“Much food (increase) is in the fallow ground of the poor, And for lack of justice there is waste.” (Proverbs 13:23)
Last week I had a thought provoking comment from one of our readers. He thoughtfully pointed out that the last half of Proverbs 13:23 reveals that “the poor among us are usually exposed to loss and wastage because of injustice (v. 23b)” You and I know that to be true, but I was troubled by the possible implications.
Jesus said that the poor would always be with us. Solomon tells us that he who gives to the poor, lends to the Lord and the Lord will repay. Paul and the other apostles were also deliberate and mindful to help the poor. James said that the poor in this world are rich in faith. All this to say, that the poor are not to be disregarded or disrespected. They should be helped – even generously. And I would suggest that one of the best ways to help the poor is to lead them out of poverty, not just write them a check. Both are needed, but the first is more needful in the long term.
Having said that, are the poor destined to remain poor due to injustice? After all, it is often true that poor people pay higher interest rates, higher rent per square foot for housing, higher medical costs at emergency rooms, etc. So I decided to seek the Lord and study the Hebrew on this. Here is what I found…
The word often translated as injustice or lack of justice in this verse is the Hebrew word “mishpat” which is derived from “shawfat” (Strongs 8199) which means to judge, but in its broader meaning, it means to govern. A more literal interpretation of this verse would read… “Abundance of food is in the tillage of the poor but it is swept away and consumed by lack of judgment or governance.”
Think about that… the loss of resources or lack of success can often be attributed to our own lack of judgment or lack of personal governance. We are talking about personal responsibility here! The context of the preceding verse (Proverbs 13:22) bears this out by contrasting those with good judgment and governance with the sinner who has none. It points out that a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. Verse 23 is simply a continuation of the same idea.
This is not to say there’s no injustice in the world because that abounds, but when properly understood, this verse urges personal responsibility for a way out of our condition. We are not responsible for what circumstance we arrived in, in this world, but we are responsible for how we respond to those circumstances.
We suffer loss many times, not because of injustice but rather because of our own poor judgment or refusal to govern ourselves and our spending, etc. We suffer loss sometimes because we refuse to throw off the yoke of injustice and prefer to remain a victim. Others just accept their condition as their lot in life, but it need not be. Still others want out, but don’t know the path to success. That is what this site is all about. Leading the way out.
So here’s the deal… If you want to get great increase from your fallow ground (and we all have plenty of that), you must FIRST take personal responsibility for how you have responded to whatever circumstance you are in. Where have you lacked good judgment? Where did you proceed without even asking God to give you His judgment, His perspective, His great wisdom on the matter?
What was informing your judgment? Was it a hot tip from the cab driver? What is greed or covetousness? Perhaps obtaining wealth without contributing real value? Prayerfully review your prior lack of judgment to its root and expose it to the light of God’s Truth. Repent. Turn away from that way of thinking in the future.
Where were you guided by poor personal governance, which is another way of saying lack of personal discipline or self-control? Do you even attempt to live a disciplined life as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Look at your consumption, your waste of time or goods, or anything that demonstrates a lack of restraint. A little honey is good, but too much will make you vomit (Proverbs 25:16). Selah.
The first step to success is the rejection of evil. Romans 12:9 tells us to “abhor evil and cling to good.” Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, but renewing anything such as a house for example, requires tearing out the bad and then replacing it with good. Deal with the bad first. Then go to work on rebuilding your future! Otherwise you’re just painting over rotten wood.
Like many of you, I am eager to study on getting increase from my fallow ground, but I want a harvest that lasts. Maybe it’s time to look at what caused a lot of loss in our life and quit blaming it on the wicked, even if they cheated you. Where were the checks and balances (governance)? Where was the judgment? I am not saying that bad outcomes are always our fault, but I am saying they are not always someone else’s fault.
Regardless of who is to blame, in the end, we made the decision. We need to own up to that, repair the breach and get back in the race!