6 September 2016Proverbs 3:1-26
“Honour the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce.” (v. 9)
Psalm: Psalm 149:1-5
As we read through the book of Proverbs we are encouraged continually that to learn from the Lord and become wise will bring blessing, while being reminded of the fate that awaits the foolish and the wicked (verse 25). Perhaps this was the writer's experience, or hope, yet so many other parts of the prophetic writings in the Bible acknowledge that this is not the case (for example, Psalm 73:3). Binary outcomes and simple ideas of reward and punishment are not wise, as Scripture tells us on many occasions, though perhaps ambiguously. Of more interest, to the writer and to us, is how we live, again, as with Sunday's passage, this is to do with choice and commitment.
In choosing today's verse it may be impossible to escape the idea that the one who honours the Lord is therefore wealthy and blessed with "produce". This is an idea that we should not promote. Nevertheless, in the absence of more direct reference to 'the heart', this can be taken as physical (economic) shorthand for the fullness of one's being, as it is driven by what lies behind the action or attitude. It is certainly exactly the kind of outlook that we see in John Wesley's message about practical piety and wise (spiritual) use of resources.
It is tempting to isolate today's verse from the associated ideas and the reward that is its consequence in the next verse (verse 10). Urging those whose attention is towards God to translate that devotion into good use of material resources is surely a deeper appeal than suggesting an extravagant return from God - though people need encouragement, if it is to be realistic. What we must also bear in mind, if we haven't already, is those who do not have wealth, strikingly covered by a verse outside today's passage - "Do not say to your neighbour, 'Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it'-when you have it with you" (Proverbs 3:28). If you are concerned about using our resources for the benefit of those who are poor, consider applying for a Methodist Action on Poverty and Justice Grant.
- How do you read passages which tell of believers prospering and "the wicked" being punished?
- What kinds of personal, scriptural appeal have the most impact on you?