distribute them equally to all the people. Both of these extremes will fail.
Pure Capitalism will fail because greed will so rule men's hearts that they will lack compassion for others - and especially for the poor. In time their greed will consume them with a desire for more and more profit - and an insatiable desire for more and more wealth. In the process they will shut their hearts to the plight of the poor. This will lead to greater levels of abuse of the poorest - who will then curse those who have the economic power - and will ultimately lead to revolution and the overthrow of those who have the wealth and power in society.
Communism and Socialism will fail because of greed as well. Though such economic philosophies sound wonderful at the outset, they fail because of several factors. First, there is no man who is not fallen. When given the power to confiscate the wealth of a society, they will NOT distribute it equally. They will eventually treat themselves well - and let the rest of society live on the rest. This has happened in every situation when such an economic system prevails. Their goals may sound lofty, but their practices wind up eerily similar to the captialist. Second, there is no motive in this system to work. Actually there is a motive - to do what you do for the good of all others in the collective society. But this equates good as distributing things equally among all in the society. This will not work in a fallen world because over time some will sinfully decide that if they don't work hard - or at all - they will still get an equal part of the collective pie. Others who intially work hard - will be greatly discouraged that it is their hard work that is allowing the lazy, the undisciplined, and the slothful to live just as they do. In time there will be an equality - but it will be an equality of poverty and want - because no one will be motivated to work to the best of their ability. No matter how hard they work - they only get the same part of the collective's goods. These will never be enough for collective prosperity because sinfulness will move many to barely work at all - or at a level where they are forced to work.
The system God will bless is one that encourages and rewards hard work and industriousness. This is captialism - but there must be a restraint in this system as well, if it is to succeed. This is what I call "Compassionate Captialism." It is a system where the profit motive and self-interest is encouraged. But it is also a system that values compassion and kindness. Where a profit and self-interest motive might move a man to withhold grain so he can make an obscene profit - he does not do it. He is moved by the desire to serve those who buy his grain. Understanding this he chooses to sell his grain - not just for a profit - but for a profit that also allows those who are poor to be able to afford to feed their families. In the end, this man is blessed with profit - and also is blessed with the favor of God for acting with kindness and compassion toward those who can easily be taken advantage of by the system. He chooses a wise profit level rather than one driven by greed alone. This promotes peace and the welfare of all those in the market.
It is fascinating to see the wisdom of God address all areas of life. One would not readily think that the Word of God would be a good place to learn economic principles. Yet when we read and mediatate on God's Word - immeasurable benefit is gained from it. Oh, that we would not divorce academic pursuit from the queen of the sciences - theology. May God gives us wisdom to see that His perspective is best in all academic and lifestyle pusuits. Then we can be blessed - not just a religious context - but in all of life.
A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. Proverbs 12:10
Finally, a proverb dealing with
animal rights! Now we can blast all those who choose to wear fur as a covering for themselves! Oh, but wait a minute - God covered Adam and Eve with the skins of animals. Oh, snap - we've got another problem because John the Baptist wore a leather girdle - the hide of a cow. So, what exactly is God speaking about here when He advocates having regard for the life of his animal?
A righteous man regards the life of his animal. He is concerned for it - and cares for it. Even though we cannot biblically justify the extreme of the animal rights movement - we can see that God is not pleased when we treat animals cruelly. Yet in the worship of God Himself - there were required sacrifices of animals. But there is a difference between rearing animals for the purpose of meat and clothing - and someone just being cruel to an animal while it is alive. God does not forbid us to eat meat. Many of the men He used greatly were shepherds. Their purpose and job was to work with livestock and raise it to be a food source for their family and for other families. So we can rule out the idea that God is against all killing of animals for the purpose of eating meat - and creating clothing.
But, we cannot look at this passage and justify someone treating their animals with cruelty and indifference. Someone who would beat an animal just because they want to - or because they are mean - will not find justification for their actions from the Word of God. God desires for us to treat our livestock as well as our pets with the kind of compassion and kindness that is indicative of His own nature. When we become cruel and unkind to animals - that displeases God.
What we read about the wicked though, is that even their compassion is cruel. This is an interesting oxymoron. Compassionless compassion is what we can expect from the wicked man. The wicked don't care about animals - and will whip them mercilessly. It is a sad thing to watch a wicked man abuse an animal. I remember when we were given a beautiful Labrador Retriever. We did not know the people who gave it to us - and were truly grateful for the dog. But soon after receiving him, we could tell that they were abusive toward the dog. Any time we would even approach him, he would cower and yelp - fearing that he was about to be hit. We loved him - and eventually he knew that we were not going to strike him. Still it broke my heart to think how cruel someone had to be to get a dog to respond like that.
The true believer realizes that all creation belongs to God. Thus as we walk through this life we want to treat what is God's respectfully. That does not mean that we don't use nature as God intended (which means that hunting and fishing, and raising livestock is not evil). It does mean that we are not cruel and evil with it. Those kind of actions are reserved for those who are wicked, and who do not fear God.
He who is generous will be blessed, For he gives some of his food to the poor. Proverbs 22:9
Who would have thought that being wise involved the character trait of generosity and how we react to the poor? Yet that is exactly what we are dealing with today with the proverb of the day.
The one who is generous will be blessed. The idea for generosity here is one that comes from the Hebraism. The actual phrase is that this one has a good eye. In Hebrew, to have a good eye is to be someone who is kind and generous. It meant that you looked with kindness on others. It was the picture of a man who was good, gracious, kind, and generous. A man with a bad eye would be one who is stingy and selfish. He would be seen as an evil, ungodly man.
Jesus used these same Hebraisms when He said, "The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness." (Luke 11:34-35, NASB) In the same way Jesus was stating that if our eye is selfish and stingy - if we are tight-fisted and unwilling to give to others - it will yield a darkness in us. We will be selfish, ungrateful, and unkind men. But if our eye is good - it shows that we are gracious and kind as well.
The man here with the good eye - he is generous and blessed. This is seen by the fact that he gives some of his food to the poor. This gracious and good man is concerned about those less fortunate than himself. Thus he takes his own food and gives some of it to the one poorer than himself - to bless them. This is something that is commended from Old to New Testaments.
As early as Exodus and Deuteronomy God told Israel not to forget the poor. In Deuteronomy 15:7
we read the following admonition by God - that sounds like a rewriting of this proverb. "If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in
whatever he lacks." But there are not only commands to remember the poor, but also promises of blessing to those who do. Proverbs 19:17
reminds us that those who are gracious to the poor lend to the Lord - and God promises to reward those who do so for their good deeds. We even find in the New Testament at the Jerusalem Council that Paul is urged to remember the poor - which he states is the very thing he wanted to do.
God wants so show His own gracious hand through how He leads His own people to be generous as well. That is why we want to be gracious and kind towards the poor. It is absolutely our duty - but it is also an important way that the world around us can see the character and love of our God as He works through us.
A poor man who oppresses the lowly Is like a driving rain which leaves no food. Proverbs 28:3 We have all heard stories of the oppressive who are rich. God condemns this kind of behavior. But when a poor man does the same - it is an even greater sin because the poor man should know better being among the lowly himself. Proverbs describes this man as a driving rain which leaves no food. The rain described here is one that is a deluge - a true drenching storm. It is described as being a "driving" rain. The word here means something that sweeps things away. It is rain that is so heavy and strong that it literally washes all the crops in an entire field away. It leaves nothing behind, completely destroying all that is in its path. The poor man who oppresses the lowly is best described in the parable of the debtors. Matthew 18 tells this parable of two men who owed money. One owed millions to the king - and there was no way of paying it back - even in a hundred lifetimes. When the king pronounced judgment upon him for his debt, the poor man begged for mercy. The king then acted with unimaginable mercy - forgiving the man every penny of his debt. It is one of the most poignent displays of mercy in all of Sripture. But what did the poor man do with this mercy and newfound freedom. The Word tells us that he went out and found a fellow lowly servant who owed him about 50 to 100 dollars. The fellow servant begged too for mercy - and asked for a little time. He promised to pay it all back. But the forgiven servant then grabbed the other by the throat and cast him into the prison till he was paid all that was owed to him. Indeed, this was a case where the poor was oppressing the lowly. When the other servants heard of this, they informed the king - who then called the poor oppressor to account. He was told that having received mercy - he should have shown it to others. Having been forgiven, he should have forgiven others. The end of the oppressing servant was to be thrown into prison and handed over to the torturers until every cent was repaid of his debt. This proverb does speak to us about the need for reciprocity in showing mercy. If we are the poor - we of all people should have great patience with the por who are around us. To oppress them is like being a driving rain that washes away everything. If there cannot be mutual grace among the lowliest of people, what is left. But there is a greater reminder given to us here. It is the reminder of the spiritual lesson before us. Just like the poor man in the parable, we need to forgive as we have been forgiven. We are the poor in spirit - the spiritually devastated and bankrupt. God has shown us astounding mercy in forgiving our sins and giving us His unmerited favor. Oh, how we should be ready to show that same mercy and grace to others - the ones around us just as poor, just as spiritually bankrupt - as an example of our Father's love. To do otherwise is to be a driving rain that leaves nothing behind. It is to offer no hope of forgiveness and grace among the lost. Our message is also to be our example. By God's grace - when we show grace - we will verify grace - thus offering grace to those who need grace. Don't be a driving hurricane that leaves nothing behind - be a gentle rain that waters so that fruit can be borne to God - fruit that will last - and thus our Father will be glorified.
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4How can a person maintain a good reputation as well as the favor of those around him or her? Even more important to us as believers is the thought of how we can have these things in the sight of God. The answer may be different than you think.Two things you must have to enjoy favor and a good reputation among men and with God are kindness and truth. These two things are a perfect team. Some people are geared toward kindness more than anything else. They are very merciful people who can commiserate with anyone around them. They are a perfect shoulder to cry on - and they will always join with you in feeling your pain. When going through difficulties they will listen and love you no matter what. It is a blessing to be geared toward kindness - but there a liabilities as well. When you are geared toward kindness at all times, you will find it very difficult to share tough truths with people who really need to hear them. One of the pitfalls of being filled with kindness alone is that you can become someone who enables people to stay where they are when they desperately need change in their lives. For someone with a deep problem this can lead to an enabling relationship that allows them to continue with lifestyle choices like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or sexual problems. There are also those who are geared toward truth. They will speak the truth to you in all situations. In fact they have a difficult time with those who won't take a stand on an issue. These people are wonderful to have around when you need to have a confrontation in regard to sin - or s situation where only truth can remedy things. These people are people of integrity and honor. But, a problem can develop when only truth is spoken. The problem is not the truth verbalized, but the spirit in which is it spoken. Those given to truth sometimes lack the personal touch - the ability to speak the truth in love and with kindness. They can offend - not because of the truth they speak - but because of the way that they speak it. This is why Proverbs tells us that we need to have both kindness and truth. There is a balance here. Both are needed to truly be a person who knows the blessing of having a good reputation and favor of both God and man. When these things are combined you have someone who speaks the truth in love. You have the person, who according to Proverbs, can speak the truth gently, and who can with a gentle word break a bone. These two things need to be bound around our neck and written uon our hearts. What you have when you have this is the character of Jesus Himself working and speaking through you. He had the ability to speak the truth in incredibly difficult situations. He did not back away from truth - but spoke the truth with kindness. One of the most amazing examples of this was in John 8 when Jesus was tested by hypocritical men who brought a woman caught in adultery to Him. These men did not truly want justice - because they did not bring the man as well. They only wanted to have something with which to trap Jesus and give rise to criticism and the ability to destroy Him. The humiliated adultress was thrown right in front of Him, along with the question of whether He was going to agree with the Law that such a woman should be stoned for her offense. Jesus stated anyone without sin could cast the first stone. Here He spoke truth dealing with the hypocrisy of His accusers. Eventually they all left, knowing as they did their own sinfulness and hypocrisy. Jesus made His comments gently and graciously, the bent over to draw with a stick in the sand. Then after they all had left - He dealt with the woman. Offering her His love - and no condemnation for her sin - He spoke with great kindness to her. He asked where her accusers were - where those who sought to condemn here. She stated that none of them were left to condemn her. He then revealed that He was not going to condemn her either. But He did not stop with kindness only, there was the issue of her adultery. To this issue He spoke truth when He told her to go her way and sin no more. There it is perfectly demonstrated - kindness and truth bound together in one difficult situation. When we do this - we won't be popular with everyone. But will will have favor and a good reputation with men because they know we will be fair and gracious with them. We will also know God's favor because we show both His love and His justice. It is a difficult balance to maintain. This is especially true with those bent in one direction or another - toward far more kindness or far more truth. We can thank God that in His Son He showed us what the perfect balance of the two looks like when walking among men. So if you want to have these two things, kindness and truth bound perfectly together, there is only one real source where you can have them. They only exist in perfect balance in Jesus Christ. Embrace Him and you will find that they are yours as well.
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. Proverbs 28:13
Here is a proverb that agrees perfectly with what is said in the New Testament. We read in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This is that truth stated in another way. Whereas the 1 John passage states this truth in the positive only, this proverb also warns us about not dealing with our sins.
The Concealer . . . First we are told about the fate of the one who conceals his transgressions. The word "conceal" means to cover - and has the idea of a cover up. This man is hiding his transgressions (word meaning a sin or rebellion - here against God and His Law and way). He is not willing to bring his sin to light before God. Therefore he hides his rebellion thinking that God does not see him. This word was used to describe how Joseph's brothers tried to hide their sin when they dipped his coat in goat's blood and brought to Jacob.
Psalm 32:5 also speaks of his particular sin of hiding and trying to cover up our sin. The Psalmist says, "I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah." When he was trying to hide his sin from God, the Psalmist had nothing but grief and pain - but when he faced his sin before God that is when he received forgiveness. Hiding our sins is not only counterproductive - it is also kind of silly. We serve a God Who is omniscient. He knows all things. When Adam and Eve tried to hide in the garden - it was out of shame and rebellion. The problem for them was that God could still see them - and did even as they committed the first sin. Cain answered God rebelliously when God asked where his brother Abel was. Cain must have thought God did not see - but he did - and Abel's blood was crying out to God from the ground. Moses thought he could kill the Egyptian and hide him in the piles of grain - but God saw - as well as some other Hebrews. The simple fact of all this is that we can never hide our sin from a holy, omniscient God. He truly sees all!
Proverbs tells us that this man who is trying to conceal his sin will not prosper. "Prosper" is tsalach and means to succeed or to be victorious. It has the idea of breaking out or breaking through - and has a military aspect to it. It spoke of how an army would break through their enemies - which was a sure sign that they were about to defeat their enemies. But what Proverbs says to us is that concealing our sins is a sure way to know we will NOT PROSPER! We will not break through to God - we will not break through to victory - we will not break through to see strongholds and sins overcome. And beyond that - we won't prosper spiritually period! If this was all this proverb said - it would be great counsel - but would leave us with just a warning. Yet God does not want us only to receive correction - He wants us to receive counsel.
The Lord wants us to confess and forsake our sin. When we choose rebellion and sin against God, we are in serious trouble. We are facing judgment if we do not know Christ - or discipline if we do. What we need is grace - we need God's compassion. That is exactly what Proverbs is wanting to teach us. How do we obtain the compassion of God when we sin?
First, we confess our sins and rebellion. What is fascinating here is the word that God uses to describe confession. The Hebrew word is "yadah." This word means to throw towards - to cast something towards. Here it means to throw off our sin and cast it towards God. It means that we are throwing all our sin and rebellion to God - with a desire for Him to show us forgiveness and compassion. What is wild is that this same word is used for praising God - meaning that we are casting our hands up into the air and casting our praises toward God. God does not want us to try to hold our sins close to us - He wants us to cast those sins away from us and toward Him for His compassion and grace!
There is a second thing God desires here for us to receive compassion. Some teach that all we need to do is to confess our sins and everything is fine with God. That is true - if this second attitude is present. If it is not - I do not believe the Bible says that we will receive forgiveness. We also need to forsake our sins. This word means to abandon, desert, leave behind, completely neglect and STOP. When we come to God seeking His compassion and forgiveness - we need to come with a heart that says, "Please forgive me God . . . and I also want to forsake and abandon my sin." This is the kind of heart that finds compassion before God. Compassion means that God shows us mercy and a deep, kindly sympathy.
This verse is so key to us knowing fellowship and grace from God. It is so important for us to grasp the call of God to us to deal with our sins and rebellion. I honestly believe that just as 1 John 1:9 is such a blessed verse - this verse in Proverbs 28:13 is as well. Oh that we would hear this and heed it as well. Believe me, if we do, we will obtain the grace, mercy, and compassion that we need.