Friday, August 5, 2016

Proverbs 22:9 --- Imitating the Father's Bountiful Eye

Proverbs 22:9
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
    for he shares his bread with the poor.

I am a bit worried that what I have said about the rich and the poor in Scripture might lead to a lack of generosity and compassion in my heart and others.  I am tempted to say that the answer to this worry is to simply say the text's literal meaning points to the poor in general, therefore, we should be compassionate and generous to all.  The problem with this solution is that the poor in the Old Testament were fellow Israelites, and thus, brothers.  The typology of the Old Testament points to Israel as a type of the church, not the state.  So generosity to the poor Israelite brother works typologically as generosity to the poor in the church of Jesus Christ.

I think a better solution to our need to have large and generous hearts toward all people is what the Old Testament says about the alien or stranger, and what Jesus says in the New Testament about our neighbor and our enemies. 

In Leviticus 19:33-34 we read:

"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."

Leviticus 25:35 assumes that the stranger or alien will be treated well in Israel:

"If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you."

In the New Testament, Jesus says this about generosity toward even our enemies:

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the   ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. . . . give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, and it will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:35-36, 38).

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus defines our neighbor as anyone in need who comes across our path or into our view.  Therefore, we must not close our hearts toward anyone in need, for once again the key to Christian ethics is found in the principle of imitation: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."

Our proverb, today, does not seem to assume the person sharing is literally rich.  Rather, he seems to have limited means, since "he shares his bread."  There seems to be a sacrificial element involved in his generosity.  Charles Bridges notes that "God's standard is sacrifice, not convenience."[1]  Many studies have shown that the poor in America are much more generous than the rich in terms of the percentage of giving.  Some of our highest candidates for office, when their financial records were released, have given such paltry amounts to charity as to be embarrassing.  Let this never be the case with Christians, whether they be rich or poor.  For, "whoever has a bountiful eye" (a compassionate heart that sees the need of others and takes action to meet those needs according to their ability), our heavenly Father, himself, will bless.

Finally, let us be thankful to our gracious Father in heaven, who because of his "bountiful eye," has given to the poor in spirit, the bread of heaven, his beloved Son.  May we be thankful for such lavish, sacrificial giving, and learn to imitate it in our lives.  Amen.




[1] Bridges, Proverbs, 408.

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