Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Proverbs 22:2 commentary; Rich and Poor

2 ¶ The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.

Both John Gill and Matthew Henry, writing in the 18th century, make the following point on this verse. Gill was also known for exploring what the older Jewish texts commented on Old Testament verses and was knowledgeable in Arabic and Syriac. Although, that knowledge isn’t necessary to understand any verses in the Bible written in English it is still interesting. Both of them say that the poor and the rich need each other. Gill points out that the rich need the poor to do work and the poor need the rich to create employment. None is independent of the other. Henry goes on to say that the poor man is poor so that he may fully depend on the Lord for his sustenance while the rich man is rich so that he may be thankful to God and give generously to the poor.

In America today we have diverse opinions about both rich and poor, many of which don’t recognize the dependence they have on each other. In our system it is assumed that the poor don’t want to be poor and should not be satisfied with any level of income or status and always want more than what they have in spite of. It is assumed that everyone wants to be rich and that if they aren’t rich or don’t seek to be it is because of a moral deficiency such as laziness and sloth. And yet, even our poor have far more wealth than their ancestors did so rich and poor as meanings are relative terms to each other within the same system.

Regardless of the conflict in the greater society, which society is not Christian although there still may be some Christian principles adhered to, the rich and the poor have obligations to each other and to God, the maker of them both. Contrary to what the Ayn Rand idolaters insist, the rich do have a moral obligation to help the poor. Contrary to what the Karl Marx idolaters insist, the poor do have an obligation to seek employment and if employment is not available, then to create their own work. Government should facilitate both and not stand in the way of either, which, sadly, it often does, with burdening restrictions and taxes on new business starters and regulations that hamper being able to offer employment to others. But, those are political issues that must be worked out in the political arena.

I have pointed out verses before where the church is told that those who will not work should not be given help.

2Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

And yet, God despises those rich who exploit and manipulate the poor.

James 5:1 ¶ Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. 3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. 5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

Still, slothful and lazy people who will not do anything for themselves, God also despises.

Proverbs 19:24 A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.

And yet, the rich Christian is permitted to have money for a reason; to earn it honestly and to act charitably with it.

Ephesians 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

But, even so, the rich man’s money, under a just system, is his property and he must do voluntarily with it what God has called him to do, not being forced. Notice here the results of a labor dispute.

Matthew 20:11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

And in spite of that, there were emergency conditions presented in the Bible, where, in order to keep people from starving a government took complete control of the economy of a nation.

Genesis 47:20 And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s. 21 And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt even to the other end thereof. 22 Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands. 23 Then Joseph said unto the people, Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: lo, here is seed for you, and ye shall sow the land. 24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones. 25 And they said, Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants. 26 And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.

The only Biblical response to rich and poor is that for the Christian, God is the owner of everything. Under God’s economic system, if you will, God owns all money and property.

Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. 11 I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.

In our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, it was stated by the committee headed by Thomas Jefferson, that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The last phrase, “pursuit of Happiness”, was not an uncommon thought in that century in earlier European writings. This particular phrase was distilled down from what George Mason had written in the Virginia Declaration of Rights’ draft, that among the rights that men had were “the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”

So, as the Declaration of Independence and even the Constitution of the United States itself have shown themselves to be political statements, they are equally economic statements, as there is no freedom without economic freedom as many industrious but frustrated people in third world countries in South America, Africa, and Asia will tell you. A country with no guarantee of a right to private property will not achieve much of a standard of living for its people.

God brings both poor and rich together and each has responsibilities before God to each other. The Lord is the maker of them all. They should not be enemies but work together for the common good. Sadly, our nation has little justification for being called a Christian nation with the class conflicts that go against this Proverb and the government interference, including monopolies permitted, regulations pursued on the behalf of established and powerful corporations to dampen competition, excessive and wastefully spent taxes, and over regulation keeping small businesses from starting. I wonder how many would be entrepreneurs would leap out in a venture if it wasn’t for the fact that our system has tied in getting health insurance at a reasonable cost to being employed by someone else full time or the fact that a small business has to hire several people just to keep ahead of regulations and requirements from government. It has been said that a government strong enough to give you everything you want is also strong enough to take away everything you have.

On top of this you have cold blooded, wealthy corporations and investment bankers seeking political power from the government to plunder the people, stealing from our savings after using successful public relations campaigns to make us think our money is safe in their hands or that they are a benefit to mankind while they pollute and destroy the environment and poison their own workers in poorer lands. Sweetheart deals are made for those who pump dollars into politicians’ coffers creating tariffs, subsidies, and price supports that seem to benefit foreign governments and international corporations more than the people to whom they sell their products and the workers who they cheat. And yet, these same interests have fooled common, ordinary people into speaking out for their right to do this under some twisted notion of liberty and freedom from government control.

But, anyone who reads the Bible knows that a nation can’t be Christian. Only a person can be a Christian, and we, in the body of Christ are called within our church bodies for the rich to take care of the poor, for the poor who are able to be willing to work hard, and for all to work together to glorify God. Each person’s genuine needs that they can’t meet should be met. The early Jewish Christians in Jerusalem even went so far as to hold their possessions in common and although that is not our doctrine for today it does manifest God’s intent for His church with regard to taking care of each other.

Acts 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

In our doctrine for today, the rules that apply to us, we are to meet the needs of those who can’t take care of themselves in our churches and don’t have families to help but those who can work must and those who have believing family should go to them first as explained in 1 Timothy 5 and in verses from Ephesians and 2 Thessalonians above. Finally, let it be said that rich and poor come together at the foot of the Cross, for the Lord is maker and Saviour of them all.

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