The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.
It is the thought that counts! You have heard this saying before. It means that a sincere desire to do something kind for another person is as good or better than actually doing it, especially when a person cannot rightly afford the good thing they desire to do.
This obscure proverb is a jewel; will you learn it? Many will not; yet they will criticize the Bible for being too difficult to understand. Note Solomon’s warning: proverbs are dark sayings to challenge your character and conscience (Pr 1:1-6; 24:10; II Tim 2:15).
As with many proverbs, a comparison is made. Some kind of a poor man is better than some kind of a liar. If a poor man is a liar, he is not better than any other liar, because there is no virtue in poverty. But a poor man that sincerely desires to show kindness is better than a rich man that professes his affection and good will but never does anything.
You have had others offer to do something for you, yet you knew they should not afford the expense, since they were not financially well off. You might even have asked to pay yourself, such as for a dinner out at a restaurant, telling them it was their thought that counted. Such an exchange of kindness is the meaning and intent of this proverb.
A man may desire to be kind and helpful but can go no further, for he has no means. Yet there are those with means to do much that never go further than offering or promising. Though the one is poor in money, he is rich in heart; though the other is rich in money, his evil heart is destitute of charity and brotherly kindness. He is a liar and covetous.
Many men make great professions of religion, but how many like David tried to build God a temple (II Sam 7:1-5; II Chr 6:7-9)? God accepted David’s desire as sufficient and rewarded him for it, though He did not let David build it. In response, David paid for the temple. Consider also the very poor widow that gave her last mites to God (Luke 21:1-4).
Here is what God thinks of those that talk of kindness to others but do not perform: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (Jas 2:15-16). What a lying disgrace!
Only an honest and sincere desire to be kind counts with God or men. How can sincerity be measured? Easily. What did you do in kindness when you had the means? How liberal are you now with the means you have? How kind is your conduct by all other measures?
Here are the lessons: (1) never offer kindness without paying, if you are able; (2) always desire to help others, even if you do not have the means; (3) recognize the love of those that sincerely desire and attempt kindness, but lack the means of doing it; (4) it is far better to desire to do good but be unable than to have ability without the heart for giving.
If you are the benevolent man in this proverb that desires to show kindness, consider that giving to God and to others is the greatest incentive to work hard in your profession. After your basic needs are covered, what other motive can possibly compare? If God has given you abilities and opportunities, earn what you can within reason, and then share it.
God is perfectly honest and sincere with promises of eternal riches that are most certainly true. He goes far beyond this proverb, for it is the desire and the means that make a true benefactor. Listen to Jesus commit Himself, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Amen.