Monday, August 31st Proverbs 22:1-2

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all. Proverbs 22:1-2

Two women immediately come to mind as I read these verses. Marie Antoinette, queen of France during the French Revolution who reportedly said, upon hearing that people were starving because there was no bread for them to eat, “Then let them eat cake.”

And my mother. Once, when visiting me in the seminary, I took her on the tour of the 36,000 sq. ft. James J. Hill house in St. Paul. As the tour guide explained the intricacies of the magnificent main staircase which had been built by hand in Europe, my mom reached over and whispered, “Yeah, and they probably made a few pennies per hour.”

And here I am in the middle. On the one hand, I am vastly wealthy compared to ½ of the world’s population that lives on less than $2 a day; and, on the other, I remain a child of American-style poverty, intimidated by and mistrustful of the wealthy.

So these verses are helpful in the sense that they are a great leveler of the playing field. As coaches say around the world, “They put their pants on one leg at a time just like you do.” (Assuming they have pants to put on.)

According to the Christian faith (and we ought never forget how revolutionary this idea was from the beginning of the Christian movement) there is no particular righteousness in being rich, nor is there any particular curse inherent to being poor. People find themselves on either end of the rich/poor continuum for all sorts of reasons from choosing the right parents or being born in the right country to dreaming up something brand new that accrues great value.

The spiritual significance lies not in the end but in the means and then, in the end, what we do with our means.

We so often get this wrong. We think, for instance, that the goal of business is making money for owners, shareholders and employees. But that is merely a by-product of the goal of doing business. The godly goal of business is to provide needed goods and services to others through harnessing the gifts and hard work of those creating those goods and services. It is about being useful, helpful, for the sake of the world. About trading what I have and can do for what I need that I cannot gain on my own.

The real Christian values inherent in our economic life are things like hard work, ingenuity, courage, ambition, creativity, honesty, doing our best and concern for the effects of our actions on others. Those are measures of character, not numbers in a bank account or balance sheet.

The writer of Proverbs knew that a long time ago. We would do well to learn it again.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you have planted us in a world uniquely designed to make life possible, abundant with all the resources necessary to sustain our lives. And yet there are great and ever-growing divides between those who have too much and those who have too little. Keep us mindful of our blessings and teach us to be good stewards of your gifts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

4 Responses to “Monday, August 31st Proverbs 22:1-2”

  1. CJ Says:

    Thank -you, as a Massachusetts resident with One Senator for my entire life:
    Today’s Daily Devotion could not have come at better time.
    I have always considered my life blessed nothing all rich and fancy, just a comfortable life with what I consider many blessings.
    Now I know that ” those blessings”: are actually my riches!
    “To those whom much is given, much is expected”.
    I have many changes to make in my life, time to stop thinking about it and do something about it!
    Thank-You for the guidance I so need at this time to stay on the right track to finding my service to my community!

  2. Rich Bryne Says:

    A fitting indictment to the American culture that consists of 2% of the world’s population and consumes 22% of the world’s resources. And at that, we continue to allow our population to soar thru births and immigration, denying the less fortunate in other areas of the world a chance to obtain any reasonable quality of life. We have so much to learn and to give. Can we share?

    • SR Johnson Says:

      Do we really “consume” those resources, or do we instead utilize those resources to create goods an services that are used the world over and create the mechanism for improving the lives of all. That is what I get from Pastor Kerry’s statement of being in between, as so many of us in this country are. So rise up, go forth and do for your brothers and sisters. Can we share? I think we most certainly do.

  3. Mary G Says:

    I’m reflecting on the purpose of big business as the products of my company are going the way of the buggy whip. I pray that a new complement of products will enable me to continue to work for a company that has allowed me the luxury of living in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood and my children have clothing and food to eat. Amen.

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