Day 19: Concerning the poor (19:1)
“Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool”
As usual, today’s chapter has lots of good stuff we are not even going to mention. But there is an important theme here that is referred to elsewhere in Proverbs, that of dealing with the poor and what to make out of poverty. While poverty is not something most of us would long for, unless taking the vow of poverty, chastity and obedience (which is relevant to how we live), Solomon, who ironically was very rich, could see the value of being poor if it meant keeping one’s integrity, having noted how riches (not wrong in itself) could lead one off the straight path, especially if it is a result of bribes or ill-gotten gain.
He observes the obvious: people don’t want to have anything to do with those who are poor, even if intreated by them, but will chase after the rich: “Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour … All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him” (19:4,7). There is a popular song titled “Money can’t buy me love” and, who knows, the Beatles could have got their inspiration from Solomon: “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:14). As for how we should respond, the answer is clear and it comes with a reward: “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again” (19:17). As for us, our text is reiterated: “The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar” (19:22).
Proverbs has a lot more to say about the poor and poverty but, in rounding off today’s thought, we jump to the end, on what appears to be a sensible balance between riches and poverty: “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (30:8,9). Then a final exhortation: “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (31:9). We end quoting Jesus, himself quoting Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” Luke 4:18 and “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God” Luke 6:20.
Prayer: May we never despise the poor. Thank you that you love to bless the poor. May we be content with our lot, recognising integrity is what matters.