Category Archives: contentment

Making Fun of the Poor

Proverbs 17:5

“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”

Me? Poor?

I live in one of the richest countries on the planet, so who am I to talk about being poor? Compared to some people, I am rich as a king. Even though I may not have the best of everything, or even the third or fourth best, I am still better off than people who have to live in cardboard boxes under a bridge.

Even thought I may not be rich, there are plenty of people worse off than me. However, I do know a little about what it’s like to be mocked. My sister and I were made fun of because my parents couldn’t always afford to buy their children new clothes. When we lived in a house that had no electricity or running water, and one could see the sky through the walls, we were mocked. I know how that feels.

For that matter, I know how it feels to drive a school bus full of public high school football players to a game at a private school where the tuition for one student exceeds $40,ooo a year, not to mention room and board. Not only do the football players get sneered at, but bus drivers like me get treated as “common help.”

Me? Like God?

The lesson that Solomon wants us to learn is that when we mock or make fun of those who poorer than us, we make ourselves out to be better than God. “What? How’s that possible?” you ask.

What if God treated us the way we sometimes treat others? Seriously, is the richest man in the world, even if he owned the whole world, as rich as the Maker of the Universe? The richest of the rich in this world are living in inestimable poverty before the King of Heaven. Aren’t we glad He doesn’t make fun of us?

Thankfully we have a loving Lord who humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), that we, the poorest of all, could become fellow-heirs with Christ (Eph. 3:6). If He doesn’t feel it proper to mock lowly sinners such as I, then who am I to mock one less fortunate than me?

Wishing Bad

But what if you have never been one to make fun of the poor, or the rich? Does that get you off the hook? Maybe. That is, unless you’ve ever been one to talk of the rich with words like, “I hope they go broke,” or, “I’d love to see them crash that fancy car!”

I asked my daughter, “How do rich people make fun of poor people?” She said, “I don’t know…all I ever hear is all the poor people griping and whining about the rich.” Hmmm.

What did Solomon say? “He that is glad at calamities will not go unpunished.” Maybe we all would be a little better off if we learned to be content.


A Crumby Life

Proverbs 17:1

“Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.”

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (NIV)

Struggling Through

I have some friends. These friends are great people, and soon after they got married they moved in with my wife and me.

We had to live together, you see, because I had lost my job, my wife had just graduated and was looking for work, and they had no jobs of their own. The little bit of income the four of us brought in was barely enough to pay rent, the bills, and get food.

And you know: the four of us have so many great memories together.

There were times when we were sharing three-day-old spaghetti, because that was all we had. There were times we borrowed toilet paper from their parents. There were times we had to ask family for money or food just to get by.

But we would play games together, laugh about the silliest things, and share all of our hurts and joys together.

Too much on the plate

Of those friends, his family is great. My wife and I call his parents “our other parents”. Her family makes Jacob’s (from Genesis) look like a finely functioning family. (If you do not know what I mean, go read Jacob’s story in Genesis 25-37!)

Her family squabbles about every little thing (really, it is her sisters who do all of the squabbling), while dad lets them figure it out on their own and mom cleans up the messes. My poor friend (and her mom, really) are the closest to sane in the whole family.

The problem is not that the family does not need to worry about money, because they are doing rather well.

The problem is that everyone is either looking out only for themselves (the sisters) or do not know how to deal with issues well if at all (mom and dad). They just keep heaping everything on until there is an explosion, and everyone is hurt.

My friends prefer spending the afternoon with us walking our dog and cleaning up his messes than a short meal with her family.

The Crumby Life

It is possible to “have it all” and live in peace and quiet. The real issue is that people try to make this life all about themselves, and they take and take and take without really giving back.

We must learn to be content, to seek God and what He has for us, and to share with others more than we demand.

Only then will we find peace.

God of peace, grant us the wisdom to find contentment with what You have already blessed us. If we are eager for more, may it be of more of You and sharing with others. Make us the peacemakers and givers of this world!


Honking Escalade

Proverbs 16:19

“Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

Rich and Poor

Not all poor people are humble. Not all rich people are proud. We should never jump to conclusions and assume that just because a man is poor he is humble, or prideful if he is rich.

That being said, today’s proverb addresses the heart of man, and that heart is usually more proud when he is rich, humble when he is poor. For instance, the people who blew their horn at my wife and I, as we sat at a stop sign and couldn’t go anywhere, were in a big Cadillac Escalade. They honked at us, but we didn’t honk at the little old lady in front of us who couldn’t decide where to go. (That actually happened just a few moments before writing this)

Riches and Poverty

This proverb also addresses the misconception that wealth is better than poverty. Sure, to have more money and possessions can be a great blessing, but it can also be a curse far worse than being destitute.

This verse also addresses the misguided belief that “the one with the most” wins. Many only have “the most” because they have taken advantage of those who have little.

The NIV translates this verse, “Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.” It might not always be the poor and rich we’re talking about, but the oppressed and the oppressors. Either way, the one who is worse off in God’s eyes is the one who sits with those who have become wealthy by taking from others, and is proud of it.

Be Content

Let us consider Proverbs 16:19 as we observe the words of the Apostle Paul…

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13 ESV

Ultimately, it’s better to have nothing and a humble heart, than have everything and be at odds with our God.

(I hope the horn on that Escalade breaks and starts blowing when they’re behind a State Trooper)

 

 


The Cost of Bribes

Proverbs 15:27

“He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.” 

“A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live.” – NIV

Same Script

Have you ever noticed how most crime dramas on television are the same, at least in the writing department? When we read in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is “no new thing under the sun,” it especially applies to television and movie plots.

One reason that it is hard to come up with anything new is because men keep doing the same things over and over again. The stories are all so similar in pattern because the template is ingrained in man’s fallen nature. He keeps falling for the same old tricks every time, like fish that never question a swimming worm.

One common story line involves a man who needs money, takes a bribe, gets caught, then brings his family to ruin. It varies, of course, but whether it’s a politician who takes a bribe in order to keep his career afloat, or a discouraged policeman who deals confiscated drugs in order to take care of his sick children, the end is always the same – trouble.

Doing What’s Right

It is not always easy to turn down easy money. Sometimes the offer can seem pretty tempting. Several years ago my wife and I were asked to hire undocumented workers in order to keep down the costs of a cleaning contract. We were told over and over, “They work hard for little money…everyone does it…no one will find out.” We could have saved thousands of dollars in labor costs.

Doing what is right, however, is more important than money. Greed is the downfall of many. What would have happened my wife’s company had been visited by federal agents? How many lies would she have been responsible for when she filed payroll taxes? What would have happened to our family of one of us had been sent to jail?

Even when times are at their worst, doing wrong, taking a bribe, doing it for the money, is never good for one’s home. Somebody down the line will pay for poor choices made.


What Is Better than Wealth?

Proverbs 15:16

“Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.”

Would You Rather

Have you ever played “Would You Rather?”? It’s sort of a conversation-starting kind of game, if it’s a game at all. There are no winners or losers.

One person asks an either/or question like, “Would your rather eat a roach, or aspirate a snotty baby’s nose by mouth?” The answer would have to be one or the other, not an “I would never do either!” You have to choose.

In the case of the above question, either answer is a loser…unless you’re one of those mother’s who do that kind of thing to your snotty baby…or unless you eat bugs. Most people would just lose the contents of their stomachs.

Better/Than

What we see in this proverb not an either/or question, but a better/than comparison. Unlike the “would you rather” question, this one has a clear winner and loser.

What is “better”? Little. Just the scrapings. Hardly anything.

What is “than”? Great riches. A storehouse full of provision. More money than anyone else. But notice, there’s nothing “bad” or “wrong” with great riches; it’s just not better.

Better than what?

Great riches are not better than scraping by if great riches are all you have. It’s better to have hardly anything and have the fear of the Lord, a righteous heart, a forgiven soul, a peace that passes all understanding, than great wealth and all the worry and anxiety it can bring.

Winning Secret

Oh, but remember how in the first game of “Would You Rather?” there are no real winners? That’s not the case at all with choosing to have a little and the fear of the Lord!

Here’s a little secret: If you choose a little and the Lord, the eternal riches far exceed anything one could amass on earth. Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

As the old hymn says, “I’d rather have Jesus.”


Afflicted or Merry?

Proverbs 15:15 

“All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.”

“Figures”

Have you ever known someone who feels like nothing ever goes his way? I have a friend who says “Figures” when something doesn’t go the way he wants or plans. In other words, he practically expected things to go wrong. How defeated is that?

Those who feel like the world is against them, that fate hates them, and that every wish upon a star is doomed to utter failure are not happy people. There are no silver linings, only clouds, and all the glasses are half-empty due to some conspiracy hatched in a neighbor’s mind.

“Praise the Lord, Anyway”

Then there are those people who take what’s handed to them with grace and a smile. They are the ones who end up truly brutalized and mistreated, but find hope in the middle of hurt. Disappointment turns into new opportunities, while loss is left to the wisdom of God.

Those with a merry heart can face a downturn in events, and even though it may hurt, say, “Praise the Lord, anyway!” It doesn’t mean they like having things go wrong, it’s just that they know the Lord gives and takes away, “blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Cart before the Horse

You know the old saying about putting the cart before the horse? Take a look at today’s proverb one more time and see if you can find an out-of-place cart? Shouldn’t being merry follow having the stuff of a feast? Shouldn’t feeling afflicted come after the onset of an evil day?

The real key to this proverb is the way a person approaches life. A person with a “merry heart” can “feast” on a bowl of beans while thanking God he at least has food. An “afflicted” person would complain that his free four-course meal lacked a piece of cake.

Prayer: Father, help me to maintain a merry and thankful heart, even when things aren’t going the way I think they should. You are sovereign and in control of all things. When “bad” things happen because of my mistakes, help me to accept the consequences. When bad things come as the result of no fault of my own, give me grace to endure and the comfort of knowing all things will work together for good.


Little Is Much

Proverbs 13:23

“Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.”
“A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.” NIV

We Complain 

Many times we complain about what we don’t have rather than thank God for what we do have. Have you ever complained about how small your house is, how old your car is, or how out of style your clothes are?  Sure you have. And you know, of course, that there are plenty of people out there who don’t even have a roof to sleep under, much less a new car or stylish clothes.

It might be a shock to you, but even pastors (ministers, preachers, bishops) have times when they complain about the “field” they are called to plow. I have done it. I even did it today, right before I read Proverbs 13:23.

We Whine

Today [at the time of this writing] we had a death in our church. The loss of this key member has been a blow to all of our congregation. And being that our numbers are small, the loss of any member is painful, especially when growth has been extremely slow.

At one point I began to feel anxious. I asked God, “How can we grow a church if our younger adults start dying?” I thought to myself, “If we lose many more, we won’t be able to pay our utility bills, not to mention the little I get to feed my family.” For a moment I considered this field too small for even a minimal harvest.

No Excuses

Then I read this proverb. Then I read what the wise Matthew Henry had to say. Then I felt ashamed.

See…[how] a small estate may be improved by industry, so that a man, by making the best of every thing, may live comfortably upon it: Much food is in the tillage of the poor, the poor farmers, that have but a little, but take pains with that little and husband it well. Many make it an excuse for their idleness that they have but a little to work on, a very little to be doing with; but the less compass the field is of the more let the skill and labour of the owner be employed about it, and it will turn to a very good account. Let him dig, and he needs not beg.[1]

Sounds like I need to just get back out in the field and turn the soil, doesn’t it? A small field can be full of produce if worked well and wisely. It is those who complain that let a harvest waste away.

Like the old song says, “Little is much when God is in it...”

Dear Heavenly Father, strengthen our hands and energize our hearts for the work. The fields are truly white unto harvest, so who are we kidding? We just need to work a little harder to bring it in.

[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 13:23.