Sunday, February 10, 2013

Psalm 111 vs 8: Invest in the poor

Verse 8 of Psalm 111 reads:

Dispersit, dedit pauperibus; justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi : cornu ejus exaltabitur in gloria.
He has distributed, he has given to the poor: his justice remains for ever and ever: his horn shall be exalted in glory

Looking at the text

Dispérsit (he has dispersed), dedit (he has given) paupéribus (to the poor) = he has lavishly given to the poor

dispergo, spersi, spersum, ere 3  scatter, disperse; separate, loose;. take away, withdraw; roam abroad, to wander about
do, dedi, datum, are, to give,

justítia ejus (his justice) manet (it abides) in sæculum sæculi (forever)= his justice abides forever

cornu ejus (his horn) exaltábitur (it will be exalted) in glória (in glory)=his horn will be exalted in glory

cornu, us, n.  the horn of animals, of the bull, ram, etc; symbols of strength, power, glory, pride, or dominion

Penetrating the meaning

St John Chrysostom argues that the lavish giving implied here is not a matter of the quantum of almsgiving, but rather how much it really impacts on our own standard of living.  

And he argues that we should treat almsgiving like an investment, or like the sowing of seed by a farmer, for we shall indeed reap a reward in due course:

"It is quite clear that he means the one who deprives himself of what he has, the one who unsparingly makes his things available, as Paul requires in the words, "The one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."…So when you see that gold is lovely, and you are reluctant to throw it away, think of the sowers, think of the investors, think of the merchants, who begin with outlay and expenditure, each of them entrusting this to insecure ventures; waves and hollows of the ground, after all, and debtors' receipts are all insecure. Inves­tors frequently sustain a loss of their capital, you recall, whereas the one who tills the heavens has none of these risks to fear, but has grounds for confidence about capital and interest - if, that is, we should call this sort of thing interest and not something far more significant than capital. Capital, after all, is money, whereas heaven's interest is the kingdom. Do you see the kind of invest­ment involved, bearing an interest far in excess of the capital?...”

The psalm as a whole

1 Beatus vir qui timet Dominum : in mandatis ejus volet nimis
2 Potens in terra erit semen ejus; generatio rectorum benedicetur.
3 Gloria et divitiæ in domo ejus, et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi. 
4 Exortum est in tenebris lumen rectis : misericors, et miserator, et justus. 
5 Jucundus homo qui miseretur et commodat; disponet sermones suos in judicio: quia in æternum non commovebitur.  
6 In memoria æterna erit justus; ab auditione mala non timebit.
7 Paratum cor ejus sperare in Domino, confirmatum est cor ejus; non commovebitur donec despiciat inimicos suos.
Dispersit, dedit pauperibus; justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi : cornu ejus exaltabitur in gloria.
9 Peccator videbit, et irascetur; dentibus suis fremet et tabescet : desiderium peccatorum peribit.

And for notes on the final verse of the psalm, go here.

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