13If you won't help the poor,
don't expect to be heard
when you cry out for help.
14A secret bribe will save you
from someone's fierce anger.
15When justice is done,
good citizens are glad
and crooks are terrified.
16If you stop using good sense,
you will find yourself
in the grave.
17Heavy drinkers and others
who live only for pleasure
will lose all they have.
Proverbs is full of practical observations and counsel regarding stewardship and material wellbeing. This passage refers to two seemingly contrasting attributes: generosity and moderation.
Generosity is implied when the teacher notes, “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered” (v 13). Moderation is urged as “Whoever strays from the path of prudence comes to rest in the company of the dead. Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.”(vv 16, 17).
While wisdom literature makes no apology for God blessing the righteous (including materially), yet there is a continual recognition of the need for integrity, generosity, diligence, gratitude and stewardship that must accompany such blessing. A summary of these wise observations provide clear understanding regarding generous stewardship:
God’s blessing is understood to be multi-faceted and we are made stewards not owners.
God is just so we must be just in all our dealings.
God is not lazy and so we must be diligent in our lifestyle.
He is organized and so our lives must reflect a certain level of structure and order to ensure fruitfulness.
He is not selfish and so we must live generously demonstrating a heart of thankfulness and trust.
God’s goal for us is righteousness which is a far greater acquisition than wealth.
We who live in the Western world live in the most prosperous society in human history. The writers of wisdom literature, Jesus, and the writers of the New Testament all indicate we are in a very double-edged predicament. You can gain the whole world and lose your soul. You can have full barns and yet ignore the needy. You can accumulate and yet not be content. How wise it is to live with grateful, generous stewardship.
Father God, we are so grateful for your multi-faceted blessing in our lives. Help us to keep clear where our focus should be. You are the giver of every good and perfect gift and we worship you for your goodness. Please let your generosity and sacrifice be seen in us as we serve you and others and steward the good gifts you have provided. With a thankful heart, Amen.