************ Sermon on Proverbs 14:31 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on November 9, 1997

Proverbs 14:21-35
vs 31
"Honoring God by Bringing Hope"

A group of women in Tabaruka, Tanzania, started a project two years ago to earn income for their families.
They began farming vegetables together. Their first season was good. They made enough money to buy more seeds and expand their garden. But the rains failed during the next season and their crop died.
CRWRC staff learned about the crop failure. They advised the women to do some embroidery, weaving, and other handicrafts to sell at the market while waiting for the next rains to come. The women did that and made about $240. That's a lot, considering the average annual income in Tanzania is $110.
While asked the women what they planned to do with the money, CRWRC staff learned that their main objective was to make enough money to each buy a mattress.
The women bought the mattresses. And they had enough money left to buy seeds for their next garden and materials for their next handicraft projects.
Imagine that: they didn't have the money to buy a simple thing like a mattress to sleep on. But now, thanks to CRWRC, they have a bold hope.

In your bulletins is an insert about Ngosha (read first three paragraphs) ... Thanks to CRWRC, Ngosha too has a bold hope.

Not all the news is good, however. In the Philippines fully 70% of the people now live in poverty. In Eastern Europe the collapse of Communism has left many people in desperate circumstances. And, Civil Wars in places like Bosnia and Mozambique and elsewhere have created 38 million refugees; 70% of these refugees are women and children; most of the refugees are 100% dependent upon humanitarian aid for food, clothing, and shelter.

As I demonstrated in the children's sermon, compared to the rest of the world we have it so good. Yet, we sometimes complain and act like we are not blessed. Consider something I heard in my home a couple of days ago: "There is nothing good to eat." I looked in the cupboards and saw bread, crackers, peanut butter, honey, cereal; I looked in the fridge and saw apples, carrots, pickles, leftovers. My boys meant, of course, that there was no junk food for them to nibble on. Here are some figures from the May 1993 issue of Servant Magazine (p. 9):
Topic: Poverty
Index: 2794-2804
Date: 7/1993.24

* The average American pet owner spends $1,500 a year on his pet. The average annual income in India: $260.
* Wars in the 1980s killed 1.5 million children, disabled 4 million, and left 12 million homeless.
* The world's population should reach 6.3 billion in the year 2000. In 1000 A.D. it was 275 million.
* 99 major league baseball players make $3 million or more annually.
* There are 100 million children living on the streets of the world's cities.
* 5.4 million kilograms of guacamole dip was consumed during the Super Bowl.
I ask what I asked of the children: is this fair? Is it fair that we have so much when there are so many who have so little?

We who are rich and Christian need to listen to what God says in His Word. Listen again to what Proverbs says:
(Prov 14:21,31) He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy ... He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Oppression equals contempt; kindness equals honor.

I Oppression Equals Contempt for God
A There are two ways to oppress the poor and the hungry. The first way is to take advantage of them. Job speaks of raising his hand against the fatherless, knowing he would get away with it because of his influence in the court (Job 31:21). Don't forget, Job was one of the rich and powerful men of his time. Judges and kings hastened to do his will. Who would possibly dare to take the side of an orphan rather than the side of Job? Amos too speaks of taking advantage of the poor:
(Am 2:6-7) They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.

(Am 5:11-12) You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain ... You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

The second way to oppress the poor is to neglect them and their needs. The Bible takes the approach that we oppress the poor if we don't feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. Most of us know that God rained down judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah because of their homosexuality. But according to the Prophet Ezekiel, that's not the only reason the city was destroyed:
(Ezek 16:49-50) Now this was the sin of ... Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy ... Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.
Job is deeply horrified by the thought of not helping the poor and needy:
(Job 31:16-17,22-23) If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary, {17} if I have kept my bread to myself, not sharing it with the fatherless ... then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint. {23} For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.

B Our text tells us that "he who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker." Those who oppress the poor show contempt for the God Who created the poor.

In the chapter from Job that I quoted earlier, Job speaks to this. He said:
(Job 31:15) Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?
Job reminds us that everyone rich and poor, black and white, male and female, Dutch and Chinese are all made by God. Furthermore, we know from Genesis that all of these have not only been made by God, but they have also been made in His image (Gen 1:26,27).

The Bible tells us that in taking advantage of those made by God in His image, we are showing contempt for God. And, in failing to help those made by God in His image, we are showing contempt for God. Don't forget what Jesus said in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats:
(Mt 25:45) I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
What we do not do for the poor and hungry is what we do not do for the Lord.

C What does it mean to show "contempt" for God? This is a rather harsh and blunt word. It describes what Goliath did to Israel day after day taunting someone, anyone, to be brave enough to fight him. It describes what Goliath did when he saw David coming towards him mocking his sticks and stones. It describes what the boys of Bethel did to Elisha "Go on up, you baldhead! Go on up, you baldhead!" It describes what Sennacherib, King of Assyria, said to Jerusalem when he urged the city to surrender:
(2 Kings 18:19-20,22-23) On what are you basing this confidence of yours? {20} You say you have strategy and military strength--but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? ... if you say to me, "We are depending on the LORD our God"--isn't he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, "You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem"? {23} "'Come now, make a bargain with ... the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses--if you can put riders on them!
It means to reproach, blaspheme, defy, and mock.

Those who oppress the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the widow, the fatherless show contempt for God. They make themselves as odious in God's sight as was Sodom and Gomorrah and you remember the fire of judgment God rained down upon them!

II Kindness Equals Honor for God
A On this World Hunger Sunday there can be no doubt that God wants us to look after the poor and the needy:
(Ps 82:3-4) Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. {4} Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Listen again to the words of our text:
(Prov 14:31) He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Our text tells us that those who are kind to the needy honor God. Another word we can use is "glorify." Those who are kind to the needy glorify God. Again, don't forget what Jesus said in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats:
(Mt 25:40) I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
What we do for the poor and hungry is what we do for the Lord. Looking after the needy brings honor and glory to God.

The honor and glory of God that is the chief end and purpose of man. We have been given life and placed on this earth for the honor and glory of God.
(1 Cor 10:31) So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
When we look after the poor and hungry, then, we are doing what God created us to do.

B I am sure we all realize that looking after the hungry is one of the best expressions of our faith. James keeps telling us in chapter 2 that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). He also tells us that this is the only acceptable religion to God:
(James 1:27) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress ...
And, John tells us that looking after the needy is also one of the best proofs that the love of God is within us:
(1 Jn 3:17-18) If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? {18} Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
When we look after the needy we are found to have true faith, true religion, and true love. God is always honored and glorified wherever true faith, true religion, and true love are expressed.

C God also promises His blessing upon those who look after the hungry:
(Is 58:10-11) and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. {11} The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun- scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
God blesses those who are a blessing to others.

D So what can we do? How can we look after the needy so that God's name be praised and they get a bold hope? For ten years now my family and I have been involved in a program called FREE A FAMILY. You can find this leaflet on the brochure rack (HOLD UP LEAFLET). This is the most successful program the Christian Reformed World Relief program has ever launched. For just $12 a month or .40 a day you can free a family from poverty and hunger. This isn't really that much money. Most, if not all of us, spend two or three times that amount each week going out for dinner or buying pizza. Yet, this is enough each month to free a family in Asia, Africa, or Latin America so they can have a bold hope. Our first family has graduated from the program and are standing on their own feet now. Our second family is making progress though we just received news that their 18 year complained of a headache when he went to bed and by the morning he was dead.

How else can we look after the needy so that God's name be praised and they get a bold hope? Once a month we can give canned or dry goods to LOVE in the name of Christ. On Thanks giving Day we are asking the boys and girls to bring canned or dry goods for the Visalia Rescue Mission. This morning we gave money to CRWRC in the offering and through the Peter Fish project.

The blessed hope of Christianity is a new heaven and new earth, paradise regained, perfection. An especially wonderful aspect of the renewed earth is the elimination of hunger. John wrote:
(Rev 7:16-17) Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst ... {17} For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
That electrifying vision of the future can guide us today as we seek to feed the hungry. You see, we are to work today for the perfect society God will create at the end of time a society in which hunger doesn't exist. This should motivate us to do all that we can today to stop world hunger and to give the poor and hungry a bold hope.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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