Better is the poor that walks in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.…
He who is truly humble before his God will be sweet, kind, and peaceable in his relations to men.
I. THE ATTRIBUTES OF THIS LIFE. (Vers. 1-3.)
1. It is the life of innocence, in the seeking to have a conscience "void of offence toward God and toward men." This makes poverty rich and privation blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is for such. The consciousness of being dear to God is the true wealth of the soul; the sense of being alienated from him darkens and distresses even amidst wealth and luxury. In addition to this, let us recollect the paradox of the apostle, "Poor, yet making many rich." It is such lives that have indeed enriched the world.
2. It is the life of thoughtfulness.
3. It is the life of content.
II. ITS TRIALS AND CONSOLATIONS.
1. It often incurs the coldness of the world (ver. 4). A man who goes down in the scale of wealth finds, in the same degree, the circle of ordinary acquaintances shrink.
2. But there is consolation - a sweetness even in the heart of this bitter experience, for the soul is thrown the more entirely upon God. When friends, when even father and mother forsake, the Lord takes up. Deus meus et omnia! We are naturally prone to rely more upon man than upon God; and have to rewrite upon our memories the old biblical maxim, "Put not your trust in man." Poverty may separate us from so called friends, but "who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
III. THE REPULSIVE CONTRAST TO THIS LIFE. A victim of vice and moral poverty amidst outward wealth.
1. Folly and untruth. (Ver. 1.) The words and the thoughts are interchangeable. The godless, selfish rich man's life is a living lie. The outward parts of Dives and Lazarus are in the sight of Heaven reversed.
2. Thoughtless rashness. (Ver. 2.) The "making haste to be rich," so strong a passion of our day, may be chiefly thought of. But any excessive eagerness of ambitious desire, or sensual pleasure which blinds the soul to thought, and indisposes for serious reflection, comes under this head. But the unreflective life is neither safe nor happy. It is to such thoughtless ones the solemn warning comes, "Thou fool! thy soul shall be required of thee."
3. Murmuring discontent. (Ver. 3.) The source of the vicious kind of discontent is a conscience at war with itself, and perversely mistaking the true nature of the satisfaction it needs. The "Divine discontent" which springs from the sense of our inward poverty carries in it the seed of its own satisfaction. It is the blessed hunger and thirst which shall be fed.
4. False social relations. (Ver. 4.) Of the friends made by riches it is true that "riches harm them, not the man" (Bishop Hall). And the great man lives amidst illusions; and, in moments of insight, doubts whether among the obsequious crowd there be a heart he can claim as his own. In such an atmosphere, false witness and lies, in all their forms of scandal, slander, destruction, spring up (ver. 5). It is a hollow life, and the fires of judgment murmur beneath it. Yet the fulsome flattery which rises like a cloud of incense before the rich man, and the throng of easily bought "friends," still hide from him the true state of the case. Well may Divine Wisdom warn of the difficulty which attends the rich man's entrance into the kingdom. Here there are great lessons on compensation. God hath set the one thing over against the other, to the end that we should seek nothing after him (Ecclesiastes 7:14). The gentle and humble poor may convert their poverty into the fine gold of the spirit; while the rich man too dearly buys "position" at the expense of the soul. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.