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Proverbial characters; The Poor Man

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posted on May, 24 2019 @ 05:00 PM
The collector of the Old Testament Proverbs makes his purpose clear from the beginning.
“That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight” (ch1 v2).
Then he further defines this wisdom as “fear of the Lord” (v7). This phrase, when used in the Bible, means respect and willingness to obey.
I’m studying the different characters of Proverbs, as one way of organising and understanding the teaching

“The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all” (ch22v2)
“Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty or riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me.
Lest I be full and deny thee and say “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (ch30 vv8-9).

Realistically, the situation of the Poor Man is not good.
His poverty wins him no popularity.
“Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend” (ch19 v4)
“The poor is disliked even by his neighbour” (ch14 v20).
“All the poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him” (ch19 v7).

It puts him in the power of those who do have wealth;
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (ch22 v7).
“The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man has no means of redemption” (ch13 v8).
“The poor use entreaties but the rich answer roughly” (ch18 v23 ).

He is more likely to suffer mistreatment by the courts, because he can’t afford the necessary bribes;
“The fallow ground of the poor yields much food, but it is swept away through injustice” (ch13v23).
He might even receive ill-treatment from those of his own kind;
“A poor man who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food.” (ch28 v3).
(Rain should be giving life to crops, but a really heavy rain presumably damages them instead.)

However, Proverbs also offers compensations for the hardness of the poor man’s lot.
For one thing, his honest toil is a more secure way to stable prosperity than the faster means of gaining wealth;
“A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on” (ch16 v26).
“Wealth hastily gotten will dwindle, but he who gathers little by little will increase it.” (ch13 v11).
Therefore he is advised to pursue his work with diligence and skill;
“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds; for riches do not last for ever…
When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the herbage of the mountains is gathered,
The lambs will provide your clothing and the goats the price of a field;
There will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household, and maintenance for your maidens” (ch27 vv23-27).

In the long-term, this will leave him better off than the man who spends his wealth instead of conserving it;
“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty” (ch28 v19).
“Better is a man of humble standing who works for himself than one who plays the great man but lacks bread” (ch12 v9).
“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings” (ch22v29).

Furthermore, he is closer to righteousness than the wealthy man;

“What is desired in a man is loyalty, and a poor man is better than a liar” (ch19 v22).
The implication is that the poor man will not be a liar, and is therefore more likely to be loyal (since faithfulness and truthfulness go together).
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches”-(ch22 v1).
“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity, than a rich man who is perverse in his ways”-(ch28 v6).
He lacks the self-centred pride that goes with wealth;
“It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud” (ch16 v19).

And he has not gained his wealth in unrighteous ways;
“Better a little with righteousness, than great revenues with injustice” (ch16 v8).
He may not have much, but he has it with a clear conscience, which makes it more enjoyable;
“Better is a little with fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble with it” (ch15 v16).
“Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted ox and hatred with it” (ch15 v17).

And for the purposes of this book, righteousness is the true wisdom.
“A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has understanding will find him out” (ch28 v11).

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