For Richer or for Poorer

This continues a series on Proverbs & Money.

Proverbs 10:15
The rich man's wealth
is his fortress,
The ruin of the poor
is their poverty.

On the face of it, Solomon at times seems super-simplistic and redundantly obvious; almost Forest Gump-like. For the rich, membership certainly has its privileges, there is no denying that. The "silver spoon" often makes life's medicine a little easier to swallow. Conversely, the poor's lack of resources (knowledge, parental training, experience, etc.) often breeds more trouble. The question is repeatedly asked "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?" 1.

As clear as this proverb seems on it's face, I think it goes much deeper than the obvious differences in the external comforts between the rich and poor. It goes to the heart. There are two unique spiritual dangers present, regardless of the socio-economic polarities, but both are alike in that they are equally devastating. For the rich, the danger is helpfully defined in Proverbs 18:11 where Solomon repeats the phrase from above, "the rich man's wealth is his fortress". However, he further advises that this wealth is "like a high wall in his own imagination". When the rich imagines himself secure, he forgets God and the walls of safety vanish like a mirage. Conversely, the danger for the poor is that in the midst of their poverty, they turn to despair and curse God for their lot in life. Their internal response to poverty leads to ruin.

So, how should we respond? First, if you are literate and thus able to read this, make a note that you are in the "rich" category (a “rich” classification does not imply the need to be taxed any further)2. Second, be content regardless of what you have or don't have. Third, trust God, not your bank account, with your tomorrow and beyond, on the basis of Christ's atoning work alone. If you do, you will be able to say this prayer from Proverbs 30 as evidence of what we learned above: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the LORD?", or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God”.

(1) -"How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live" - This song was recorded by Blind Alfred Reed in New York, NY, 4 Dec 1929, shortly after the market crash that ushered in "The Great Depression".
My favorite stanza goes like this (some things never change):

Most all preachers preach for gold and not for souls,That's what keeps a poor man always in a hole.We can hardly get our breath,Taxed and schooled and preached to death --Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?

(2) In America, we generally don't experience poverty like the Bible writers or much of the world experience. We don't have the "hand to mouth" kind of poverty where one is living solely in search of next meal. Talk of such in America is what makes for a good politician and charitable fund-raising chairman, but is often not based in reality, or worse, it is not based in a heart of gratefulness.

See article by Robert E. Rector at http://www.heritage.org/research/welfare/bg2064.cfm. I noted the following from his studies:
"The typical American defined as "poor" by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigera­tor, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a micro­wave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had suffi­cient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.
But the living conditions of the average poor per­son should not be taken to mean that all poor Amer­icans live without hardship. There is a wide range of living conditions among the poor. Roughly a third of poor households do face material hardships such as overcrowding, intermittent food shortages, or difficulty obtaining medical care. However, even these households would be judged to have high liv­ing standards in comparison to most other people in the world."

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