We met a man at the YMCA today who told us that he was very rich–he mentioned all the companies he managed or owned and how he specialized in gold and jewelry. I guess we had asked the question “How are you doing today?” and he proceeded to tell us–in some detail.

Earlier this morning I had been reading Proverbs–in the Kewa language of PNG–and had noticed some of the contrasts between the rich and the poor: Verses (all from the NIV) like:

“Those who trust in their riches will fail, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (11:28)
“One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth” (13:7, NIV)
“The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends” (14:20)
“Whoever loves pleasures will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich (21:17)
“Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all” (22:2)
“One who oppresses the poor to increase his  wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty (22:16)
“The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are (28:11)

There are many more examples in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the sayings of Jesus, and elsewhere in the Bible about riches and the poor. One point seems to be that there are always two extremes: wealth and poverty, and the views that people hold of either place in life may not be accurate, but rather based on their experiences and personal judgments. The rich are favored and the poor shunned.

However, we note that God does not attempt to bring down the wealthy or raise the poor to a rich standard. Rather, He expects them (us) to be discerning about our state in life, not accusing God or loving pleasure. We must learn to be content with what we have: thankful and purposeful in our use of what God has given us.