Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Poor Man

Proverbs 19
I didn't plan to write about my Proverbs reading. But this one jumped out at me, after writing about the Righteous Man. Proverbs 19 keeps mentioning the poor.

1. The poor man is hated by those who should love him. "All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone."  His own brothers and friends hate him. Why? Because he is poor. There is no other reason given. Is it wrong for him to pursue them and entreat them to love him? No, he only pursues them because they are running from him. In addition to his poverty, they would also wish on him loneliness.

2. The poor man is lonely. "Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend." Poverty isolates. Economic status prevents a person from socializing comfortably with those above him. This verse indicates to me that the man has fallen from his previous economic level, to a lower one. Thus, his friends are at his old level, and he knows no one at his new level of poverty. His old friends reject him. He is doubly poor.

3. There are things worse than being poor. "Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool." (perverse: 'deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable.') There are wealthy fools, plenty of them. They didn't get rich because of their reasonable temperaments or their wise decisions. And the poor man is not poor because he's stupid, unreasonable, or foolish. But don't we make those assumptions? That the poor are lazy and stupid? That they made foolish decisions and thus they must lie in the beds they've made for themselves? That the wealthy must've "been doing something right"? This is the American mantra: You work hard, you get rich; you be lazy, you stay poor. This verse says otherwise: there are poor men who are full of integrity. (integrity: 'the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.') There are wealthy men who are fools. One's inner character is of more value than one's economic station. And ... the life of the poor man with integrity is a better life. He will have more satisfaction in the end.

You may say, "Well! It's not an either/or situation. A rich man may have wisdom and integrity, and a poor man may be a perverse fool!" Interestingly enough, Proverbs 19 doesn't seem to go that route. I'm sure those scenarios do happen. The message here is important though: the character of the inner man far surpasses his possessions and monetary successes. The poor already know this. The wealthy do so often forget it!

4. And in case you didn't hear it the first time ... "What is desirable in a man is his kindness (or loyalty), and it is better to be a poor man than a liar." This verse drive the nail in a little further. If you have a choice to be poor or to be a liar (and be rich thereby), choose poverty. Choose honesty. Suffer the economic consequences of honesty. If your job requires you to fudge the books, overlook evil, go along with injustice, oppress others -- then QUIT. Choose poverty. It's better. If you develop kindness in yourself, goodness and loyalty to friends, this is a much better road for your life. You may lack money and physical ease. But you'll have ease for your soul.

But, just whom is the poor man loyal to? To whom is he showing his kindness? His brothers? They've deserted him, remember? His friends? They've fled from him! The poor man who develops kindness and goodness in himself looks for new recipients of his love. And since the economic strata above him are now off-limits, I guess he must exert himself in kindness to other poor people. What does he have to offer them? Himself -- his kindness, love, loyalty, friendship. Worth more than gold. Or as Peter said to the poor lame beggar at the temple gate: "Silver and gold I don't have, but what I do have, I give to you! Rise up and walk!" And he walked. If you have the power of God's Spirit in you, and the love to give it away, you don't need cash. Again, the poor know this truth; the rich often don't.

5. God stands in the poor man's shoes. "He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed." God sees. How would you like to be in a position to lend something to God, to hand it over to Him and later have Him hand it back, with a "thank you!" Give to your poor brother. Honor him. Acknowledge his integrity. Praise his loyalty and kindness. Stop running from him and avoiding him. Make it your joy to help. When you help the poor, you are literally giving to God Himself.

Who is the poor man? Jesus said we will always have the poor with us. I believe He ensures that, so we will always have someone to give to, and God will always have someone whose shoes to stand in, to receive it. Look for those around you who are struggling financially, even if they don't let it be known. Then ask yourself how you can give gently, without giving offense. The wealthy man cannot take a dime to heaven with him when he goes, but he can deposit much wealth there now, by giving to the poor man.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your study over the Word!

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