Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 19  “I was father to the needy.”

Scripture: Job 29:7-17

7 “When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square,

8 the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet;

9 the chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands;

10 the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.

11 Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me,

12 because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them.

13 The one who was dying blessed me; I made the widow’s heart sing.

14 I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.

15 I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.

16 I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger.

17 I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.

Some thoughts:

This portion of Scripture forms the backdrop of a key principle surrounding giving to the poor. Job is here describing the early days of his prosperity. In these days he was honored and respected by those in his world. Job had a position of great esteem in his society. At the same time, he was a very generous man. He looked after the poor and helped them again and again. He took care of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. He advocated on behalf of the less fortunate and he did so with apparent pure motives. Job was obedient to his calling and abundantly shared God’s blessing of his life. But I think there is something interesting about Job’s assessment in his monologue.

In listing all the things Job had done in terms of giving to his community, it almost seems that he attributed his societal esteem to his generosity. But I wonder. Could the admiration for him have come from the nature of his person, and not from something he had done? He may have succumbed to the danger of thinking what he accomplished was the measure of who he was as a person. His troubled heart seems a little “off center” as he makes some assumptions about God’s view of generosity.

A second question arises in the following chapters, Job is puzzled that all his generosity counts for nothing. Like Job, do we perhaps have some sense that giving should bring distinctive favor from God? Job is struggling to discover any correlation between what happens in life and blessing from God. The truth is, giving to the poor may or may not bring any kind of earthly blessing other than knowing we have been obedient to the Lord to care for the poor. Is there a lingering expectation that God will notice what we did or said that incurs his favor? Does such an expectation reveal a less than pure heart motive? 

I have even more appreciation for the rabbi’s comment from yesterday; it is best to drop your money behind you then you will not know who picked it up. The person will not know who gave it, and I would add, you also wouldn’t know the impact of your gift. You were obedient to the Lord, which seems to be the point. Generosity combined with God’s wisdom brings glory to God.

Music: “Humble Yourself in the Sight of the Lord”   A cappella   unique setting! Beautiful

Prayer: O Divine Love who dost everlastingly stand outside the closed doors of the souls of men, knocking ever and again, wilt Thou not give me grace to throw open all my soul’s doors? Let every bolt and bar be drawn that has hitherto robbed my life of air and light and love. Give me an open ear, O God, that I may hear Thy voice calling me to high endeavor. Too often have I been deaf to the appeals Thou hast addressed to me, but now give me courage to answer, Here am I, send me. And when any one of Thy children, my human brothers, cries out in need, give me then an open ear to hear in that cry Thy call to service. Give me open hands, O God, hands ready to share with all who are in want the blessings with which Thou hast enriched my life. Deliver me from all meanness and miserliness. Let me hold my money in stewardship and all my worldly goods in trust for Thee; to whom now be all honor and glory. Amen.

                                                        –John Baillie from A Diary of Private Prayer, p.63