BETTER TO BE POOR
Lord, You have concern for all, regardless of our station in life.
Read PROVERBS 19
19 Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than a fool whose lips are perverse.
2 Desire without knowledge is not good—
how much more will hasty feet miss the way!
3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin,
yet their heart rages against the Lord.
4 Wealth attracts many friends,
but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.
5 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will not go free.
6 Many curry favor with a ruler,
and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.
7 The poor are shunned by all their relatives—
how much more do their friends avoid them!
Though the poor pursue them with pleading,
they are nowhere to be found.[a]
8 The one who gets wisdom loves life;
the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.
9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will perish.
10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury—
how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!
11 A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
12 A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion,
but his favor is like dew on the grass.
13 A foolish child is a father’s ruin,
and a quarrelsome wife is like
the constant dripping of a leaky roof.
14 Houses and wealth are inherited from parents,
but a prudent wife is from the Lord.
15 Laziness brings on deep sleep,
and the shiftless go hungry.
16 Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life,
but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.
17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will reward them for what they have done.
18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to their death.
19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty;
rescue them, and you will have to do it again.
20 Listen to advice and accept discipline,
and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
22 What a person desires is unfailing love[b];
better to be poor than a liar.
23 The fear of the Lord leads to life;
then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
24 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
he will not even bring it back to his mouth!
25 Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence;
rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.
26 Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother
is a child who brings shame and disgrace.
27 Stop listening to instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
28 A corrupt witness mocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.
29 Penalties are prepared for mockers,
and beatings for the backs of fools.
a Proverbs 19:7 The meaning of the Hebrew for this sentence is uncertain.
b Proverbs 19:22 Or Greed is a person’s shame
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
In Proverbs 19, there are five sayings about the poor (1, 4, 7, 17, 22). Among these, the first and last are “better … than” sayings about the poor and about integrity (1, 22). Let’s take a look at the predicament facing the poor (4, 7). The sage points out that most people prefer to be a friend to the wealthy (4a), but a poor person is deserted by even the closest friend (4b). Here, the contrast between “many friends” and the only “friend” who deserts underscores the plight of the poor (Paul E. Koptak, Proverbs, The NIV Application Commentary, Zondervan, 2003, p. 468). If the poor are hated by their relatives, how much more are they shunned by their friends (7a). When the poor call after their relatives for help, the relatives are nowhere to be found (7b). In sum, the separation between relatives and friends highlights the loneliness and helplessness of the poor.
The “better…than” sayings about the poor (1, 22) elicit the same idea: it is better to be poor and honest than to have great gain through lies. Regarding the choice between integrity and wealth, the sage encourages us to choose integrity, even though the price for integrity may be poverty, which will in turn lead to potential abandonment by friends and relatives (4, 7). All in all, personal integrity is paramount. It is noteworthy that the poor have a special place in God’s eyes, which differs from human estimation. We are reminded that whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord; God will reward them for what they have done (17). The value and dignity of the poor are affirmed here.
Those who consider themselves poor can hold their heads up – for God values the poor. Those who consider themselves rich should consider what they can do for the poor.
May the Spirit guide you to act kindly, wisely, and generously!
Lord, we are grateful for the prosperity we enjoy, and we are not unmindful of the poor around us.
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