Another Look by David Faust
“Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy” (Psalm 86:1). It’s no surprise that someone would cry out to the Lord because he feels “poor and needy,” but it’s a bit surprising that the superscript above Psalm 86 says this poem contains “A prayer of David.” Do you think of David as poor and needy?
Early in life David knew poverty firsthand. He grew up on a sheep farm near Bethlehem. After he killed Goliath and became a national hero, he ran from the jealous King Saul, lived in caves, and begged a priest to let him eat consecrated bread (1 Samuel 21:1-6). He was poor and needy then. During those difficult moments David said, “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him” (Psalm 34:6). Later, though, after David settled into his role as king, the Lord gave him “victory wherever he went” (2 Samuel 8:14). He lived in a comfortable house and enjoyed the privileges of royal life. His son Solomon later surpassed his financial glory, but in material wealth King David was hardly what most of us would call poor and needy.
Perhaps David learned about a different sort of poverty—the kind Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). This Beatitude comes first because it’s the key to the rest. Blessings flow when we recognize how desperately we need the resources only God can provide.
An old saying goes, “If you ever see a turtle on a fencepost, you can be sure he didn’t get there by himself.” One time my wife and I climbed with a group of sightseers to the archway atop a large bridge that spans the Ohio River near our home. At the highest point of the bridge, our guides instructed us to tug a rope and ring the so-called Achievement Bell to let others know what we had accomplished—as if we had achieved some great feat. But someone else built the bridge; someone else put the tour together; someone else fastened us to a safety line with metal clasps so we wouldn’t slip and fall into the river. We were turtles on a fencepost—enjoying the view from the top because someone else helped to put us there.
We need to count our blessings, not pat ourselves on the back. Jesus warned the first-century church in Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). These lukewarm believers had grown financially prosperous but spiritually tepid. They were blind to their true condition before God. Well-stuffed wallets and overflowing closets cannot substitute for an empty heart.
David got it right in Psalm 86. The best Achievement Bell is one that rings with the praise of God. David prayed, “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. . . . For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (vv. 5, 10, 11).
Poor me, if making money ever makes me forget my Maker. Poor me, if I have funds but not friends—a big bank account but no accountability to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Poor me, if I forget that no matter what I own, it’s more important to realize that God owns me. Poor me, if I amass treasures on earth but not in Heaven.
Help me, Lord, for I am poor and needy. Amen.