Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 19:17
"One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed"
Solomon points out that the universe is much larger than just the dimensions and realities that we can perceive with our five senses. There are reactions and interactions that take place in the spiritual realm that need to be taken into account. Too often in our day and age even Christians act like this world is all there is. We are practicing materialists, living and making decisions as though this world is all there is.
Believers in God must fully embrace the whole universe that God has placed us in. This means we must remember God's presence and interactions with us. We need to realize that there are spiritual beings called angels and demons. We need to act with the realization that people are spirit, soul, and body. We need to project our decisions and actions out to how they will play on judgment day. All these and much more create a more honest, real, and fully orbed view of the world in which we live.
In his proverb, Solomon is trying to get people to realize that some things that don't make sense on a purely economic level in this world make perfect sense when the larger, fully-orbed universe is factored into the economic occasion. Being gracious would be extending favor or help to the poor man who will probably not be able to pay you back. If you are counting on the poor man to pay you back, then you know that what you give is gone. But this is a chance, Solomon says, to test how much you really believe in God. Are you willing to give real money or real time or real energy to a poor man knowing that the only being who could possibly give you any return on investment is God?
Solomon is giving this investment strategy that is supernatural in its scope.
This is the Hebrew word hanan, which means to grant a favor, to be gracious, pity. Usually there is an element in the graciousness in which the person is not deserving or not in a place where they have any leverage to demand what they graciously receive.
There are all kinds of ways to grant a favor to a poor man: employment, change, physical help, shelter.
This is the Hebrew word dal, which means poor; lacking in material wealth; in many cases it means the lowest of the low, lacking even basic means of existence.
It is this group that lacks any type of leverage and even the basic issues of life, Solomon says one can help and in that way lend to the Lord. God is encouraged to pay back the grace extended to those who have no means to pay it back for themselves.
There are a few kinds of poor in the Scriptures and within Christian thinking: There are those who have been made poor by circumstances beyond their control; these are usually typified by widows and orphans. There are also those who have been made poor by their own choices; this would be typified by fools and prisoners. One is still enjoined to help and be gracious to this type of person, but the help is in a different form. It is much more controlled and boundaried. It is important to realize that as if God gives one the ability to gain abundance above what one would need to live, then a new responsibility grows to be gracious to those to whom God is teaching different lessons. The fully-orbed believers do not have the freedom to isolate themselves in a world of the rich and powerful. They live in a world in which God rules over all, and they are one small part of God's integrated society. The abundance that they are being given cannot be completely consumed on themselves. There are reasons why God has allowed them to pile up resources. Some of it is to be gracious givers to the poor.
This is the Hebrew word shalom, which is the famous Jewish word for peace. It also has in its meaning that of a recompense. The translators wanted to emphasize the recompense idea as it clearly fits with this verse, but one should not overlook the fact that God is saying He will be at peace with the one who does this good deed. He will recompense the person who does this.
This is the Hebrew word gemul, which means recompense. It is clear here that God says, through Solomon, that being generous to the poor is a good deed. There is often a huge focus on the personal responsibility of those who are poor to begin to control their choices and this is true, but it is also true that those who have abundance need to control their choices as well. They need to share the abundance that God has given them with those who have not had the same amount of opportunities as they have. This is a good deed. The Apostle Paul picks up this theme in 1 Timothy 6 when he says that those who are wealthy need to be generous.