The Patient Beggar
“Fret not yourself because of the wicked, be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security… I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread.”
Unfortunately, I’ve never been accused of being a patient man. When I want something, I want it now. I’m not proud of that, but at least I recognize it. And, since I’ve learned to recognize that about myself, I have learned to ask God for patience. The things I’m most impatient about seem to be the things I ask God for the most. I want to be patient, I really do, but I often resemble more of a beggar in the way I treat God in my prayers. I guess you could call me a ‘patient beggar’. After all, patience is a virtue, or so the old saying goes. If that’s true, and I believe it is, then I think there may be a lot of people in my ‘Patient Beggars Club’ – maybe you?
If you’re in my club, then Psalm 37 is for you today. It’s a beautifully worded treatise on patience. King David is writing from the vantage point of his older years. He understands that sooner or later, sin will catch up with the wicked. He learned from experience, it certainly caught up with him. The psalm is written to give hope to the downtrodden. David tells the righteous who trust in God to be patient while they see the wicked prosper all around them.
Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:7)
It’s hard to be patient when you see people prospering whom you know don’t deserve it, isn’t it? It’s hard because all we see is the here and now. Our sense of fairness and justice is bound up by the time of this world. What need to remember is God doesn’t measure time. Time exists for this world. In God’s economy there is no time, only eternity. A thousand years in our world are like one day to God (Psalm 90:4). Of course, that’s a metaphor, but it’s given to help us understand that we can’t bind God with our time table.
When God says the wicked will get what’s coming to them, He means it. So, when we see the wicked inherit what seems like wealth and fame, let’s remember that in the scope of eternity, it will all vanish like the wind. The important thing for the child of God to remember is that he or she is not forgotten. God knows your every need and will bless you accordingly. As David said in verse 25, have you ever seen the righteous go begging for bread? I haven’t.
It may seem like the righteous are begging, but are we begging for what we truly need? The bread represents what we truly need. Jesus taught us to pray for our true needs: “Give us this day our daily bread”. Instead, we often beg for what we want, because we haven’t really settled the difference between our wants and our needs. So often we think we’re being patient because we’ve waited on God to “bless” us with something we’ve always thought we needed. But, what we really are is a ‘patient beggar’. We keep asking God for the same thing, but in reality the reason we don’t get it is because God knows we don’t need it, or we’re not ready for it.
Rather than be ‘patient beggars’, we need to become ‘patient trusters’ (I know that’s not a real word, but it’s fun to say). If we can’t trust God to know the difference between our wants and our needs, then who can we trust? We can trust God for everything. St. Paul reminds us that if God is for us, nothing can come against us (Romans 8:31). The question isn’t, “Is God for us?”. The question is, “Are we for God?”. If we are, we will show it by trusting Him for everything.