Proverbs 3:27-28 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.
Do not say to your neighbour, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow” – when you now have it with you.
Here is a word in season for all of us. There is within our fallen nature a basic tendency toward stinginess in thought, word and deed. We often find it hard to rejoice when others prosper and sometimes are perversely satisfied when others fail. We also tend to criticise rather than build up and to think negatively about people rather than lovingly.
This proverb takes an opposite view. For believers in Israel’s God fairness and justice should pervade all of life. As indeed should generosity and compassion.
So when someone has done well and deserves a word of encouragement, why not pass in on? It costs us nothing and we never know what that “reward” may reproduce in their lives. Many a tale could be told of a young man or woman making a crucial decision at a vulnerable time in their lives, as the result of a word in season from a friend, and their lives then turning out to be a blessing to many others. And with the electronic tools available to us today it is so easy to say something positive, uplifting and encouraging to someone who is trying hard to do the right thing but is currently feeling discouraged.
So, too, with the giving of material help. With the huge needs around us at the present time it is not easy to know who to give to, or how we should do it. But this is not the problem in this proverb. Rather it is the inner spontaneity to want to help. Often we try to get out of giving money or goods – especially with the amount of begging and con artists we have in our society. Still, there are also, very often genuine needs brought before us, where we can help, be it ever so little. The bible says, in effect “Give now” – not tomorrow.
I had a missionary friend once, long ago, who was invited to a very needy area to present the Gospel. However he did not have the money to pay for the ferry to take him there. He prayed and waited, but nothing happened. As a result he could not go and the opportunity was lost. The next day he received a letter from a supporter with the exact amount of money in it that he needed for the fare. The supporter said: “I meant to get this to you yesterday. I felt a strong urge to do so, but I was distracted.” I hope you can use this gift for the Gospel.” It was good of him to give, but he delayed, and as a result a good opportunity to spread the good news was lost.
Compare the words of these Proverbs with James 2:14-17. Let’s determine to be open-hearted, encouraging and as generous as our circumstances allow so that we may imitate our Father in Heaven.
“Heavenly Father, you sent your Son to our world to save us. He is your only Son. Please forgive my tendency to selfishness and stinginess. Give me an open heart and make me a blessing to others who need encouragement. Amen”