The Bible in a Year. 3 August.

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this, and also my introduction to the Proverbs.

3 August. Proverbs chapters 24-26

From today’s reading I will take one saying found in 24:10-12:

“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength being small; if you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death, those who go staggering to the slaughter; if you say, ‘Look, we did not know this’—does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?”

In this interconnected world of ours, we have no excuse these days of “we did not know this”.  Every day our screens show us some of the worst things that are happening in the world, whether it is a ‘natural’ famine or flood (which is probably exacerbated by human-induced climate change anyway), or wars or terrorism, or political decisions such as oppression of minorities.  For every one brought to us by the BBC or Facebook, there are many more that we can find out about easily, if we want to, through the humanitarian agencies who do their bit to alleviate human suffering.

But in the words of Harari, “there are no longer any natural famines, only political ones”.  In other words, humanity has the power to feed the world, to virtually eradicate most diseases, to put down weapons and invest in peace.  It is only the sin of human pride that spends money instead on armaments and vanity projects.

It is not only at a national level that this applies.  St Paul was quoting Proverbs 25:21-22 when he wrote to the Romans “If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads.”  If it is no excuse to say “we did not know”, it is also no excuse to say of those suffering close to home “they are not ours”.  For we are all God’s children, and whatever we have is given to us to help others.


The Bible in a Year – 2 August

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this, and also my introduction to the Proverbs.

2 August. Proverbs chapters 22-23.

The first part of chapter 22 finishes the “one-liner” sayings of Solomon that we have looked at over the last few days.  The remainder of today’s reading is headed “Sayings of the wise” and the main thrust of this section of the book is about living in moderation, and avoiding excess. There are particular warnings for those who move in the circles of the rich and powerful (23:1-5/20-21) and of the dangers of drunkenness (23:29-35). The wise person should live a frugal lifestyle, not seek power and wealth, and avoid addictions.

There are also warnings for those who, by contrast, associate with the poor (22:22-23). Poor people are not to be taken advantage of, as they have God’s favour. But they are not idealised here: among the poor are those who are given to anger and fail to repay loans (22:24-27), and those who offer hospitality only out of convention and not genuine friendship (23:6-7).  The wise person has to distance themselves from such “foolish” behaviour (in the Biblical sense of the word).

What can Christians today learn from this? There has been much talk in the Church in recent decades of God’s bias to the poor”, and much condemnation of corporate greed and personal riches. But if we take these proverbs seriously, we need to be aware of the sins that so often go with poverty as well as those which are fuelled by wealth.

Jesus was known for associating with anyone: rulers and rich people, farmers and fishermen, beggars and prostitutes.  He enjoyed the hospitality he was offered, but as far as we know did not get drunk.  He lived as a single man, probably with single women among his disciples, but as far as we know remained celibate. He had no money to lend, but gave sacrificially of his time and healing powers. He sent his disciples out with the good news of the coming Kingdom, reliant on the hospitality of others, but told them to shake the dust off their feet when it was not forthcoming.

So the lesson seems to be, for your own benefit seek out the company of people who live decently.  They might be rich or poor, that does not matter, as long as they are not seeking to take advantage of you and do not threaten your safety or moral welfare.

But when it comes to the mission of that Church, like that of Jesus, then risks do have to be taken in order to take the Gospel to everyone.  No wonder Jesus told his disciples to be “as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves”, In other words, watch out for the dangers posed by people at all levels of society, but give them the benefit of the doubt in the name of Christ.