Proverbs 21:25-26 – The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long; but the righteous give and don’t withhold.
In the Proverbs, we find many different contrasts laid out to assist our understanding and increase our knowledge: the righteous against the wicked; the rich against the poor; the proud against the lowly.
In this passage, however, is an interesting contrast: the one who is exhibiting compassion is not contrasted with one who hates, but is posited against the one who is lazy and covetous. Understanding this distinction helps us to recognize compassion for what it is.
Those who are lazy and covetous seek only what is beneficial to themselves. They refuse to work in order to have anything on their own, and yet they still desire to have that which is the result of physical labor and work. Therefore, they have no ability to help others because they don’t even have the ability to help themselves.
By contrast, the righteous person is one who is generous to a fault. This passage says they don’t withhold anything that can be of benefit to someone else. They have the ability to be generous because they have something to give based on their own industriousness and careful attention to the needs of others. Yet, it does not imply that they are only giving out of the excess of what they have, but that they give regardless of what they have.
This points out that the contrast is based not on what one has or doesn’t have, but on the attitude of the individual. The lazy person refuses to work and yet is covetous; they are concerned only with what affects them. The righteous can provide for themselves, yet they are still willing to not hold back anything if it can meet the need of someone else. They are constantly thinking of others.
The writer of Hebrews mentions a similar encouragement to the early believers in Messiah, as well.
Hebrews 13:16 But don’t forget to be doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Giving compassionately may still be a sacrifice because of what one doesn’t have, but the best way to ensure that we are doing the pleasing acts of sharing and doing good is by keeping the focus off of ourselves and always looking around to the needs of others.
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