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Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 – Materially poor but Spiritually rich

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favour is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all. ——- Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail. Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. ——- Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; for the Lord pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.


This is an optional Old Testament selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 18. If chosen, it will next be read aloud in an Episcopal church by a reader on Sunday September 9, 2018. It is important because Solomon’s wise mind was prophesying those who would become Apostles and Saints, through Jesus Christ.

The Hebrew Interlinear version of this proverb shows a mark of pause (a comma) in verse one. The Hebrew literally states:  rather to be chosen   a [good] name    riches   ,   than great    rather than silver    and gold    favor    loving .”

This can translate into conversational English as, “One should rather have a good reputation and the riches that comes with a good name  ,  rather than be great based on the favor bought with silver and gold .” That is somewhat in alignment with the translation above, but here is a caveat to consider:

God leads wise minds to write what God wants, in the order of wording God KNOWS will be viable in all languages, simply by keeping the words that came from God in God’s order. Each word is then God’s word and each word has purpose that needs to be pondered.

That premise should always be considered when pondering every Holy Scripture. However, verse one’s first word is a classic example of how this works.

The Hebrew word “niḇ·ḥār” translates as “rather to be chosen” (from “bachar”). Before one attaches this word to the following implication of a “[good] name,” the question becomes, “Who chooses who?” The answer is that one should rather be God’s chosen, than to not choose to let God choose one.

The good “name” that comes from being chosen by Yahweh is “Israelite.” One has the good name of Israel, meaning “God Strives,” as well as one “Strives for God.” One expert on Hebrew believes “Is-ra-el” means “He Will Be Prince With God.”

Jesus has a seat saved for all his Apostle-Saints.

This is a viable translation when one sees how each Israelite was supposed to be a priest married to God. That failed until Jesus Christ became that earthly Prince With God, offering himself up so his Apostles could have his [good] name, as Jesus Christ reborn. Therefore, the prophecy of Solomon was (paraphrasing): “It is better to be chosen by God to be reborn as Jesus Christ and reap the riches of the heavenly realm, than to have greatness on earth be chosen to be measured in precious metals.”

When one sees Solomon writing a proverb about Jesus Christ, channeling God (and not even knowing it wasn’t a song modeled after his great fortune), then all the rest falls into place nicely. One has to be chosen by God and that means a proposal of marriage. One has to then choose God by accepting His proposal, with love in one’s heart. That truly makes one a priest for God, such that one acts as the Son of God, speaking for the Father, with no concerns about oneself. One then becomes the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is seen in verse eight with the word “‘Av·lah,” which translates as “injustice,” but also “iniquity” and “unrighteousness.” Following the Hebrew word “zō·rê·a‘,” translated as “He who sows,” but equally stating, “He who plants seeds, give birth, or yields.”   That word is stating that one has not given birth to the presence of the Christ Spirit within (righteousness), instead giving birth to the opposite. The motivation is then to serve self and not God. The product of unrighteousness is the “calamity” or “sorrow,” as self will always come up short. This is due to the “rod” (also translatable as a shepherd’s “staff”) will turn self-failures against others, to no avail.  A bad shepherd will have that staff be the cause of his or her soul’s failure.

The opposite is then one who chooses God and becomes righteous. Rather than seeking to be selfish and demanding of others to give, one who is filled with the Christ Spirit will give and be “generous.” When verse nine states, “share their bread with the poor,” the aspect of “bread” (from “lechem”) is less about sharing morsels of physical bread [remembering the lesson of Jesus feeding the five thousand], but sharing the gifts of the Holy Spirit with those lacking it.

When one recalls the “riches” that come from choosing to serve God, and His having chosen one as His wife, one is not given plenty of extra foodstuffs to share. Certainly, sharing bread is a good deed, but sharing the Holy Spirit turns one from being impoverished spiritually to being another one chosen by God.

This act of sharing the Holy Spirit is furthered in verses twenty-two and twenty-three. When it says “not to rob the poor because they are poor,” it is saying not to keep God’s gift of the Holy Spirit for oneself. God gives it to one to share, so there is plenty to go around. The poor are those seeking to be filled, so to not serve God and give the riches that God has given one to give away, one would then be robbing the poor. Since an Apostle-Saint is oneself poor (without the Holy Spirit of God), to not pass on that gift would mean robbing oneself, returning one to an impoverished state of being.

The world is not through with this one.

When verse twenty-two says to not “crush the afflicted at the gate,” this is the story of poor Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). Jesus told that parable to the Pharisees because their responsibility (as priests and rabbis to Yahweh) was to feed the souls of the poor and the afflicted. Instead, they locked them out and let them die, wanting just the crumbs of bread that fell from the rich men’s tables.

When one shares with the poor and the afflicted, one goes to the one who have been outcast as a healing agent of God. All who God sends an Apostle to (to help) will be helped by God, not the messenger of God.

This is stated when verse twenty-three says, “Yahweh [the Lord] will fight [plead, strive] for their cause [of affliction].” If one has brought an affliction upon oneself, then God will bless that person with an epiphany. He or she can receive the Holy Spirit from realizing their faults and showing sincere penitence before God. Whether or not the affliction is removed [poverty will not be remedied by God giving gold and silver], one will learn to not let the affliction be an affliction upon their soul. Healing comes through salvation given by the Lord.

This is stated in verse twenty-three actually stating, “and plunder them those who plunder the soul of.” The Hebrew word “nephesh” means “soul.” The word translated as “plunder or despoils” is “qaba ,” is actually another form of an act “to rob.”  When a “soul” is “robbed,” the only one who can “plunder” a soul is oneself, led by selfish egotism. This repeating of “despoils” twice (“ve·ka·Va’ ‘et-koe·’ei·Hem) then presents this robbing in two ways.

The body is not the self. The self is the soul within the body.

First, by opening one’s heart to Yahweh, one has to plunder one’s own self-ego [death before resurrection].  No one external to self can harm or remove one’s soul, even if the physical body is placed in jeopardy. This despoiling of soul-self means, second, that God can plunder the evils that have misled one’s soul. Evil influences act in the opposite way as do the holy influences of God.  Removing self eliminates the evil influences, so God is willing to give His world to all His wives, but His wives must pay the dowry of sacrifice first.

As an Old Testament selection for the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry for the LORD should be underway – one has chosen to serve God and take on the good name of Christ – the message is to help the poor. To grasp that in the deepest levels of understanding, one has to admit one is poor, as this will help recognizing another who is poor. To be poor, one has to sell everything one possesses and give to the poor, so one can follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

The greatest failure Christianity faces is found in its pride as a charitable institution. Americans boast of being the most giving nation on earth. Unfortunately, donations of money do little more than make the organizations of Mammon rich; taking advantage of poor Christians that are trying to share their bread with the world, while they struggle with that never-ending load to bear. In addition to giving money to the poor, churches pull out the violin of sorrow and remind their congregations of their financial needs.

A true Christians [defined by what Jesus said to the rich, young Pharisee (Luke 18:18-21;  Matthew 19:16-30Mark 10:17-31)] has no things of value, because clinging to earthly possessions is a selfish endeavor. When one gives everything away, one is worldly poor. Of course, God does not plan on making one worthless, as God’s Spiritual riches includes what one needs to get by … and still have a loaf of bread to share with someone who seeks to come ask, “I know you are as poor as me, but how do you always have a smile and time to share with people?”

Being chosen by God means one has chosen to take a leap of faith. God never fails to provide a safety net to those who take that leap to serve Him.

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