Tag Archives: Poverty

Give Them Wine

Proverbs 31:6-7

“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”

Debate Addressed 

Chris Jordan did an excellent job of dealing with 31:4 and 5. With wisdom and tact, he expressed both sides of the alcohol debate, ultimately showing that “under the new covenant of grace, all things may be lawful for us, but not all things are beneficial.”

My Baptist upbringing was one that left little room for debate on this subject. It was only after a lengthy (before computers) study of the word “wine” as used in the Bible did I begin to realize that there may be more to the debate than a simple black-and-white, drink-or-not-drink argument. Even king Lemuel’s mother understood there were times when alcohol could be useful (and not just in cough syrup).

The Perishing

Just today, not more than a few hours before writing this, I stood beside the hospital bed of a man in pain, a man dying. Cancer had taken over his body, his breathing and heart rate were rapid, and his mouth was dry. The family was standing around crying as they waited for the inevitable.

As I stood beside him, a nurse came in with a sponge on a little stick and placed it in some ice water, then put it in the man’s mouth. At that moment one family member said, “What he really wants is a milkshake.” Then the man’s sister said, “He should get whatever he wants.” Had he wanted a shot of Jack Daniels, they should have given it to him! He will be dead long before you, the reader, read this.

If alcohol was a sin (not just the consumption of it), then it would have been wrong for Lemuel’s mother to suggest giving strong drink to him that is “perishing.” But the king’s wise mother understood that when a man is at the end of his life or even the ends of his ropes, something that will ease his pain, or lift his spirit, is perfectly appropriate in moderation. But is to be used as a temporary remedy, one that can help one deal with his situation, not completely hide from it.

A Giving King

But there is even a deeper message in all this. What kind of king keeps hoards his wealth when his subjects are suffering? What kind of leader draws comfort from his cellars, while the poor search in vain for relief from their heavy hearts?

“Look at all you have,” Lemuel’s mother might say. “You have more than you need, and you don’t even need what you have. Therefore, open up your wine cellar; give to those who are perishing; lift the spirits of those who are discouraged; and lead your kingdom with clarity and compassion.”

Wouldn’t it be great if more kings, queens, presidents, and politicians would think less about what makes them happy, less about their own ambitions, and more about the needs of others? Most are drunk with the wine of power, forgetting the law and perverting judgment, while the powerless suffer.


Work Hard

Proverbs 28:19

“He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.” (KJV).
“Hard workers have plenty of food; playing around brings poverty.” (NLT).

Common Sense:

Sometimes when I’m reading my Bible I think, “Duh! That’s just common sense!” For example, there is a Proverb that says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (18:24). Of course – that makes total sense. If you’re not friendly – if you’re rough and gruff, rude and crude, you’re not going to attract many friends. But if you are friendly – loving, kind and patient – then you are going to make more friends. It’s so simple – how do we miss it?

Playing Around:

In today’s Proverb, Solomon wisely declares, “He that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.” What is a vain person? That word vain means empty, vain, idle or ethically worthless. Translation? If you’ll excuse my use of a common slang term: A lazy bum. If you hang around with vain, idle or lazy people – playing around – it will lead to poverty. How many times in this wisdom book have we discovered that we become like those we most closely associate with. Walk with the wise and you will become wise. Sit with the lazy, and it will lead to poverty and ruin.

I know of a man who has a hard time keeping a job. For whatever reason, he changes jobs multiple times a year. Whether he just gets bored, or doesn’t like the job anymore, I’m not sure. But it never fails, I keep hearing about how he’s quit his job and is looking for work. More often than not, he is between jobs. Not surprisingly, his son is exactly the same way. Can’t keep a job. Won’t keep a job. Often unemployed. Like father, sadly like son.

Working Hard:

On the other hand, those who till their land – and work hard – will have plenty of food. Those with a strong work ethic, their needs will be taken care of. When we work heartily as unto the Lord, God will bless that.

I got my first job at the age of 16 working at a McDonald’s. The fall after I graduated from high school, I got a job working at a Zellers store at the mall, and for the past 23 years, I have always had a job. There are always jobs available, if someone is willing to work! It might not always be the job you want, but if you want to work, someone is always hiring.

Lord, teach us the value of working hard, and being diligent stewards of all of the resources that you give to us. Help us to look to you as our provider, and trust you to meet all of our needs. In Jesus’ precious name, amen.

Don’t Follow Your Heart

Proverbs 23:19-21

“Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe [a man] with rags.”

Stay Away from These

The first thing many people will pick and choose out of these verses is a condemnation of drinking alcohol. Like many I have known in my life, the point many will immediately deduce is that drinking will lead to ruin, poverty, rags, etc. The last thing most will conclude is that eating will lead to destruction and ruin. No, the only thing many will see is, “stay away from those social drinkers and drunks.

Why is it that little is ever said about gluttony? Why is it that gluttony is a sin, but eating isn’t? Unfortunately for the legalists among us, this proverb has nothing to say about eating and drinking, but gluttony and drunkenness. Take that for what it’s worth.

What Solomon is really telling us to stay away from are people who will most likely influence us to act like they do. We should stay away from those who eat and drink simply for pleasure because their self-indulgent spirits will lead not only to their own destruction, but also to the ruin of those who follow.

A Heart Issue

Drunkenness, gluttony, and drowsiness are certainly dangerous characteristics, but the initial command in this passage, a warning, is to “guide thine heart in the way.” Much like as in Proverbs 23:12, the idea is that the heart must be forced to do what is in its best interest.

How many times have you heard it said, “Just follow your heart”? Solomon is warning against that advice by cluing us in to what the heart desires. The Prophet Jeremiah said that the heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). The way that the heart wants to go is where the “winbibbers” and  “riotous eaters” are.

Wisdom should guide the heart, not the other way around.

What of the Other?

Alcohol is no different than carbohydrates and fat; both are amoral. In other words, there is no more inherent sin in a bottle of Jack Daniels than there is a Big Mac and a large fry or a banana split. Some people can eat what they need to stay fit without over-indulging, while others will pig out and clog their arteries…all in the name of a church social.

Some people can consume alcohol without becoming drunkards, too. However, many who consume are proven to be fools.

Simply put, an unguided heart will go in the way that numbs pain, fills voids, and distracts from reality. The wise son will guide his heart down a different, disciplined path which leads to provision, not poverty; robes, not rags.

Oppressing the Poor

Proverbs 22: 22-23 

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
 and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life. (NIV)

Once again the writer challenges our attitudes to the poor. How we treat those who are poorer than us, or even weaker than us is important. Most of us would probably read this proverb and think that it doesn’t apply to us personally because we haven’t robbed or oppressed anybody. Perhaps we haven’t, but are we sure? What about times we have failed to stand up for someone? Take it right back to the school playground where it was easier to walk away than stand up for a fellow pupil facing ridicule or even physical violence. I can remember thinking ‘rather him than me’ on more than one occasion.

Then there is the work place. When I joined the Merchant Navy as a sixteen-year-old cadet it was made perfectly clear to me that I was at the bottom of the pecking order. The chief officer on my first ship used to shout at me regularly, perhaps because he had been treated the same way when he was starting his career. I remember the captain sticking up for me one day and the treatment I received improved a little after that. A few years later when I was an officer I found myself speaking up for a young Rastafarian able seaman who was assigned to my watch. In this case the bosun and another seaman were making this young man’s life a misery, with the knowledge of the chief officer! He had nobody to plead his case until I stepped in. I did not make myself popular in the process, but I could not ignore what was going on.

Oppression takes many forms. Read through these verses again – there is a significant warning in verse 22. Is God challenging you about your attitude to others, or is He calling you to take a stand in someone’s defense today?

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.

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)



Honored on a Box

Proverbs 13:18

“Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.”

Cracker Jack Boxes

Years ago I had a great sales manager, Dennis Vauvrunek.  He was great because he was a servant leader; because he was an encourager; and because he tried to bring out the best in his people.

Dennis knew that sales people are competitive by nature. So, in order to showcase the person with the highest numbers each week, he gave away an award – a box of Cracker Jacks.

Now, this was not just any box of Cracker Jacks, but one that had printed on the front the name of the winner and the dollar amount sold. It was amazing how much harder some of us would work when we though someone else might get the box. Sometimes getting that box was more important than a paycheck.

Honor and Reproof

The key to the success of the Cracker Jack box was the natural desire to be honored. The one who received it was considered the “best of the best”…a “go-getter,”…a winner.

But success in any field does not come by accident. Hours and hours of instruction, hands-on training, and learning from one’s mistakes were a prerequisite to being successful. The winners of Cracker Jack boxes were men and women who had been humble enough to accept reproof.

Poverty and Shame

Those who never accept instruction, much less reproof, are usually destined for poverty. Poverty and shame are the wages of pride.

When the industry I was in was active, I made really good money. But making a good living came as the result of dedicated, systematic, hard work. When I trained others to do what I did, I would show them exactly what was needed to be successful. All they had to do was follow my instructions. Those who didn’t went broke. Those who wouldn’t take advice never met their quotas. It didn’t take long before they were gone.

Your Name on a Box

Do you want to succeed in a particular area of life? Do you want to provide for yourself and your family? There is a price to pay. You must be humble.

1 Peter 5:5-6 – “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.

What kind of box do you want?