Theme: Integrity and the Right Use of Money
In this week’s lessons we look at the six characteristics David gives to describe someone of whom God approves.
Scripture: Psalm 15:1-5
5. His integrity. The fifth couplet contains an incomplete parallelism in which two additional parts need to be supplied mentally. As it stands, the couplet is the simple phrase “who keeps his oath even when it hurts.” In full form it would read something like: who keeps his oath at all times, and is faithful even when it hurts.
The effect of the omissions is to shorten the phrase and highlight part of it, in this case the words “even when it hurts.” That is the important thing. No one has much trouble keeping his or her word when to do so is to the person’s own advantage. You would have to be unbalanced not to. But how about when the conditions have changed and the promise, agreement or contract is no longer to your advantage? Do you honor your promise then? Do you fulfill the contract? Or do you try to find some way to get out of what you had committed yourself to? The psalmist says that God approves people who keep their oaths even when it hurts them to do so.
6. His use of money. The final characteristic of the person who is after God’s heart is that he or she has a right approach to money. I put it this way, because I am convinced that the chief concern in this verse is not with receiving interest for money loaned, but with whom the interest is taken from. The second half concerns greed winning out over justice.
The reason the first half is not a simple denunciation of lending money for interest is that the Old Testament prohibited this only in the case of Jews taking interest from other Jews (Deut. 23:19, 20), and this is usually also explained as a case in which a wealthy person is taking advantage of a person who is needy (Exod. 22:25; Lev. 25:35–37). The Lord’s parable about the talents suggests that God did not prohibit borrowing money for legitimate business matters. The best Old Testament illustration of the abuse of this principle is in Nehemiah 5, where the wealthy were taking advantage of the poor among the exiles when all should have been helping and supporting one another. The poor complained to Nehemiah, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery…We are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others” (Neh. 5:4, 5). The problem was that those who had money were putting their personal gain before the well-being of their neighbors. They were putting money before people.
That is what they are doing in the second part of verse 5 of our psalm: taking bribes. Only here the offense is also against justice. It concerns the courts, which the wealthy in Israel seemed always to control. Putting these two concerns together, we have a picture of one who not only does not use his money wrongly; he does not get his money wrongly either.
So there is a portrait of a person who pleases God. It is a picture of the character God wants to see in you. Does he see it? Is it happening? It must be, if you are his. If you aspire to this, the psalm ends with an encouraging promise for you. It says, “He who does these things will never –
be shaken.” It says, in response to the opening question, that not only will such a person dwell in God’s sanctuary, on his holy hill; in addition, nothing will ever be able to shake him out of it. If you are God’s, you may be shaken, but you will never be shaken loose.
What is the example given for the fifth couplet concerning integrity? What other applications of integrity can you think of?
What is usury? What is the meaning of the last couplet about money?
Application: Having studied the six characteristics from this psalm of one who is approved by the Lord, what do you need to do differently or better in response?
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