Friday, April 15, 2016

Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 19:17

Proverbs 19:17
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him for his deed.
In the previous proverb we saw the life and death issue of a right response to the Lord's authoritative words. In this proverb we see the importance of a right response to the Lord's people, who belong to him by bonds of faith.
The Lord aligns himself in a remarkably close way with the poor. To give to the poor is to give to the Lord! But who are the poor?
If we look to Jesus to define the poor, as we ought, the answer is that the poor are his disciples. Notice the context of the first of Jesus' beatitudes in Matthew 5 and Luke 6:
" . . . he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'" (Matthew 5:1-3).
"And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God'" (Luke 6:20).
Jesus defines his disciples as those who recognize they are spiritually poor and bankrupt; as those who know they are entirely dependent on his grace; as those who have nothing to give to him except their sin; as those who acknowledge that God alone is independent and his entire creation depends on him, who alone gives life, existence and sustenance.
In essence, the word "poor," even in the Old Testament was already a synonym for the Lord's people. And it is an appropriate synonym because it expresses so well the inward attitude of Christ and his disciples. For even Jesus as a true man viewed himself in the Psalms as poor and needy. Psalm 40:17 is just one example of this. In this psalm which the New Testament teaches us are the words of Christ spoken prophetically by David (Hebrews 10:5-7), Jesus ends the psalm by saying:
"As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!"
Thus, it is no surprise that the Lord Jesus Christ is entwined as one with his people, the poor, and how we treat his people is how we treat him. This is taught over and over in the New Testament. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus teaches us that on the day of judgment how we treated his people on earth is how we treated him. And Saul, who became Paul, learned this lesson from Christ in person, when in the midst of his persecution of Christians, Jesus appeared before him and said, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4).
In summary, while it is fine to do good to the physically poor, for they, like all people, bear Christ's image and are an emblem of discipleship, this proverb is getting at a greater truth that has to do with our response to the Lord, who has in these last days come to us in the flesh.
Two points of application leap out of this proverb in the light of his coming:
  • First, this proverb teaches us that our inward attitude should be the same as our Lord's, who as a true man, and the eternal Son of his Father, was poor in spirit (Matthew 11:29). For poverty is an apt symbol of our relation to the Lord in both creation and redemption. 
  • Second, remember that the way we treat Christ's people is the way we treat Christ himself, for we his people are united to him in the closest of ways.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share This