Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 19:17

 

At the meal where Mary anointed the feet of the Lord Jesus, there was some murmuring about waste. In Mary’s defense, Jesus said, “Let her alone; against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you, but me ye have not always.” There are several items raised here, one of which is the existence of poverty. Back in Deuteronomy 15 God told Israel – “The poor shall never cease out of the land.” Why were there poor people living among the Israelites in the land of milk and honey? And why has God permitted poverty even in the midst of wealth such as we have in the United States?

Politicians and social scientists have struggled with that question. They say, there must be a logical reason for poverty, and it’s our duty to find the cause and cure it. Self-centered, sinful humanity thinks we can somehow defeat the Lord’s declaration. So government, the media, and the entertainment world try to make us feel guilty that there are people less blessed than we are. The Robin Hoods of this world suggest we ought to steal from the rich and give to the poor – and Robin Hood is considered to be a good guy. Socialism, his evil governmental brother, passes decrees to steal from the rich while giving to the poor – or at least pretending to do so. Rarely does anyone consider that sin lays at the root of the problem, using sin to try to create a cure.

I know that this thought is politically incorrect, but could it be that God has ordained poverty? Does God ever order droughts and storms which wipe away people’s crops and livelihoods? Life is generally hard because of the curse ordained by God because of sin. And isn’t it true that SOME people are living in poverty as a result of their own personal sins? Granted there are some who suffer because of the sins of others, but the problem is still due to sin. And the question remains – couldn’t God instantly eliminate want, starvation, debt and poverty? If He has that power, why doesn’t He use it?

It is not the whole answer, but one reason for poverty is you. I’m not saying that you are the cause of other people’s misery. I hope that you have not put your neighbor into debt or you have taken food off his table. But there may be people in need around you – for your benefit. Whether you have lots of money or very little, needy people are a test of our character and spirituality. I read a moment ago the first part of Deuteronomy 15 now I’ll finish the verse “The poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” Solomon adds that opening our hand to those in need is actually lending to Jehovah.

“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”

“Lending to God” is a difficult principle to grasp, if we are looking at it pragmatically. We are not bankers, and Jehovah is not a borrower. But laying that aside, the general meaning of this verse is not hard to understand. God will bless the man who helps others whenever he can. The only person to miss the Spirit’s intention in this verse is the miser who deliberately chooses to misunderstand. He who opens his hand to the person in need is giving to the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. And God will never remain in any man’s debt.

I think that the Hebrew word “lendeth” is interesting, and I hope that you will agree. Of the 26 times it is used, it is translated with some form of “lend” nine times. But here is the interesting part – it is also translated “borrow” or “borrower” five times. It is translated both “borrow” and “lend,” which to my simple mind seem to be opposites. To further complicate matters, three or four times the word is translated both ways in the same verse. For example – Proverbs 22:7“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the BORROWER is servant to the LENDER.” The reason contrary translations can be made from the same word is illustrated in its most common rendering. Ten times the word is translated “to join.” In the Millennium, “the sons of the stranger, that JOIN themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants” will be blessed” – Isaiah 56:6. What would happen if we inserted Proverbs’ translation here – the sons of the stranger, that LEND themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants” will be blessed” In Zechariah 2:11 we read – “And many nations shall be JOINED to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.” “And many nations shall be JOINED to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people:

Now let’s take that knowledge back to our verse in Proverbs 19 – “He that hath pity upon the poor [is joined] unto the LORD….” When we help to meet the needs of others, we are joining ourselves to Jehovah. In giving to others we reflect the Lord and display Christ-likeness. God GIVES, and specifically, He gives GRACIOUSLY to us. When we give we reflect our Heavenly Father.

But someone says, “But this verse doesn’t talk about giving STUFF; it says, ‘have PITY on them.’” Come on fella; you’re not really that obtuse are you? Does the last part of the verse speak about God repaying with “pity?” Obviously, “to have pity” on the poor doesn’t simply mean “to feel sorry for them.” When Christ took pity on us in our sins, He gave His life to enrich us. The “pity” of this verse is just as real and practical. One day it might be money, on another occasion it might be the gift of help, and then again it might be food or gasoline. But it is more than a mere pat on the back and a word of encouragement. James reminds us in chapter 2 – “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food. And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” “Be ye warmed and filled” is not the sort of pity which can be lent unto the Lord.

“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”

In Matthew 10:42 the Lord Jesus said, “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” Later in Matthew 25 the Lord was talking about Christians standing before their Saviour. “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, come, ye blessed of my Father… I was an hungered and he gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in. Naked, and ye clothe me….” When those generous saints protested that they couldn’t remember doing those things, He said, “In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have do it unto me.” Those people had given to their King by giving to the King’s people.

Paul said, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.”

Again something to keep in mind – the Lord recognizes the heart and attitude of the “lender.” Pity without action means nothing, but generosity out of a mean spirit is just as useless. I could put $100 into a CD at the bank with the purpose of getting back $102 in a year’s time. I might make an investment using cold hard cash, hoping that money might grow into something I can leave for my kids some day. But this “pity” which is lent unto the Lord must NOT be considered as a loan to God. Generosity and kindness which is given in order to draw wealth or a blessing from God is also a waste. It will garner no interest or even repayment if it is nothing but a secular investment. It might be said that the Lord repays the attitude of the heart rather than the gift itself.

Notice that Solomon doesn’t suggest any sort of maturity date on this loan. And there is no reference to the details of the investment. Despite what some people hope, the Lord rarely returns dollars for dollars or dimes for pennies. Rather, He blesses more with gold for our silver, and diamonds for our dimes – spiritually. And the day in which the Lord repays the note may not be for years or even in this life-time. It may not be until the day we stand before the Lord that He rewards His servants. So there is no point in opening our hand to the poor in order to be made rich here on earth.

It goes without saying that none of this has anything to do with becoming Christians or being generous in order to whitewash our sins. I am talking TO Christians about godly Christian behavior. Paul says in Hebrews, “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.”

“The poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”