Christianity 201

February 18, 2020

Biblical Writers Knew Economic Inequity

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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When I first started interacting with various Christian blogs, one of the first I was aware of was Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi. I still receive his newsletter and this week he quoted this Proverb:

There is abundant food in the field of the poor, but it is swept away by injustice.” Prov. 13:23

Contextually, the Proverb falls between two others I would consider unrelated, and BibleHub, which usually offers various cross-references to similar passages is somewhat sparse with this one.

Still, economic inequity is well known to all of us and it can appear in various forms. In its plain form, the verse is talking about a situation where the land produces food in abundance, but people are going hungry.

More recently, we’ve heard stories where developed nations have sent containers of food following a natural disaster, only to learn later that the supplies were being hoarded in warehouses to which the common people did not have access.

But is this proverb saying something more, or something entirely different? The website offers what follows. To better understand the commentary, here’s the verse in the KJV as they are using it:

Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.

Hard work brings profit, but it can be lost by foolish decisions. The poor may labor hard at farming, with much increase from their Creator. Their focused labor on a small plot of land bears good reward for their table. But other poor men, even with some advantages, may squander greater gain by following harebrained schemes that take it away.

Tillage is the tilling and cultivating of ground for raising crops. Farming was the first profession in the world, and it is a good work. It is the most basic business or investment, providing a clear view of capital, labor, and profit. Depending directly on God’s blessing, seeds are placed in the ground to wait for His increase. And He does give increase!

The average return for wheat is 200. One wheat seed planted results in 200 new ones. One bushel planted results in 200 new bushels. That is a return of 20,000%! The average return for field corn is 800 times, or 80,000%! The average return for rice is 2000 times, or 200,000%! There is much food in the tillage of the poor. You have never seen this kind of return in any investment portfolio of the rich and famous, for the world’s best hedge fund managers or investors can only sustain about 30% per year over time.

Want of judgment is the lack of good sense. It is foolish vulnerability to ideas that will not work. It is listening to vain persons and their schemes. It is a lack of discretion and prudent management. It is the rejection of critical thinking and cautious pessimism. It is wishful thinking instead, trusting more in hopes and dreams than careful analysis.

Want of judgment is hasty decisions, poor choices, lack of foresight, and risky presumption. It believes everything it hears. It is frustration with the old way of doing things and impatience to experiment with something new. It is the desire for a free lunch, no matter how many times it has heard there is no such thing. It is the dream that there are shortcuts that can lead to wealth, though the wealthiest, Solomon, denies the idea.

The proverb deals with poor farmers. They have plenty of food, for they labor at a godly trade day after day, year after year. But there are other men who may not even have enough to eat. What happened? They gave away their increase by foolish decisions. The lesson here is the value of hard work and the importance of wise financial management.

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Dake’s commentary also places the onus on the poor farmers themselves:

The poor may sow enough to have plenty of food, but lack of management often keeps them in poverty. They have very little foresight. When they get something they quickly spend it or have a big feast and then go without for a long time.

Again, I go back to the commentary at LetGodBeTrue:

When the government approves a lottery, who lines up first for tickets? The man tired of farming! He dreams of how he will spend his millions. He can list how he will use his riches. He eagerly takes the “much food” from his tillage and gives it to the state in a no-win deal designed for the foolish and naïve. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

So again…what about the example I used at the beginning and the way in which I interpreted the verse for today’s headline? Does the translation Andrew Jones is using put the wrong spin on this?

I think that either way, we see that the ecosystem — to be clear, with this word I mean climate and agriculture — is able to sustain life on Planet Earth, but human intervention, whether individual or collective, is what spoils the harmony of that system. As God designed it, there is food for all.