When You're Poor or Know Someone Who Is
Sunday March 11, 2007 -
Proverbs 30:7-9 - “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:  Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,  lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” As an introduction, notice several things from this powerful and rarely used prayer:
a) How a person prays is the most accurate measurement of his soul - This prayer shows a man focused on eternal issues. Only the Holy Spirit can redirect and elevate our eyes away from immediate desires toward ultimate needs.
b) Agur prays with an eye toward the ultimate reality of eternity and the rapid approach of his inevitable departure from this world - Proverbs 30:7 - “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die....” Some things won’t receive their due weight in our minds until we remember our own mortality and accountability.
c) Material blessings are to be sought only in proportionate provision for genuine needs - Proverbs 30:8b - “....give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me....” We are to live according to our calling of having all our needs met, not all our greed met. See how this permanent lesson is underscored again in the way Jesus teaches us to pray for our “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
1) WHILE NOT ALL CASES OF POVERTY HAVE THEIR CAUSE IN THE ROOTS WE ARE ABOUT TO STUDY, THERE ARE SOME SPECIFIC PRINCIPLES WHICH, IF BROKEN OR IGNORED, ARE LIKELY TO LEAD TO POVERTY
a) Undisciplined, reckless living can lead to poverty - Proverbs 21:17 - “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.”
b) Laziness can quickly lead to poverty - Proverbs 20:13 - “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.” See also Matthew 25:25-30.
c) Poverty can also come from a lack of proper planning - Proverbs 21:5 - “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”
d) Having said all this, some people are poor due to social injustice - Proverbs 13:23 - “The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.” See how this idea is picked up and repeated by James for the New Testament church in James 5:1-4 - “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.  Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.  Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”
2) SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES FOR RELATING TO THE POOR
a) The way I treat the poor is the way I treat God - Proverbs 14:31 - “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” We think our worship on Sunday is the way we treat God. But this verse carries our professed spirituality to a much deeper, practical level. Notice how Jesus restated this very same principle in great detail when speaking of our final judgement - Matthew 25:31-46.
b) We are to resist the temptation to show favoritism to the rich - Proverbs 14:20 - “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.” Why does the rich person have so many friends? Many times it’s because people are drawn to wealth - even another person’s wealth - as a means of personal enrichment. The Bible says this is a dreadful sin. It is the root of many selfish friendships.
The Apostle James says this attitude of greed can even infiltrate the church - James 2:1-4 - “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.  For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,  and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet,"  have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
Then, because James knows the power of this tendency toward selfishness and how it can affect even our relationships in the church, he offers this final advice on what true religion looks like when it’s practiced faithfully: James 1:27 - “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
This is as much for the “haves” as the “have nots.” These are the only actions that will keep religion “pure” and “undefiled” by shabby motives and greedy thoughts.
c) Ignoring the poor will destroy your prayer life - Proverbs 21:13 - “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” Once again, the Scriptures remind me not to think of my relationship with the poor as something separate from my relationship with God.
d) Oppressing the poor invites God’s judgement. Blessing the poor insures God’s blessing on your own life as well - Proverbs 28:27 - “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” What a descriptive phrase - “he who hides his eyes....” This is intentionally blocking out God’s instruction. It is pretending we don’t know what we really know. This is the kind of fallenness we are all up against in our walk with Jesus day by day. The opposite of this is the kind of purity of heart Jesus said brought blessedness in the beatitudes.