17 Rewards for charity. This proverb teaches that the Lord will reward those who give to the poor. The one who is gracious or “kind” (hônēn) to the poor is actually lending to the Lord, and the Lord will repay or “reward” (yešallem) him for his deed. This promise of reward does not necessarily signify that he will get his money back; the rewards in Proverbs involve life and prosperity in general. In the NT such kindness is viewed as kindness to the Lord (Mt 25:40); see also the reward for following Jesus (19:27–28).
The Lord Will Reward Kindness to the Poor (19:17)
This proverb turns to the unit’s goal in the son’s education vis-à-vis to esteem the powerless poor person as worthy of favor, active acceptance, and acts of charity because the Lord will reward him (cf. 14:21, 31; 22:9; 28:27). The disciple stands apart from the crowd on the side of the poor who otherwise stands alone without a friend (see 19:7). Verset A presents the cause: not to the sluggard, The inner core of its chiastic parallels present the topic, the one who shows grace (ḥônēn, see 14:31; cf. 14:21) to the poor (dal, see 10:15) and its abstract equivalent, as for his deeds (see 12:14). Its outer frame gives the synthetic predicates, is one who lends (malwēh, cf. 22:7; Deut. 28:12; Isa. 24:2) to the Lord (see p. I:73) and the [the Lord] will repay him (see 11:31). And joins these synthetic predicates stating the cause-effect relationship. The one who gives generously to the destitute figuratively gives a loan to the Lord presumably because the Lord’s honor is tied up with the poor for he made them and they too are his image (14:31; 17:5; 22:2). Their just and gracious Creator takes it upon himself to assume their indebtedness and so he will repay the lender in full (cf. 3:27f.; 11:17, 25; 14:21; 22:9, 22–23; 25:22f.; Pss. 41:1–3; 112:5; Matt. 25:34; Lk. 6:38; Jas. 1:27). By contrast if one oppresses the poor he will have to contend with God as their Defender (21:13; 22:22–23; 28:27).
19:17. He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deed.
Proverbs repeatedly encourages generosity toward the poor (Prov. 14:21, 31; 22:9; 28:27) and rails against insensitivity to their needs (Prov. 14:31a; 21:13; 22:16; 28:3, 27b). In this way, the wisdom of this book reflects the dictates of the Law (Deut. 15:7–8). The remarkable thing found in this proverb is the direct link made between the ‘poor man’ and ‘the Lord.’ Jesus made a similar connection, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’ (Matt. 25:40). The reverse is also true: that contempt for the poor is contempt for the Lord (Prov. 14:31a; 17:5).
This bit of wisdom seems to demand that what one does ‘to a poor man’ one is doing to ‘the Lord.’ But, closer examination reveals that the action is not exactly the same to one as the other. One is viewed as being ‘gracious’ to the poor (i.e. giving them a gift). The same action is viewed as ‘lending’ to the Lord. What is a gift to the one (knowing that they cannot repay and to demand such would be cruel), is a loan to the other (knowing He is the guardian of the poor and surety for all their needs).
The second line develops the notion of the Lord’s reward to those who are thus generous with the poor. The promise is that ‘He will repay him for his good deed.’ The promise is not necessarily direct monetary or material benefit. The promise is that God rewards righteousness. Throughout Proverbs, generosity is viewed as an indispensable part of, and a nearly infallible evidence of, a righteous life. However, having noted this, Proverbs does often view the rewards of righteousness from a tangible, physical perspective (Prov. 11:24–26; 12:14). Again, Jesus spoke in such terms: ‘Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return’ (Luke 6:38; cf. Matt. 19:27–30). The promise in both testaments is that God rewards the generous (Matt. 10:42; 2 Cor. 9:6–8; Heb. 6:10), therefore, the wise and righteous person gives freely as he becomes aware of needs.
Ver. 17.—He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord. English Church-people are familiar with this distich, as being one of the sentences of Scripture read at the Offertory. The word for “poor” is here dal, “feeble” (see on vers. 1 and 4). It is a beautiful thought that by showing mercy and pity we are, as it were, making God our debtor; and the truth is wonderfully advanced by Christ, who pronounces (Matt. 25:40), “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (see on ch. 11:24; 28:27). St. Chrysostom (‘Hom.,’ xv., on 1 Cor. 5), “To the more imperfect this is what we may say, Give of what you have unto the needy. Increase your substance. For, saith he, ‘He that giveth unto the poor lendeth unto God.’ But if you are in a hurry, and wait not for the time of retribution, think of those who lend money to men; for not even these desire to get their interest immediately; but they are anxious that the principal should remain a good long while in the hands of the borrower, provided only the repayment be secure, and they have no mistrust of the borrower. Let this be done, then, in the present case also. Leave them with God, that he may pay thee thy wages manifold. Seek not to have the whole here; for if you recover it all here, how will you receive it back there? And it is on this account that God stores them up there, inasmuch as this present life is full of decay. But he gives even here also; for, ‘Seek ye,’ saith he, ‘the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ Well, then, let us look towards that kingdom, and not be in a hurry for the repayment of the whole, lest we diminish our recompense. But let us wait for the fit season. For the interest in these cases is not of that kind, but is such as is meet to be given by God. This, then, having collected together in great abundance, so let us depart hence, that we may obtain both the present and the future blessings” (Oxford transl.). That which he hath given will he pay him again; Vicissitudinem suam reddet ei, Vulgate, “According to his gift will he recompense him.” גְּמוּל (gemul), “good deed” (ch. 12:14, where it is rendered “recompense”). Ecclus. 32 (35) 10, etc., “Give unto the Most High according as he hath enriched thee; and as thou hast gotten give with a cheerful eye. For the Lord recompenseth, and will give thee seven times as much.” There are proverbs rife in other lands to the same effect. The Turk says, “What you give in charity in this world you take with you after death. Do good, and throw it into the sea: if the fish does not know it, God does.” And the Russian, “Throw bread and salt behind you, you get them before you” (Lane).
Ver. 17. He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord.—Christian pity for the Christian poor:—
- The great stress which the Scriptures lay upon pity for the poor. That man must be a cursory reader of the Bible who does not see that it pervades the Bible. The old dispensation is full of it. In the new dispensation it is brought out still more prominently.
- Why is so great a mass of the Lord’s people found among the poor? If wealth would have been their blessing, wealth they would have had. God would have this manifested by them—that He considers these things in themselves as nothing. Some part of the mystery is to answer Satan’s accusations. And it is for the trial of the grace that is in His people.
III. The motives urging a good man to show pity to the poor. He “lendeth to the Lord.” Here is a payment spoken of. The Lord is a bounteous giver. (J. H. Evans.)
The deserving poor:—
We are told that the poor shall never cease out of the land. Paley defines a poor man as he, of whatever rank, whose expenses exceed his resources. It is very clear from this that there may be poverty which has no claim to our commiseration and charity.
- Man’s duty towards the deserving poor. “He that hath pity on the poor.” Two things are implied concerning this pity.
- It must be practical. The text speaks of it as lending to the Lord. It is pity, therefore, that gives, that does something to relieve distress. The pity that goes off in sentimental sighs, or goes no farther than words, saying, “Depart in peace, be warmed, be filled,” is not true pity—the pity that God demands for the poor.
- It must be genuine. The words imply that the pity is “accepted of the Lord.” He takes it as a loan; therefore it must be genuine. The service rendered is from right principles. There is a large amount of charity shown to the poor which is inspired by motives abhorrent to Omniscient Purity.
- God’s interest in the deserving poor. God’s interest in the poor is shown in three ways.
- In the obligation that is imposed on the rich to help them. He denounces all neglect and cruelty of the poor. “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness and his chamber by wrong, that useth his neighbour’s service without wages.” Again, “Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker.” He inculcates practical sympathy for the poor (Exod. 22:21, 22; 23:9; Lev. 19:33; 25:35; Deut. 10:19; 24:19; Prov. 22:22; Isa. 1:17–23).
- In the earthly condition into which He sent His Son.
- In the class from which He selected His servants.
III. The Divine acknowledgment of service to the poor. “And that which he hath given will He pay him again.” Every gift of genuine piety to the poor is a loan to the Lord, and a loan that shall be paid.
- It is often amply repaid in this world (Deut. 16:17–20; 2 Cor. 9:6–8).
- It will be acknowledged in the day of judgment. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” (D. Thomas, D.D.)
Lending to the Lord:—
We are to give to the poor out of pity. Not to be seen and applauded, much less to get influence over them; but out of pure sympathy and compassion we must give them help. We must not expect to get anything back from the poor, not even gratitude; but we should regard what we have done as a loan to the Lord. He undertakes the obligation, and if we look to Him in the matter we must not look to the second party. What an honour the Lord bestows upon us when He condescends to borrow of us! That merchant is greatly favoured who has the Lord on his books. It would seem a pity to have such a name down for a paltry pittance; let us make it a heavy amount. The next needy man that comes this way, let us help him. As for repayment, we can hardly think of it, and yet here is the Lord’s note of hand. Blessed be His name, His promise to pay is better than gold and silver. Are we running a little short through the depression of the times? We may venture humbly to present this bill at the Bank of Faith. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
For long credit:—
A wealthy but niggardly gentleman was waited on by the advocates of a charitable institution, for which they solicited his aid, reminding him of the Divine declaration, “He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.” To this he replied, “The security, no doubt, is good, and the interest liberal; but I cannot give such long credit.” Poor rich man! the day of payment was much nearer than he anticipated. Not a fortnight had elapsed from his refusing to honour this claim of God upon his substance before he received a summons with which he could not refuse to comply. He was dead.
The best loan (to the young):—
Pity is the feeling of sorrow we find in our hearts when we see a person in trouble or distress. There are two kinds of pity, a wrong and a right. The wrong kind of pity makes people feel without making them do or give. The right kind makes people do or give, as well as feel. What we do for, or give to the poor, God regards as done or given to Himself. What we lend to another we call a loan. There are many different kinds of loans, but that which is lent to the Lord is the best loan.
- Because He receives the smallest sums.
- Because it is so safe.
III. Because He pays good interest. (R. Newton, D.D.)
Argument for charity:—
This is an argument for charity of wonderful force. No pagan moralist could ever produce a motive for any social duty equal to this. It is sufficient to open the closest fist, and to enlarge the most selfish heart. Can we lose anything by lending it to the Lord? God will be sure to repay what is given to the poor at His command with great increase. The greatest usurer on earth cannot make so much of his money as the man that gives to the poor. (George Lawson, D.D.)
 Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 169). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Waltke, B. K. (2005). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15–31 (p. 111). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Kitchen, J. A. (2006). Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary (pp. 423–424). Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Proverbs (p. 368). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Exell, J. S. (n.d.). Proverbs (pp. 493–494). New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.