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COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PART TWELVE

SERMON PRESENTED ON 05-21-16 

        This will be Sermon number 12 in my continuing series on the book of Proverbs.  Last time we spent the entire sermon time discussing two separate Proverbs.  We considered Proverbs 11:1, where Solomon writes that “The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight and we discussed Proverbs 11:2, where Solomon writes that “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

       As already noted, Solomon is rather eclectic in his presentation of the Proverbs in that he jumps around from one subject or issue to another with their often being no apparent connection between such subjects or issues.  Solomon also repeats some of his Proverbs verbatim and often addresses the same issue from different angles throughout his writings.  We saw this in our previous discussions of the use of the tongue and the issue of pride where Solomon addresses these issues numerous times in the Proverbs.

       So in following Solomon’s eclectic approach, I will do the same in the remaining sermons in this series. I will select certain proverbs that have apparent application to us in the here and now and discuss such proverb within the context of the whole of Scripture for elucidation of what that proverb means for us as Christians. Today we will consider Proverbs 11:24-25.

       Proverbs 11:24-25:  One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

       Giving of our time, talent and material resources to others who are in need or who can benefit from such giving is basic to being a Christian.  Being a Christian means being a follower of Christ.  To be called a Christian is to be called a follower of Christ.  To be a follower of Christ is to be a servant, a servant of God the Father and of His son Christ Jesus.  It also means to be a servant of our fellow man.

       In Matthew chapter 20 we have the account of the mother of James and John asking Jesus to grant that her sons be given a privileged position in the Kingdom.  She asked that her two sons be granted the privilege to sit on the right and the left of Jesus in His kingdom.  After Jesus chided the mother for making this request he said this to the disciples.

       Matthew 20: 25-28.  Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."        

       Jesus set the example of how we human are to conduct ourselves in relationship to each other.  We are to serve each other.  A big part of serving each other is to do all we can within our means to insure that the needs of others are met.  In so doing, we not only fulfill our Christian duty to serve others but we gain the joy and satisfaction of knowing we are helping those in need.

       Solomon said that the man who gives freely gains even more while the man who withholds unduly comes to poverty.  In speaking of gaining more or coming to poverty, Solomon is not necessarily talking about gaining or losing material possessions.  When we meet the needs of others we gain spiritually in that we develop genuine concern for the needs of others.  We develop genuine love for others by doing our best to meet their needs.  Mr. Armstrong use to define love as having out-going concern for others.  That is actually a pretty good definition.  To have out-going concern, however, is not just some feeling we experience. It is not just having an inward feeling of concern for the needs of others.  For out-going concern to be meaningful it must be expressed with deeds of one kind or another.

       Apostle James made it clear that our Christian faith is useless if it is just an inner feeling we may have toward someone. James shows our faith must be demonstrated by how we respond to the needs of others.

       James 2:14-17: What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

       God has given us skills, talents and abilities to enable us to not only provide for ourselves but also to provide for those that because of any number of reasons are unable to adequately provide for themselves.  To help provide for the needs of others is to administrate the grace of God. God has extended the ultimate in grace by facilitating our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus administered the saving grace of God by going to the cross.  Jesus also, during His ministry, administrated the grace of God by healing the sick and leading people to embrace the way of righteous behavior.

       Just as Jesus was the agent of God to facilitate God’s grace, we too are admonished to be the agent of God in administrating His grace in its various forms.  One form of administrating the grace of God is to provide for the needs of others who because of various circumstances have such needs.

       1 Peter 4:10:  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

        While we understand that salvation is not something we earn but is a free gift given to us by God because of what Christ did, it is nevertheless apparent that we are to respond to this free gift of salvation in serving the needs of others and not to do so may have dire repercussions.  In Matthew 25, we see Christ as King separating the sheep from the goats at the time of judgement.

       Matthew 25:33-36: He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

       We find those on the right asking Jesus when they saw Him hungry and fed Him, thirsty and give him something to drink, a stranger and invited Him in or any of the other things Jesus said those on the right did for Jesus.  Here is Jesus’ reply:

       Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

       If you read on in Matthew 25 you will find the goats on the left of Jesus having failed to serve the needs of their fellow man and the consequences of such failure isn’t pretty.

       It is abundantly evident that to be a Christian is to be a servant of God and to be a servant of God involves being a servant of the Son of God. Being a servant of the Son of God involves being a servant of our fellow man. The fact that Jesus ties providing for the needs of others to reward and punishment at the time of judgement says a lot about how serving others is a critical dynamic in our relationship with God and the Christian walk in general.

       We often look at the love of God in terms of God bestowing His grace toward us in that He facilitated our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  However, there is much more to the love of God.  While the love of God is certainly manifested in He bestowing His grace upon us in providing salvation from eternal death, the love of God is also manifested in how we bestow the grace of God upon our fellow man.  While love has emotional components, such components are of little value unless they are manifested in overt action to remedy a problem.

       The Scriptures speak extensively about the love of God.  But what does it mean for God to love?  How does God love?  How does Jesus love?  What doe it mean to have the love of God within us?  Apostle John provides the answer to that question.

       1 John 3:16-17: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

       You see how the love of God involves providing for the needs of others.  Jesus set the ultimate example of meeting the needs of others by dying for our sins. We are expected to follow that example by laying down our lives for others, not necessarily in a literal sense but in serving others by providing for their needs. John makes it very clear that to love is not just a matter of words or expression of feelings, it’s a matter of action based on truth.

       1 John 3:18-19: Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.

       John shows that love must be accompanied by action for it to have efficacy. It is only when love is manifested in action that we can say we are in truth and our hearts can comfortably rest in the presence of God.   Let’s now return to our Proverb.

       Proverbs 11:24-25:  One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

       Solomon wrote that a generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.  While it should not be our reason for meeting the needs of others, it is natural to feel good about helping others.  Helping others brings satisfaction as it should.  It refreshes us as Solomon writes. Such satisfaction can then be channeled into even greater giving of ourselves in serving the needs of others.  While receiving blessing from God should not be what motivates us to serve others, serving the needs of others often does bring blessings.  Solomon writes that a generous man will prosper.

       Proverbs 3:9-10: Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

       Proverbs 22:9: A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

       To honor God with our wealth is to provide for the needs of others. It should be obvious from the Scriptures we have already considered that a major way we honor God is to give to the poor and help those in need.  We see this principle being presented to Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land.

       Deuteronomy 24:19-21:  When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.

       We see in Scripture a number of references to looking out after the poor and insuring that we share what we have and not horde it all for ourselves.  This perspective is supported by no less a Biblical personality than the Apostle Paul.  Here is what Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians.

       2 Corinthians 9:6: Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

       What is instructive is that Paul made this statement not in the context of giving of tithes or offerings to the Church but of giving to Christians in need who were living in Jerusalem.  Apparently a significant need had developed within the Jerusalem community of Christians and Paul was soliciting donations from Christians living in Corinth and other areas to be sent to Jerusalem.  We see this being discussed in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

       1 Corinthians 16:1: Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.

       In 1 Corinthians 16 it’s recorded that Paul would be first going through Macedonia before arriving at Corinth to facilitate the taking of their gift to Jerusalem.  In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 we read of the Macedonians also contributing to this gift for the Jerusalem church.  It is in this context of contributing to the needs of the Jerusalem Christians that we find Paul making the statement he makes about those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly, and those who sow generously will reap generously.  In addition to this observation, Paul provides additional insights into the dynamics associated with giving. 

       It is apparent from the Paul’s comments in 2 Corinthians chapter 8, the Macedonian Church had been experiencing some serious trials and yet despite these trails, they were more than willing to give abundantly to the collection for the Jerusalem brethren. 

       2 Corinthians 8:1-4: And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.

       It is instructive that Paul associates this attitude of giving with God giving grace to the Macedonian churches. Paul goes on to show that giving to the needs of others is a virtual expression of grace.  In writing to the Corinthians, Paul directs them to excel in the grace of giving.  Paul goes so far as to say he was testing the sincerity of their love by comparing their willingness to give with the earnestness of others which appears to be a reference of the earnestness of the Macedonian churches. 

       2 Corinthians 8:7: But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us --see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 

       Again, it is instructive that Paul associates giving with the expression of grace.  As already discussed, the greatest expression of grace is God facilitating our salvation through the sacrifice of Christ.  Paul uses the example of the grace   Jesus manifested in going to the cross on our behalf to bolster his admonition to the Corinthians to show grace in contributing to the needs of the Jerusalem Church.  

       2 Corinthians 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

       The sacrifice of Christ is the ultimate example of giving to meet the needs of others.  We all needed to be rescued from eternal death due to sin and Jesus fulfilled that need.  Paul is using Christ’s fulfillment of our need to be rescued from the consequences of sin to impress upon the Corinthians their need to take seriously the Christian requirement to do all one can to meet the needs of others.   

        In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul not only encourages them to exercise a spirit of giving but also provides guidelines for how such giving is to be carried out.  It is apparent from the context of this letter that the Corinthians had been front and center in being willing to pledge support to the Jerusalem brethren.  Now it was time to follow through on their pledge.

       2 Corinthians 8:10-12: And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

       Paul is admonishing the Corinthians to match their willingness to give with actually following through and insuring that their willingness is matched by actually giving what they intended.  It has been found that there are always a percentage of people who call in to a telethon or some other public appeal for donations and then fail to follow through on their pledge.  Paul is impressing on the Corinthians their responsibility to follow through on their desire and pledge to give to the Jerusalem brethren.

       Paul also makes it evident that giving should be based on what one has and not on what one doesn’t have.  Sometimes people get motivated to give more than they are able and then find they can’t follow through on their intensions.  

       Giving to and providing for those in need has to be done with wisdom.  If giving to others results in you not being able to provide for yourself or your family, you may want to adjust your giving habits.  On the other hand, the Christian ethic calls for meeting the needs of others even at the expense of meeting our own needs. 

       Remember that John wrote that we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  That implies serving our brothers even when it is not convenient, even when it hurts.  That implies sacrificing our time and giving of our resources even if it results in deferring the meeting of our own needs or desires.  That is what sacrifice is all about.  While giving of ones abundance is commendable, it isn’t sacrifice.  Sacrifice is giving from ones scarcity. It is giving that may result in our having to defer or completely set aside fulfilling of own needs at times.  Such giving has much greater praiseworthiness in the eyes of God.

       Mark 12:41-44:  And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.  And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

       I don’t believe Jesus is here recommending that we routinely give all of our living to the church or anyone or anything else.  If that were the case we all would become the needy and there would be no one to supply our needs.  Jesus is here making the point that real sacrifice is not giving of our abundance but giving even when it hurts. 

       Let’s conclude with a very important guideline on giving that Paul writes about in chapter 9 of his second letter to the Corinthians.

       2 Corinthians 9:7: Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

       Giving to provide for the needs of others is to be done out of a genuine concern for the needs of others.  Paul instructs that God loves a cheerful giver, a giver that gives because they sincerely want to help someone.  People sometimes give because they feel pressured to do so or to bring glory to themselves.  Some engage in public giving where their name is place on a list of donors so others can see what they gave.  I have even seen some churches list in their Church bulletin or newsletter or on a marquee the names of those who contribute a certain dollar amount to the church.

       Giving should never be done to enhance ones image in the eyes of others.  Giving should never be done to keep up with the Joneses. God is not interested in ostentatious giving.  God wants us to give from the heart and not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. 

      Matthew 6:1-4: "Be careful not to do your `acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.   "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

       Solomon wrote that a generous man will prosper and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.  Jesus teaches us that our generosity is an act of righteousness and should not be done to aggrandize the self but should be done in secret with any reward being left up to the prerogative of God.

       God wants our acts of righteousness to be unpretentious and done from the heart with no thought of reward or personal benefit. If reward or personal benefic comes to us we need to give God the glory. 

Next time we will get into Proverbs 12.

PART THIRTEEN