Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 28, WIsdom Makes Us Generous

Solomon speaks on the subject of using our blessings to bless others. He believes in helping those who are less fortunate than we are. I don't know how much money he was in the habit of giving to the poor, but I think we can feel fairly certain he gave a tenth of all his earnings to the Lord, bringing his tithe to the temple as required by Old Testament law. This money was used to support the priests and their families and to provide for the needy in the community. Though Solomon participated in idolatrous rites with his pagan wives, I doubt he entirely abandoned the rules of the faith in which he was brought up, for the Bible describes him in this way, "he did not follow the Lord completely". (1 Kings 11:6) I fell this means he did continue going through the motions of his religion, but he wanted to straddle the line, keeping one foot in the church and one foot in the world, so to speak. He followed the Lord in some ways, and he still believed in the God of Israel, but he did not completely follow the Lord. He was not wholly devoted to God. He held back a part of his heart because he was unwilling to give up his carnal desires and the unholy practices his foreign wives had enticed him to follow. He held back a part of his heart, but evidently he did not hold back a part of his money.

Today Solomon talks about being generous with our blessings. The one who possesses godly wisdom has a healthy attitude toward money. Our security is not in our money but in our God, therefore we have the freedom to be generous. The one who does not trust in God clings tightly to his material goods, afraid of losing them, because they are what make him feel secure.

"The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath. One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." (Proverbs 11:23-25) It was up to the citizens to help those less fortunate by giving to the poor and by giving to the temple where aid was dispensed to the poor. Solomon says, "The man who has compassion on the poor and needy will be blessed for his generosity. God is pleased with this. You can't outgive God; He will increase the possessions of the one who has pity on the needy. But God is not pleased when a man turns his face away from those in need and refuses to feel pity. That man has made money into an idol and he is in danger of having his wealth taken from him."

The Apostle Paul agrees with Solomon's words, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: 'They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.' Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." (2 Corinthians 9:6-11) Paul quotes from Psalm 112, whose author is not named, which deals with the subject of generosity. The unnamed author states in verses 4 and 5 "Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice."

Solomon goes on to say, "People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God's blessing on the one who is willing to sell." (Proverbs 11:26) Wealthy and unscrupulous men had a habit of storing up grain following plentiful harvests and holding onto it until a drought came and the crops failed. Then the price of grain would be much higher. The longer a man held onto the grain during a famine, the higher the price would go. A person who is hungry enough will give almost anything in order to be able to eat, including every penny he has, his land, and his livestock. What use are those things when he's starving? In this way, evil and greedy men became even more wealthy by oppressing and exploiting their fellow citizens in their time of need.

"Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it." (Proverbs 11:27) The Biblical expression of "seek and you will find" goes both ways. The one who seeks God finds Him. The one who seeks wickedness finds it. Godly living blesses us, but the deeds of the wicked will destroy him.

"Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf." (Proverbs 11:28) Those with godly wisdom know it's not their money that sustains them, but God. The wicked are trusting in something that doesn't have the power to sustain them. They will fall into sin to make their money; they will fall into sin to keep their money.

"Whoever brings ruin to their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise." (Proverbs 11:29) Sinful and excessive living has ruined many a family. In Solomon's day, running up foolish debts could not only result in the loss of property, but in the loss of freedom. A man might end up as an indentured servant to the person he owes until he pays off his debt.

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives. If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!" (Proverbs 11:30-31) Those who are faithful to God are able to lead others to the Lord. Godly wisdom, as we learned earlier this week, blesses those around us. There is some disagreement among scholars about the translation of verse 31 into English, with many of them feeling it should be translated as the Apostle Peter did, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (1 Peter 4:18) The idea here is that the righteous are saved only by the skin of their teeth....not through their own works, but through the works of the One who pulled off a miraculous rescue and act of redemption. We who are in Christ will make it into heaven only because He is going to vouch for us. We are going to enter into the joy of the Lord through faith in Christ alone, not because we deserve it due to our own good works. So Solomon, and the Apostle Peter, urge everyone to think about their spiritual condition and their eternal destination. If the godly barely make it into heaven, what hope is there for the wicked?

Compassion and generosity are admirable qualities, as Solomon has pointed out, but he also wants us to understand that good works won't save our souls. There are unbelievers who give to the poor and have compassion on the needy. God will bless generosity, even the generosity of the unbeliever, but no one will enter the presence of the Lord without faith. No one gets in by presenting the Lord with a list of good deeds and saying, "I never believed in You and I never had any interest in knowing You and I rejected the doctrine of redemption, but I did have compassion on my fellow man. I'm actually a pretty good guy, even though I was never a religious guy. Look at all these nice things I've done!" No, we make it into heaven with this testimony, "Lord, I am a sinner. Even at my best I've fallen short. No matter how hard I tried to be perfect, I made mistakes. I'm not counting on my own good works to get me into heaven. I'm counting on the good and perfect works of Christ my Savior. He did for me what I could not do for myself. I'm coming to You on the basis of my faith in Him." In other words, as the old hymn Rock Of Ages puts it, "In my hand no price I bring. Simply to Thy cross I cling."

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