“RICH MAN, POOR MAN, PANHANDLER, THIEF”
“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!” <Prov.16:16 (NIV)>. If you apply yourself to seeking wisdom and understanding, you will understand the fear of the Lord and find God’s knowledge <Prov.2:1-5>; happy are those who find wisdom and gain understanding <Prov.3:13‑15>; the fruit of wisdom is justice wealth and prosperity. <Prov.8:18-21>. Can it be said that the rich person is more skillful than the poor person: or is the poor person more skillful than the panhandler? Many would agree that the thief is more skillful than the first three. In today’s lifestyle, which of the four really enjoys living? Again, most people would agree that many rich people enjoy life to its fullest.
THE STORY OF THE EIGHT RICH MEN: In 1923, a very important meeting was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Attending this meeting were eight of the world’s most successful financiers. Those present were: The president of the largest independent steel company; the president of the largest utility company; the president of the largest gas company; the president of the New York Stock Exchange; a member of the President’s cabinet; the greatest “bear” in Wall Street; the Head of the world’s greatest monopoly and the President of the Bank for International Settlements. Certainly, we must admit that here were gathered a group of the world’s most successful men. At least, men who had found the secret of “making money”. Twenty-five years later (1948) let us see where these men are. The president of the largest independent steel company ‑ Charles Schwab ‑ lived on borrowed money for five years before his death, and died bankrupt. The president of the greatest utility company ‑ Samuel Insull ‑ died a fugitive from justice and penniless in a foreign land. The president of the largest gas company ‑ Howard Hopson ‑ is now dead. The president of the New York Stock Exchange ‑ Richard Whitney ‑ was recently released from Sing Sing Penitentiary. The member of the President’s cabinet ‑ Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home. The greatest “bear” in Wall Street ‑ Jesse Livermore‑ died a suicide. The Head of the greatest monopoly ‑ Ivan Kreuger ‑ died a suicide. The president of the Bank for International Settlements ‑ Leon Fraser ‑ died a suicide. All of these men learned well the art of making money, but not one of them had learned how to live. (Louis R. Lurie, in the Journal of Living. p573 Knight’s Book of Illustrations). There are those people, whose only aim in life is to accumulate as much money as they can, by any means that they can. Some of these people are called “thieves”.
THIEVES: “Immoral procurement” destroys those who obtain it <Prov.1:19>; “dishonest money” soon disappears <Prov.13:11>. There are three ways not to obtain wealth: “get‑rich quick” schemes; false information / advertising; outright robbery; are all “the way of the wicked”. <Prov.21:5‑7>. Dishonesty is robbery <Prov.11:1; Lev.19:35‑36> and all standards must be based on honest references <see also Deut.25:16>.
Unnecessary financial pressure on the poor by forcing them to pay dearly for their existence is the way of the world often duplicated in the Christian community, in that the poor and less fortunate members are at the mercy of the more prosperous members; and the less fortunate members are powerless as they strive to make ends meet; “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” <Neh.5:9 (NIV)>; this is not a good testimony for any Christian community or church! The Lord prospers us in varying degrees as He sees fit, all that we are and have is given to us by Him; therefore, let us use our resources for His glory.
Slothfulness ‑ “the lazy”; “the slothful man” (another form of robbery); one of the most common forms of robbery that faces our society today, and there are those in our community that must understand that work is not a curse. God encouraged work <Gen.2:15>, and it was a regular habit of Jesus <Mark 6:3> and Paul <Acts 18:1‑3>. We work so as to earn an honest living. The “slothful”; however, loves to sleep <Prov.26:14> although sleep is necessary too much is destructive! <Eccl.5:12>. On the job a lazy person is more of a nuisance than a help! He/she daydreams but does not work hard enough to fulfill the dreams <Prov.21:25>; has a “know‑it‑all” attitude and lives in fantasy telling everyone else how/what to do even though the lazy person has never succeeded in much <Prov.21:25‑26>. The lazy person is good at making excuses <Prov.20:4>; and is destined to live in poverty and hunger, and become a drain on our society including our churches (unless cared for by others) <Prov.10:4; 2 Thess.3:6‑15>. Lazy people lose their freedom to others <Prov.12:24>, waste God‑given resources <Prov.18:9> and opportunities <Prov.10:5>. Laziness, therefore, is nothing but theft, because laziness robs the employer of resources or income; or laziness leads to stealing so that the lazy person can survive.
THE POOR AND NEEDY: When the Jews entered the land of Canaan, each family of the 12 tribes was given a portion of the land as an inheritance, and Moses instructed them (through the Law) that the land was never to be sold, it was to be handed down to each succeeding generation within the same family. Consequently, each family would have some form of income by cultivation of the land, or livestock farming, thus making poverty non‑existent. God in His wisdom also gave specific instruction in the Law to control the amassing of huge properties which would allow the owners of such large properties to control the economy. The Law made provision for the Sabbath day ‑ a day of rest in seven days; there was also the Sabbatical Year during which the land, animals and workers were given a year of rest; and there was the Year of Jubilee (50th year) during which time the land was uncultivated and the property was returned to its original owner, if for some reason it had been forfeited <see Lev.25>. As a result of the failure of the people to obey these laws, God had to send His people into captivity to give the land its rest <see 2 Chron.36:20‑21>, and poverty became a way of life for some. In later years, our Lord Jesus said to His disciples in this context ‑ “the poor you will always have among you” <Matt.26:11>.
SOME CAUSES OF POVERTY: outright refusal to work <Prov.10:4>; love of pleasure <Prov.21:17>; undisciplined lives <Prov.13:18>; such are unable to maintain employment. “At the entrance of one of the great manufacturing plants in America is a sign that reads, “If you are like a wheelbarrow‑‑going no further than you are pushed‑‑you need not apply for work here!” A sign in another workplace reads: “If you do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, you should be here at quitting‑time.” Undisciplined lives lead to loss of employment and ultimate poverty! And further causes of poverty can be attributed to unwise financial dealings; mortgaging the house to finance those “get-rich-quick” schemes. Assuming debts larger than one’s ability to repay <Prov.22:7> which is very common in today’s society! Current news item: “Canadians continue to declare personal bankruptcy in record numbers”. People and events over which one has no control, allows injustice to sweep away one’s resources; wicked rulers and business people crush the less fortunate, seizing what little they possess, (high/excessive taxes, interest) <Prov.13:23; 18:23>. Oppression of the poor is condemned by God who respects both rich and poor showing no preference; therefore, believers should not show any preference in dealing with the rich or poor members of the community <Prov.14:31; 22:2>.
WAYS OF HELPING THE POOR AND NEEDY: do not “despise” or “put down” the poor <Prov.14:21>: do not exploit or rob the poor <Prov.22:22‑23>. Believers should strive for justice for the poor <Prov.29:7>; should judge fairly and defend the rights of the poor <Prov.31:9>. The Church Family has an obligation to help their own needy persons first <1 Tim.5:4, 8> and if we ignore the cries of the poor, God will ignore our prayers <Prov.21:13>.
What do the Scriptures say about the Rich? Is excessive wealth encouraged or discouraged? Wealth is neither encouraged nor discouraged, but the scriptures do comment on the way one handles riches and the manner in which one gains wealth. In dealing with this the Book of Proverbs speaks of “diligence” and “skillfulness” as distinguishing characteristics.
THE DILIGENT: Diligent – constant and earnest in effort and application; attentive and persistent in doing something. Skillful – ability or competence in an occupation, having had long experience, thus having acquired a high degree of proficiency; not being an amateur. Diligence leads to skillfulness, skillfulness eventually leads to wealth; that is, a skillful worker is able to earn more honestly. Diligent people are characterized by: DISCIPLINE; discipline of the inner person, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” <Prov.4:23 (NIV)>. Cultivation of the inner person through prayer and meditation on the Word of God, and submission to the will of God, produces the joy of a diligent and disciplined life. The discipline of diligent work produces the ability and character that others can trust; creating the opportunity for additional responsibility: examples ‑ Joseph in Egypt and David the shepherd. Wisdom is the principle behind diligence <Prov.4:7‑8>, and there is no substitute for hard work <Prov.10:4>. We must discipline ourselves for hard work so as to become more skillful. Diligent people plan their work and work their plan “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty…. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” < Prov.4:23; 16:3 (NIV)>. A successful job is not accomplished by accident, it requires planned disciplined work; the result may be surprising but hard work must be put into it, and God blesses honest hard work <Prov.13:11>. Honesty should be exhibited both in actions as well as words. DEBT‑CONSCIOUS: diligent people are careful not to incur debts they are unable to handle, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” <Prov.22:7 (NIV)>. In today’s world we can easily get into debt over our heads, especially those who are less fortunate. Demands far exceed our income when we consider the bare necessities of life ‑ rent, food and clothing. Therefore, it is imperative for us to be wise in respect to borrowing. Diligent budgeting is a MUST; we must confer with our spouses and carefully list our combined incomes and expenditures before using those easy‑to‑come‑by Credit Cards, or spending the Cash from our wallets and purses. Do not fall into the trap of WANTING more of material things, go for the NEEDS first. Above all discover the financial level God wants you to be living at and be CONTENT with it.
“Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.” <Prov.30:7-9 (NIV)>. Do not try to impress others by accumulating material things which cannot be afforded and must be put on credit, for which you will spend the rest of your working days paying. Our Lord and Heavenly Father knows that we His children have needs that must be met; but our most important task in this world is not to earn money. The most important thing for us is that God can trust us with money, being faithful and accountable in the way we use what He has given to us. “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” <Matt.6:32-33 (NIV)>
The real measure of our wealth “is how much we would be worth if we lost all our money” (John Henry Jowett). Character is more important than position, wisdom more than possessions <Prov.13:7>. Success in the business world is all-important to the young executives today, but be careful how we climb the “corporate ladder”!
The diligent HAVE A SENSE OF SECURITY: not in their possessions or income, but in their peace‑of‑mind before God. The righteous will flourish <Prov.11:28>; their peace is not purchased <Prov.15:16‑17> and their good name has not been bought <Prov.22:1>. The diligent ARE CAREFUL NOT TO BE PROUD “Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honour and life.” <Prov.22:4 (NIV)>. It will not be our ability or hard work that will make us rich. It will be the health and physical strength that God gives us that will enable us to accomplish anything in this life; and this leaves no room for pride or boasting. The diligent HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE TOWARD MONEY: a wrong attitude can wreck friendships and destroy homes, “A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live.” <Prov.15:27 (NIV)>. Those who think only of getting rich place more importance on money instead of people and principles, and the pursuit of riches causes neglect of family and friends. Many families have been destroyed and friends alienated because love has been replaced by expensive gifts. Let us therefore heed the wise advice of the King <Prov.8:10-11>.
Rich man, Poor man, Panhandler, Thief; none but one is condemned by God. The manner in which we become rich or live poor is governed by our relationship with God, the way we use our resources will display our love for our Lord; and wisdom can be found in all three of these types. The Thief and stealing are definitely condemned by God, this type is the only one that despises wisdom.
Get wisdom: do not forsake or despise wisdom though it cost all that you have <Prov.4:5-7>. “BE SKILLFUL”