Hunger and Riches
There were a lot of famines mentioned in the Bible:
• In the days of Abraham. Ge 12:10.
• In the days of Isaac. Ge 26:1.
• In the days of Joseph. Ge 41:53-56.
• In the day of the Judges. Ru 1:1.
• In the reign of David. 2 Sa 21:1.
• In the reign of Ahab 1 Ki 17:1; 18:5.
• During the siege of Samaria. 2 Ki 6:25.
• Of seven years foretold by Elisha. 2 Ki 8:1.
• In the time of Jeremiah. Jer 14:1.
• After the captivity. Ne 5:3.
• In the reign of Claudius Caesar. Ac 11:28.
1. Is this statement really true?
a. Does God NEVER allow righteous people to go hungry?
b. What about in times of famine in Ethiopia? Bangla Desh?
c. How about the potato famine in Ireland?
d. What about the Great Depression in this country? What about the aftermath of WWII and the famines and hunger in Europe? Were Christians exempt from all that?
e. What about the martyrs that suffered great hunger in dungeons and in prisons around the world?
f. What about the seige of Jerusalem (Babylonians; Assyrians) when some Jews in the city even turned to canabalism? Were there no believers in Jerusalem during those days?
g. How about the Lord Jesus. The Lord allowed Him to go 40 days without food. That qualifies for being famished, doesn’t it?
h. Is it impossible for a believer to starve to death?
2. There are a lot of Bible verses that seem to support such a notion.
• Job 5:20 – In famine he shall redeem thee from death:
• Ps. 33:18-19 – Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; 19To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
• Ps. 34:9-10 – O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. 10The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
• Ps. 37:3 – Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
• Ps. 37:17 – The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever. 19They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
• Ps. 37:25 – I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
• It sure SOUNDS like God promises that His people will never lack bread.
Three Things to Consider:
1. The passage is a proverb; not a promise.
a. The passage makes a generalization… in general, the righteous (the godly; wise men) do not starve.
b. The righteous don’t starve because they employ the principles of wisdom in their life.
c. The righteous are diligent workers—not lazy. (v. 4)
• Some ungodly men starve because they are lazy. Laziness is ungodly!
• The one who deals with a slack hand (lazy) becomes poor!
d. The righteous don’t waste their money on gambling… or foolish things.
• The opposite of a righteous man (an unrighteous fool) DOES waste his money on foolish things… gambles… booze… etc.
• That man and his family very well MAY go hungry…
e. Of course, this is a proverb… and there are exceptions to the rule.
• Sometimes the ungodly DO prosper in the world. They seem to be fed quite well!
• Sometimes righteous men work hard and due to circumstances beyond their control DO suffer loss… and experience hunger…
• When war breaks out; or famine; or an economic depression, the godly are not exempt from feeling it!
• It’s good to know this—so that if it should happen to you, you don’t begin to doubt God… or experience a lack of faith… or begin to think that God has failed you…
f. This is written to Jews living during the Old Testament dispensation; Israel’s blessings were primarily physical; ours are spiritual.
• Lev. 26: 21, 26 – famine was sent to the Jews because of sin… with the purpose of driving them back to God.
• Consider the book of Lamentations – written to Jews in Jerusalem concerning the devastation and famine they were experiencing.
• Amos 4: 6-10 – famine the result of Israel’s sin… sent by God.
• When famine strikes a nation, even the godly are affected!
g. The meaning of “soul.”
• Soul = nephesh = soul; life; a creature; a person; a living being
• Famish = languish in hunger; extreme hunger.
• It is possible to take the passage in Proverbs as a reference to the spiritual hunger of the soul… as opposed to the physical hunger of the body. (Although nephesh is often used in the sense of “life.”)
• If understood as soul in contrast to body, then the proverb is stating that God will always nourish the soul of the righteous… even if his outward circumstances include poverty, hunger, or famine.
• Hab. 3:17-19 – Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation…
• God is able to lift the SOUL of the righteous to joy even in the worst of times physically… In such times, believers have experienced a peace that passes understanding…
• Thus, the body may starve, but not the soul… the inner man may prosper and do well! (II Cor. 4:16).
• Of course, the opposite can be true as well. It is possible for the outer man (the physical part of man) may be doing quite well (well fed; well housed; well dressed; etc.) while at the same time the inner man is starving spiritually!
1. Again, this is a proverb. Sometimes wicked men prosper.
2. The wicked in the world don’t often read the book of Proverbs.
3. However, we as believers can behave like the wicked.
a. We can waste our money on gambling… lottery tickets… foolish purchases… luxury items… and experience hunger and poverty as a result!
b. Too often we can dig huge financial holes for ourselves. The Lord lets us fall on those holes too. God lets foolish people “eat of the fruit of their own way… be filled with their own devices…” (Prov. 1:31).
c. If we behave foolishly or wickedly and the consequences of our actions include poverty or hunger, don’t expect the Lord to bail us out. He may; He is gracious;
d. But don’t presume upon it! He may want to teach us a lesson… one we can only learn the hard way, by suffering through the consequences of our actions.
4. This passage is speaking about God Himself “casting away the substance” of the wicked.
a. This is the Lord’s doing.
b. Very often God allows criminals (bank robbers, etc.) to get caught… and lose all their substance!
c. But we believers may have OUR substance cast away by the Lord too… if our actions are displeasing to Him.
d. Haggai 1:7-11 – they looked for “much” but God “blew” upon their riches… and they were gone!
• They were selfish and demonstrated a lack of concern for the house of God.
• God simply “blew” upon the riches they thought were so secure!
• Mal. 2:1-2 – God rebuked the priests and “cursed their blessings.”
e. God can change our financial stability in a moment.
• In fact, the proverb states, that as a general rule, God casts away the substance of the wicked!
• It is especially wicked for a BELIEVER to think that he can live his life apart from God accumulating riches in this life while ignoring spiritual things… and expect God’s blessing! The rule is God CASTS AWAY the substance of the wicked.
• It is kind of silly for us as puny clay pots to think that we can defy God and hold on to our riches…
• God is the SOURCE of all blessing! He has every right to cast away the substance (riches) of the wicked… and believers behaving in a wicked, rebellious manner!
• And even if we seem to “get away with it” our whole life on earth… those riches will be seen as wood, hay, and stubble at the Bema seat!
The main thought for us: God takes care of His own!
1. Even though the passage may have some special dispensational distinctions, there is still a valid principle for us today… God takes care of His own!
2. He takes care of the righteous… the godly… the wise… the obedient… God honors those who seek to honor Him.
3. In difficult times, we can trust our Heavenly Father. He does NOT delight in seeing His children suffer hunger… (Psalm 10:1-2; 8-14)
4. The general rule is: God provides for all our needs… and above and beyond our needs!
a. There may be times when God tests our faith and ALLOWS us to suffer poverty… hunger… or some other kind of need.
b. But the RULE is: The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want! The Good Shepherd leads His sheep into green pastures and to the still waters.
• Ps. 34:9 – O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. 10The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
• Ps. 84:11 – For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. 12O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
• Matt. 6:25-33 – TAKE NO THOUGHT… don’t worry about such earthly needs. Do what is right… seek God first… and they will all be added to you!
• Don’t seek after the blessings… seek after God. With God comes the fringe benefit of His blessings… but He wants us to seek Him for who He is… not what He will do for us! Nobody likes that kind of a relationship!
5. Phil. 4:19 – But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Context: the Philippians had been selfless and generous. God takes care of folks like that!)