Practical Righteousness Part III
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to the book of Proverbs. We have been studying in this portion of the Word of God for some time, following the natural divisions into which the book falls. At the present time we are in the section of the book which began with chapter 25 and will conclude with chapter 29. We have designated this portion as The Gleanings of Hezekiah's Men . For the last several weeks we have been discussing with you what we have found in chapter 28, which deals with practical righteousness.

We gave you a very simple definition of practical righteousness: righteousness in practice. Because the verses in this chapter are not presented categorically, we suggested to you that Practical Righteousness and the Nation would be taught in this chapter; also Practical Righteousness and the Individual, P ractical Righteousness and the Rich and the Poor .

We suggested that it would be wise to take the verses which dealt with those individual subjects and deal with them in that fashion. We have already noticed Practical Righteousness and the Nation . We have noticed Practical Righteousness and the Individual . We now want to notice Practical Righteousness and the Rich and the Poor .

Practical Righteousness and the Rich and the Poor

Since this is the last lecture on this chapter which deals with the rich and the poor, we will not read the entire passage, but we will deal with each verse individually as we come to it.

I suggested to you that we would think about the practical righteousness in the lives of the rich and the poor, their associations one with the other. Immediately upon my saying that, you are aware that we are dealing with a very broad section of society if we refer to the rich and the poor without any qualifications whatsoever. As a matter of fact, this chapter does not present practical righteousness in relation to the rich and the poor without any qualification; so if we are to understand what we are talking about, I think we need to notice the qualifications which are presented in the chapter itself. I am going to suggest that you notice the rich presented in the word here as the opportunist, not a man who received his wealth by hard labor, not a man who receives his wealth by legitimate means, but an individual who is described in I Timothy, chapter 6, as an individual who wills to be rich no matter what God may think about it. No matter whom he might have to harm in order to be rich, no matter whose life he might have to step upon, he wills to be rich and he will be rich whether or no. That is the rich person who is presented in this chapter. I would like for you to keep that in mind because I might not remember to mention it every time we consider some particular statement about the rich.

The poor who is presented in this chapter is the individual who is described in chapter 30 of the book of Proverbs. This poor person is not a poverty-stricken individual. He is not an individual who is in need of a great deal of help. He is an individual who is poor in contrast to the individual who has an unlimited amount of money. Notice, chapter 30, verse 8:

Proverbs 30:

8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches…

Notice that statement: “…give me neither poverty nor riches…” The individual who is called the poor person here is the individual who is between these two words poverty and riches . The wise man goes on to say the reason for this. Notice:

Proverbs 30:

8 …feed me with food convenient for me:
9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

The individual who is full is the individual who leaves God out of his life. He has all that he needs. The individual who is poor is an individual who is in such a pathetic state that he might be tempted to steal or even curse God, but the poor person who is described in this chapter is the individual who has been fed with food convenient for him; that is, every need that he has has been met in a moderate way. This individual has a relationship to God; the rich man has a relationship to God; they both have a relationship one to the other.

I think it would be wise for us to recognize the right perspective in regard to these two classes of people as it is brought to our attention in chapter 28, verse 19:

Proverbs 28:

19 He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.

When we speak of rich people, we do not mean the kind of people who have everything just dumped into their laps, or who rob or plunder in order to have what they have. When we speak of individuals who are poor, we are not speaking of individuals who have brought that poverty upon themselves. We recognize that rich and poor people are what they are because of the way that they handle that which has been entrusted to their care.

The first statement, “He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread…” suggests to us that by and large there is no real reason for anybody not having all that he actually needs. We recognize in the last statement, “he that followeth after vain person shall have poverty enough,” the vain person represents that class of people which brings poverty upon themselves, even though they are ready to blame everybody else for it.

I like the Living Bible rendering of that verse. It reads: “Hard work brings prosperity. Playing around brings poverty.” We are fortunate to live in the land in which we live whereby this verse can be true. Hard word brings prosperity—not necessarily unlimited riches, but prosperity. Playing around brings poverty. Many of the individuals today who are looking for a handout are individuals who have brought that poverty on themselves. Even though this is true, practical righteousness in the heart and life of an individual, will become evident in the area of material goods, and this chapter deals with that practical righteousness from several standpoints.

Blessings of the Poor and the Curse of the Rich

I would like for you to notice what is brought to our attention in regard to the blessings of the poor and the curse of the rich. The poor are able to enjoy a certain amount of blessings that the rich will never have the opportunity of enjoying, and the reason is their status or their very place in life itself. For example, if you will look at verse 6, you will find the first comparison and contrast that I want you to notice with me. There you read:

Proverbs 28:

6 Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

Two words that might fix the truth of these words in your heart are the words purity and perverseness —the purity of the poor and the perverseness of the rich. In case we are misled by those two words, particularly the word purity , in the sense that poor people are innately pure, I would like for you to notice a phrase in verse 6: “…the poor walketh in uprightness…,” and suggest to you that in the relationship of the context this speaks of a clean conscience. It is better for a man to be in his own poverty, knowing that his conscience is clean and that he has done nothing that is contrary to the will of God to obtain what he has, than to have all the wealth in the world and have a conscience that condemns.

The beauty of a clean conscience is described for us in I John. I would like for you to notice this because this matter of an uncondemning conscience can determine the effectiveness of your spiritual life. Perhaps your uncondemning conscience is not necessarily involved in the matter of how you got what you have, but the uncondemning conscience is vital to fellowship. Notice I John, chapter 3, verses 20-22:

I John 3:

20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

The individual who fails to obey the Word of God is not walking in fellowship. He does not have any confidence toward God when he prays because every time he comes in the presence of God, his conscience is pointing an accusing finger at him.

Because riches are so often involved with things that are unethical, the Spirit of God is emphasizing here that it is better for a man to be poor in the sense that we have presented to you and have a clear conscience than to have tremendous wealth and a condemning conscience.

The condemning conscience is described, among other places, in the book of Romans, chapter 2. Turn there, please, and notice the exact wording of the text because it seems to me to be vividly presented in the language in the text itself. We will begin reading with verse 14:

Romans 2:

14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

This verse of Scripture, it seems to me, describes a man who is in a state of restlessness because of a guilty conscience. The words thoughts and conscience in this verse are in apposition one with the other. The restlessness is described in the statement, “accusing or else excusing.” How many men, because their consciences are not clean before the Lord in the light of the Word of God, are living in this state of turmoil? One moment their conscience is accusing them; the next moment their conscience is excusing them through the process of rationalization so that there is no real peace.

The Spirit of God is saying here that if you have to choose between wealth and poverty—wealth with a condemning conscience, poverty with a clean conscience—you will be much better off without the wealth because oftentimes wealth and practical righteousness do not go hand-in-hand.

Pride and Perception

Go back to Proverbs, chapter 28, and notice another verse which presents another description of the relationship that exists between poverty and riches. This time I would like for you to notice verse 11:

Proverbs 28:

11 The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.

In this verse we have contrasted pride and perception. The rich man is hindered by his pride and consequently cannot look at things clearly and logically. The poor man does not have his pride to contend with and so his perception is clearer. The Lord Jesus Christ gave illustrations of this in the Word, and I would like for us to turn to one of them which is found in Luke, chapter 12. You will recognize a familiar story of a rich man who was blinded by his own conceit. He had absolutely no perception of any description whatsoever. Notice the paragraph beginning with verse 15, where the Lord Jesus said:

Luke 12:

15 Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

If we pause and underline that one statement in our memory, it would be something to carry with us constantly. Remember, especially in these days when man has his mind centered on material things, that life does not consist in the abundance of that which you possess. In verse 16, we read:

Luke 12:

16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

This is a perfect illustration of a rich man, blind in his own conceit. God had prospered him. He said, “What am I going to do with all that I have?” Utterly blind to the needs of those about him, all that he could think of was to build other barns to store that which he had and take life easy for the rest of his days. God said to him, “You are a fool. You are lacking in perception and you are lacking in understanding. Your soul will be required of you and then what will you have for what you have earned?” Men who are proud and wise in their own conceit and blinded by pride face this problem continually.

We pointed out to you a contrast. We spoke to you about pride and perception. In contrast to a rich man who is full of pride is the poor man who is blessed with perception. The Lord Jesus Christ described that poor man blessed with perception in this same chapter, beginning with verse 22. Notice what he said:

Luke 12:

22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought [anxious thought] for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?

Again, the emphasis is upon anxious thought. How can you with anxious thought add one cubit to your height? You can't. How can you by anxious thought even provide for your material needs? You can't. We read in verse 27:

Luke 12:

27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
30 For all these things do the nations of the world [the unsaved constantly seeking that which does not satisfy] seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
31 But [exercise your preception] rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

This passage of Scripture the Lord Jesus Christ presented to His disciples because the end of the age was approaching, and it has application to us in a special way in the light of the end of the age. If you begin with verse 35 and read on through verse 40, you will recognize that we who are living in the end of the age, when the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ is very, very near, need to recognize the importance of the perception of which we speak.

Go back to Proverbs, chapter 28, verse 11, because I want to share with you another rendering of this verse which gives us an added thought:

Proverbs 28:

11 The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.

The Living Bible renders that verse: “Rich men are conceited, but their real poverty is evident to the poor.” This is a suggestion concerning the perception that poor men who are righteous have. They recognize that a great many times all that a rich man has is his riches. They are spiritually poor, and it might behoove those of us who are perceptive, regardless of our material state in life, to recognize the poverty of people who are putting all of their dependence in riches, and recognizing what their real need is and doing something about it. Oftentimes we, too, are blinded by that which can be bought with money and we feel that certain people have everything when they might be the most needy people with whom we have ever come in contact.

Abounding Blessings and Lack of Innocence

Another suggestion in this series of comparisons and contrasts is brought to our attention in verse 20:

Proverbs 28:

20 A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.

We suggest abounding blessings and lack of innocence as a comparison and a contrast between these two classes of people. The faithful man in verse 20, must be interpreted in the light of the man described in verse 19, where we read:

Proverbs 28:

19 He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread…

The word faithful, in verse 20 comes from the Hebrew word emoonaw which may be translated by the words steady worker . We could read, “A steady worker shall abound with blessing, but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.”

Speaking of diligence, we need to recognize the difference between diligence and making haste. The blessings which are described in this chapter come from a Hebrew word which actually speaks of prosperity, so you see we are still dealing with our same subject. A steady worker can expect to be prosperous and not have any real worry along with it. The individual, however, who maketh haste to be rich finds himself in an entirely different state because, as our verse says, he is not innocent.

This phrase, “maketh haste,” comes from one very short Hebrew word which to me is very significant. It is a Hebrew word that speaks of a man under pressure. You see, we are not speaking against diligence. We are not speaking about using the abilities that God has given you to improve your status in life; we are speaking about the man whom we qualified in the very beginning of our discussion. Here is an individual who makes haste to be rich in the sense that he is under constant pressure to the point almost of a breakdown. When he discovers his victory in his wealth, it is a short victory because we read in verse 20 that he shall not be innocent.

Here the word innocent is not used in the same fashion as was the word conscience which we were thinking about a moment or two ago. This word innocent comes from the Hebrew word naqah, which in other places in the Word of God is translated by the word free . A man who is under pressure to gain his wealth, when he has gained it, will not find himself a free man. He will be tied down by that which he gained.

I do not think it is necessary for me to take the time to give you illustrations of people perhaps whom you know. I have had some among my acquaintances through the years who have been trapped in the slavery of wealth. They were under great pressure to accumulate their wealth, and after they accumulated it, they were chained by it because there was the constant responsibility of being sure they didn't lose it. I have had individuals tell me at different times that they would give all that they had now for the peace of mind they had before they ever attained it.

The Rich Opportunist has an Evil Eye

In verse 22, we have another suggestion about the opportunist. This time it is not a matter of comparison and contrasts between the rich man and the poor man, but a simple statement about the rich opportunist whom we have called to your attention before. Look at verse 22:

Proverbs 28:

22 He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.

Again, we emphasize that we are not talking about an ordinary rich man but an individual who hastens to be rich, leaving everything proper undone in order that he might accumulate that which he has set his heart upon. The Spirit of God describes him first as having an evil eye. Of course, you have had presented to you in various pieces of literature references to the evil eye. In most instances, it describes a curse that is placed upon an individual, but we notice what the Word has to say about the evil eye so that you might recognize what the Spirit of God is actually talking about. An evil eye describes a man who is one of evil design. Look at Proverbs, chapter 23, verse 6, and perhaps you will call to mind that we noticed this evil eye when we were given advice concerning the company we keep. Notice, as we read:

Proverbs 23:

6 Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
8 The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.

The man with an evil eye has an evil design on you. Indeed, he may invite you into his home to eat and he may flatter you in many ways, but it is only that he might accomplish his own purposes.

The Lord Jesus Christ had something to say about the evil eye and describes it as an indication of greed in the human heart. Turn, please, to Matthew, chapter 20, and notice verse 15. The Lord Jesus Christ had just told a parable about how a man hired laborers and how he paid them and how the laborers criticized the man for the manner of payment. The man who did the paying said:

Matthew 20:

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

If we had time to read the parable and examine that statement in the light of the context, you would see that the man spoken to is a man who is full of greed. The reason that he is objecting about the wages which he has been paid is that he has a greedy heart. An individual with an evil eye is marked by evil design. He is marked by greed, and he is characterized by having a wicked heart, because it is impossible to have an evil eye without having a wicked heart. Thus you can see the application of practical righteousness in our discussion.

Turn, please, to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 7. In verse 22, our evil eye is mentioned again. I think it might be wise to begin with the verse that introduces this paragraph that we might be able to understand it better. In verse 17, we read:

Mark 7:

17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

God is suggesting in the passage of Scripture that the man with an evil eye has a wicked heart, else his eye could not be evil.

Go back to Proverbs, chapter 28, and notice something else that is suggested by this opportunist that we are considering, for if you will look at verse 22, you will notice:

Proverbs 28:

22 He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, [now notice] and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.

This opportunist is not only afflicted with an evil eye in the sense that we have been considering together, but he has a false sense of security. He does not know that this that he has will not last forever. Notice the statement, “…he does not know that poverty shall come upon him.” There is something about the riches which are his that have so deceived him that he thinks they are his forever and no one can ever take them away from him, that never will he lose them.

He is forgetting the truth that is emphasized in verse 8, that God has a way of taking things away from individuals when He feels they have gone far enough. In verse 8, we read:

Proverbs 28:

8 He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.

The suggestion is that the individual who does not handle carefully that which God has given to him, will find it taken away from him and given to somebody who will handle it properly.

The Living Bible renders this verse: “Income from exploiting the poor will end up in the hands of someone who has pity upon the poor.” God, even from men who are not born-again believers, has appointed them stewards of what he has given them. They are responsible to Him, and He will demand an accounting some day.

Give to the Poor and Suffer not Lack

The last thought that I want to leave with you in these series of comparisons and contrasts is presented in verse 27:

Proverbs 28:

27 He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.

All material blessings bring with them responsibility. The responsibility of material blessings is always related to those who are less fortunate than we are. This passage of Scripture reminds us that we have alternatives presented. We can give to those less fortunate if we wish, or we can hide our eyes from the needs of the poor, if that is what we want to do. It is entirely up to us.

God has given promise that if we give to the poor, we will not lack. If we hide our eyes from the needs of the poor, we shall have many a curse—that is, we can expect many misfortunes. The reason that we can be absolutely safe in giving to the poor and not suffering lack thereby is that this same portion of the Word of God reminds us that he that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord. Individuals who hide their eyes from the needs of others can expect the chastening hand of God to rest upon them.

In verse 24, we have the extent to which a man will go in hiding his eyes from the needs of others if that is his bent. Notice verse 24:

Proverbs 28:

24 Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer.

You might justify in any number of ways robbing other people. That is taking what belongs to them and making it your own, but the individual who would rob his father and his mother and say, “I haven't done anything wrong. I had it coming to me,” God puts him in the proper category. He says, “He is a companion to the destroyer,” not a companion of a destroyer, but a companion to the destroyer. The destroyer is none other than the Devil himself, so He puts him in his right company.

Conclusion

The Apostle Paul takes up this same truth in his letter to Timothy, and reminds us as believers that a man who does not make provision for his own household is worse than an infidel. We have responsibilities in connection with material things, and in this chapter, if you are the poor person in the sense that we described, being conveniently taken care of, you are much better off than the rich man who does not get his riches because of the blessings of God upon his life, but because he pressures himself into being rich regardless of the lives that he steps on, regardless of the lives he has ruined. That man is in a far worse state than you can imagine. There is a blessing in being in the center of God's will.


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