Proverbs 19:17

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) sent the following letter to Benjamin Webb:
April 22, 1784

Dear Sir,
I received yours of the 15th instant, and the memorial it enclosed. The account they give of your situation grieves me I send you herewith a Bill for ten louis d'ors. I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you. When you shall return to your country with a good character, you cannot fail of getting into some business, that will in time enable you to pay all your debts. In that case, when you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go through many hands, before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money. I am not rich enough to afford much in good works, and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of a little. With best wishes for the success of your memorial, and your future prosperity, I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant,
B. Franklin

Maybe you have heard the phrase "pay it forward." The expression "pay it forward" has come to describe the concept of asking that a person repay a good turn by having it done to others instead of "paid back." When someone does something good for you, in turn you do something good for someone else -- not a bad way to generate a conspiracy of kindness. I understand that some plan to designate Thursday, April 29, 2010, as "Pay It Forward Day."

The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has an even greater opportunity to "pay it upward." The Bible reminds us, "He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given" (Proverbs 19:17).

Dr. George Lawson (1749-1820), professor of theology, explained, "No pagan moralist could ever produce a motive for any social duty equal to this. It is sufficient to open the closest fist, and to enlarge the most selfish heart. Can we lose anything by lending it to the Lord? God will be sure to repay what is given to the poor at His command with great increase. The greatest usurer on earth cannot make so much on his money as the man that gives to the poor." Our passage reveals three aspects of the concept we call "pay it upward."

I. The practice of giving to the poor.
"He who has pity on the poor. . ." (Proverbs 19:17)
Dr. William Paley (1743-1805) defines a poor man as he, of whatever rank, whose expenses exceed his resources. Dr. D. Thomas explains, "It is very clear from this that there may be poverty which has no claim to our commiseration and charity."

Concerning God's interest in the deserving poor, Dr. Thomas continues, "God's interest in the poor is shown in three ways: 1. In the obligation that is imposed on the rich to help them. He denounces all neglect and cruelty of the poor. "Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness and his chamber by wrong, that useth his neighbour's service without wages" (Jeremiah 22:13); 2. In the earthly condition into which He sent His Son; 3. In the class from which He selected His servants."

Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) explains, "If they had a social gospel in the days of the prodigal son, somebody would have given him a bed and a sandwich, and he never would have gone home." May God grant us wisdom in our endeavor to pay it upward, lest we assist people running away from Him.

In Proverbs 22:16 we read, "He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty." Paul exhorts, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10). James warns, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:14-17).

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) quipped, "We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give."

II. The privilege in giving to the poor.
"He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD..." (Prov. 19:17b)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) exclaimed, "What an honour the Lord bestows upon us when He condescends to borrow of us!" Someone else explained, "This is a remarkable statement. It would lead us to believe the poor are in the special care of the Lord, and He is looking to those who have been blessed to care for His poor; that He borrows from them so He may take care of His family of dependents. We are amazed to think the Lord should count Himself as a borrower from any of His servants that He may feed His hungry and give comfort and cheer to the sick and helpless. How wonderful!"

An unknown poet expressed, "Give as you would to the Master, if you met His searching look; give as you would of your substance, if His hand your offering took!"

We are unaware of the author of this poetic expression, "'Giving is living,' the angel said. 'Go feed the hungry sweet charity's bread.' And must I keep giving and giving again?' My selfish and querulous answer ran. 'O no,' said the angel, his eyes piercing me through, 'Just give till the Master stops giving to you!'"

III. The promise about giving to the poor.
"He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given" (Psalms 19:17).
Someone asked Andrew Jones for help. He had only one shilling and wondered whether to give it or not. He gave it, and walked away with the remembrance of the above promise. As he went, he met a man who said, 'Mr. Jones, I am glad to see you. I've had this sovereign (20 shillings) for a week for a servant of the Lord. You may have it.' Mr. Jones added when telling the story, 'Had I not stopped to give relief, I should have missed the man and the gift.'"

Dr. D. Thomas explains, "Every gift of genuine piety to the poor is a loan to the Lord, and a loan that shall be paid: 1. It often is repaid amply in this world (Deut. 16:17-20; 2 Cor. 9:6-8); 2. It will be acknowledged in the day of judgment. 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me'" (Matt. 25:40). Remember this thought, "The hand that gives also gathers!"

A. We cannot out-give God.
Jesus said, "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward" (Matt. 10:40-42).

Paul shares this with the elders in Ephesus before his departure, "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:32-35).

The psalmist describes the man who fears the Lord: "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor" (Ps. 112:9). Paul echoes this in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, as he writes about the cheerful giver, "But this I say: He who sows sparingly also will reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully also will reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: 'He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.'

"'Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

James writes, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

Henry G. Bosch (1914-1995), former editor of "Our Daily Bread" for Radio Bible Class Ministries from 1956-1981, shares, "Charles Haddon Spurgeon came to Bristol for the purpose of ministering there. He hoped to collect 300 pounds to support his work with homeless children in London. At the end of the week of meetings, many people had been blessed, and his financial goal had been reached. That night as he bowed in prayer, Spurgeon seemed to hear a voice saying, 'Give that money to George Mueller [1805-1898].' 'Oh, no Lord,' answered the minister, 'I need it for my own dear orphans.' Yet he couldn't shake the idea that God wanted him to part with it. Only when he said, 'Yes, Lord, I will,' could he find rest. The next morning he made his way to Mueller's orphanage and found that great man of prayer on his knees. The famous minister placed his hand on his shoulder and said, 'George, God has told me to give you this 300 pounds I've collected.' 'Oh, my dear brother,' said Mueller, 'I've just been asking Him for exactly that amount.' The two servants of the Lord then wept and rejoiced together. When Spurgeon returned to London, he found a letter on his desk contained 300 guineas. 'There,' he cried with joy, 'the Lord has returned my 300 pounds with 300 shillings interest!' Bosch adds, "Those who have practiced the grace of giving will tell you God pays wonderful dividends!"

Remember, you only can give what you have. From Acts 3:1-10 we read, "Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. A certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the gate which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. Fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, 'Look at us.' So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, 'Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.' And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them -- walking, leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.  Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him."

Dr. Donald J. Wilton, Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, S.C., once explained, "The lame man asked for alms but was given legs."  Imagine his surprise as he suddenly moved from disappointment to delight.

Someone poetically penned these inspirational words, "If you can't give in abundance, give a little in His name, for a little given rightly -- with His blessings on the same -- will be bread upon the waters you will find again sometime, multiplied to loaves of blessing that are wondrous and sublime."  
Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 11:1, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days."