Lending to the Lord

To understand this proverb, you need to understand three ideas: you need to know what generosity is, who the the poor are, and how generosity to the poor is a loan to God. To live this proverb, you need to meditate on the last phrase until you come to agree with Solomon that such a loan is one of the best possible uses for your resources here on this earth.

So what is generosity? Many people think of generosity as an action: a person who gives away a ton of money is generous. But generosity is more than that: it is freely and gladly helping to meet a need for someone else out of your own resources.

Who are the poor? Generally speaking, “the poor” in Scripture are those of God’s people who cannot maintain themselves. Three components of what makes someone poor are material poverty, spiritual poverty, and relational poverty.

Material poverty – The poor are those who are hungry, homeless, or lacking adequate clothing. See James 2, Isaiah 58, Lev. 23:22, Lev. 25:35-37. If somebody has these things, they aren’t the poor that Proverbs has in mind. But if someone lacks these things, they are poor.

Spiritual poverty – The spiritual dimension of poverty is actually a good thing: it is a recognition of our utter dependence on God, and that everything we receive in this world is an undeserved gift from Him.

Relational poverty – When you are poor, your friends disappear. We see this relational aspect of poverty most clearly in Prov. 19:4 and 6-7. This leads to loneliness, but also to a lack of advocacy or defense (Prov. 31:9) or of an ear to listen to cries for help (Psalm 86:1). People hide their eyes from the poor (Prov. 28:27), and close their ears to them (Prov. 21:13).

So what does God call us to do? How do we help the poor? Because poverty has these different aspects, our generosity needs to take each of these forms, as well. It is important to minister to the primary material needs of food and clothing, but this is just the start. We learn spiritual poverty in Prov. 22:2: “The rich and poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.” When we remember that God made all of us, and that anything we have is His gift, this common ground peels the scales of pride off of our eyes, and bores out our ears so that we can hear the cry of the poor. Then we open our mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the poor and needy, as in Prov. 31:9, and reach out our hands to the needy, as the excellent wife does in Prov. 31:20. This means knowing poor people by name and ministering to their needs through relationships rather than just check-writing.

God never said that this would be easy. What He’s telling you is that it’s wise, because such generosity is not a waste of time or money, or even a gift, but a loan that will be repaid. In Matt. 25, Jesus restates the truth of Proverbs 19:17, by affirming that when people help the poor, they help Jesus, and when they neglect the poor, they are neglecting Him. God sees your generosity, and He receives it as service to Himself.

That’s why generosity is such a good investment. Even though the poor can’t pay you back, Jesus can. When you give away your money, God pays you back with treasures that thieves cannot steal and moths and rust cannot destroy. When you open your home to the poor, God opens His home in heaven to you. When you give away your time, God’s rewards last into eternity.

Because this proverb shows us the wise way to live, we should expect Jesus to live this wisdom out in His life, and He does. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you, through His poverty, might become rich.” Jesus believed that whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and so He gave His life away and trusted God to repay Him. Now He calls you to follow in His steps.

Posted on Thursday, October 22, 2015 by CJ Bowen