Summary: Part 4 of the Sermon Series, "Rich Man Poor Man in Proverbs"
"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous. The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice. Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want" (Prov. 13:22-25).
We see again a chiasm in Proverbs 13:22-25.
A A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous (v. 22)
B The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice (v. 23).
A1 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him (v. 24).
B1 The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want (v. 25).
These antithetical statements deal with two things—provision for the family and poverty of the family. Lines A and A1 give parallel meanings. Line A speaks of leaving a material inheritance. Line A1 speaks of leaving a moral inheritance. Hence, a good man leaves a material inheritance to his grandchildren. A good parent leaves a moral inheritance to his son. He disciplines his son and teaches him.
I have often wondered why some people are rich or poor. I realized that some are rich because their grandparents left them money (inheritance). Many are poor because their parents left them nothing.
Nevertheless, if you are poor, the best inheritance you can leave to your children is a moral inheritance, a godly inheritance. You leave them the value of the fear of the Lord. You leave them the value of godly wisdom. You leave them the value of obedience to God’s Word.
Our concern is in Lines B and B1. Line B talks about food for the poor, while Line B1, about food for the righteous. Line B also speaks of poverty brought about by injustice; while Line B1, of the poverty of the wicked. The writer compares the loss of food through injustice to the lack of food of the wicked.
Line B tells of food for the poor through his “fallow ground.” The word “fallow” (nir) means “tillable, untilled.”19 The picture here is agricultural. The ground is still untilled but tillable. It can bring food on the table of the poor.
Yet the poor man’s fallow ground can be taken away by injustice. The phrase “swept away” (sapa) is one word in Hebrew. It means “heaping things together and of sweeping them away (cf. Arabic safa, ‘to raise and carry away dust’).”20 It pictures the heaping of dust and sweeping it away.
Line B1 gives a parallel thought. The righteous will be satisfied; but the wicked will be famished. The hungry belly of the wicked may be due to individual or corporate sin.
Thus, the writer gives two reasons for family poverty. In v. 23, the first reason is injustice. In v. 25, the second reason is personal or family sin.21
We often blame laziness as the reason of poverty. That may be true if job opportunities abound for everyone. Yet what if there are no equal opportunities for everyone? There are cases when the system favors the rich and powerful. Laziness, then, is not the only cause of poverty. Injustice in the system can cause poverty. In those days, a king can take away the land of the poor. Rich landlords can take away the produce of the poor. They can simply appropriate the land of the poor through coercion.
A good example is how the big landlords abused the Torrens System during the American colonization of the Philippines (1901-1935). I learned about the Torrens System from a Grade 5 textbook of my daughter. The Torrens System is a form of land reform. But rich landlords forced poor long-time residents to stop applying for land titles for two years. Some simply grabbed the lands of poor farmers. Worse, the friars (priests and bishops), who owned vast tracts of land, sold lands to the American government that were unfit for planting. Their acts defeated the purpose of land reform as a result. In most cases, the big landlords, not the poor farmers, bought the friar lands from the government.22 Their actions circumvented land reform. It continued the cycle of poverty in the Philippines.
What forms of injustice can take food from the poor today? One is to pay below-poverty level salaries to employees. It robs them of the chance to meet their basic needs. Another is exploiting the ignorance of the poor by buying their land at very low prices.
Are you rich and powerful? Be fair to the poor. Do not take food away from the table of the poor.