25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. 26 People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell. 27 Whoever seeks good finds favour, but evil comes to one who searches for it. 28 Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. 29 Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. 30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives. 31 If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner! (Prov. 11:25-31 NIV)
25 A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
The Teacher continues the theme of generosity. This is not just generosity with possessions and wealth, though that is certainly included, it is generosity of spirit. Those who are generous in spirit are willing to give the other the benefit of the doubt. They are quick to think well of a person rather than be suspicious and think badly. Themes of generosity fall into the category of loving your neighbour. This is part and parcel of what it means to be godly. A very literal translation of the first line is, ‘The soul of blessing will be made fat.’ From within the person who has hidden wisdom in their hearts will flow blessing towards others. The prosperity here is spiritual prosperity as suggested by the synonymous parallelism of the second line. (Basically, the second line expresses the same idea as the first.) How blessed our communities and churches would be if we endeavoured to refresh others. That is adopting attitudes that are shaped in building others up, in making their life better. Speaking to others in such a way that we leave them feeling better than when we found them. The one who refreshes others will also be refreshed. We see the same idea expressed in the NT.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Cor. 9:6 NIV)
26 People curse the one who hoards grain,
but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.
In 21st century England perhaps we don’t feel the impact of this. If we changed the metaphor, it might help us to understand, ‘People curse those who hoard PPE, or people curse those who hoard vaccines.’ This is a lesson for us as a nation. We are doing well with rolling out the vaccine, but we should also be willing to give the vaccines to countries that cannot afford to buy the vaccine. In the day of the Teacher, there were those who at a time of famine would hoard the grain, waiting for the price to go up and meanwhile people would die. The attitude that the Teacher wants to convey is that we should not exploit the needs of others for personal gain. The people thank God when they see generosity and pray that God will bless the generous person.
27 Whoever seeks good finds favour,
but evil comes to one who searches for it.
The seeking here is a diligent seeking, or an early seeking. It suggests that from the dawn of the day good favour is being sought after. There is an earnest seeking. We seek God that His favour might rest upon us, our family and our communities throughout the day. It is the person’s priority as soon as they rise from sleep to seek the Lord. What good is our day if it is not blessed by God? The one who searches and explores how they can do harm and evil to others will find that evil visited upon themselves.
28 Those who trust in their riches will fall,
but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.
The Teacher is not opposed to riches, but he is opposed to those who place their trust in riches. Anyone who puts their trust in anything other than God will surely fall. Given what the Teacher has already said about generosity, riches can be an advantage, because it puts a person in a position to be able to help others. The righteous are not those who live in poverty, because there is nothing inherently righteous about poverty. The righteous are those, in this context, who display a generous spirit and are willing to help others. They will thrive like fresh growth. They are like the tree that is planted by the riverside. (Ps 1).
29 Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise.
The translation of this verse is difficult, and we have to depend on the use of the words in other wisdom literature to help us arrive at the meaning. I will make a suggestion as to the meaning, but it is best not to be too dogmatic. The one who brings ruin down upon his family is perhaps the leader of the household and they bring ruin through mismanagement of the family assets. To inherit only wind is difficult to understand. The term is used elsewhere to describe a situation that is without substance. It is a state where one has lost control. This foolish action will lead to the person and the household being indentured to others in order to provide food and housing for his family.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and the one who is wise saves lives.
The actions of a righteous person provides for others. They become like a tree of life to others. That is, the relationships that they foster as they become a benefit to others. The righteous person is a good friend to have. We should seek to be a good friend to others. We could certainly include the idea of evangelism in the second line but that is not its primary meaning. By a life that sets a good example, others are drawn to wisdom, which is life giving and life affirming. In this way the righteous saves many lives. The righteous person does not hoard their wisdom, but they share it. CS Lewis talks about ‘need love’, the need to feel needed. Some people foster relationships in such a way that they make people dependent upon them. The righteous person seeks to help others, but the nature of that help is that they seek to share wisdom so that the person is not constantly dependent upon them. In fact a time might come when the righteous person needs the help and support of their friends that they have previously helped. There is a mutuality in these kinds of relationships.
31 If the righteous receive their due on earth,
how much more the ungodly and the sinner!
Wisdom literature teaches us how to live life well. If we think of this verse in the context of what we learned in Ecc we will see that life itself is its own reward. The righteous are able to view things from God’s perspective and that helps us to accept our lot in life with thanksgiving to God. The wicked also receive what is their due. They live without gratitude to God. They trust in anything other than God. Wickedness is perverse and it brings its own reward.
Lord God we thank You that You are a generous God, giving again and again what we certainly don’t deserve. Lord as we have received so much from You, help us to have a generous spirit, to think well and act well and speak well of our neighbour and to love them as You have loved us. We ask this in our Saviour’s name. Amen.