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The Bare Necessities

Wisdom in seeing true bottom line

Proverbs 11:23-27

23 The desire of the righteous is only good,
But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.

24 There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right,
But it leads to poverty.

25 The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.

26 The people will curse him who withholds grain,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

27 He who earnestly seeks good finds favor,
But trouble will come to him who seeks evil.


Do you, or someone you love, carry an epipen? This miraculous device can be a portable life-saving tool. It is a spring-loaded contraption that can be placed against the thigh or other part of the body, where a needle will propelled into the flesh to deliver a critical burst of the drug epinephrine. 

For those who suffer from certain chronic conditions, or are susceptible to certain toxins, an epipen can be administered by the self, a companion, or a first responder to counter the shock of anaphylaxis caused by an allergic reaction.

My son has a rare immune condition, and treatment can require the use of an epipen. When he was four, my son was stung by a fire ant and went into anaphylactic shock. As an ambulance sped to the house, my wife quickly administered the epipen and it saved his life.

It was one of the most frightening moments of our lives.

As he has grown into a healthy young teenager, my son has outgrown his red spots, and has developed past many of the triggers that used to cause dramatic allergic reactions. Like millions of Americans, he always carries his epipen, however, just in case. In 2020, a pharmacological survey revealed 1,730,366 prescriptions of epipen nationwide. It is considered a vital source of medicine for critical needs.

In 2016, the patent for epipen was purchased by Mylan.* The company, sensing a windfall, increased pricing for the epipen over 600%. Profits soared, executives, and shareholders got wealthy–but those needing the epipen experienced a real crisis. It was only after a public outcry, that the company was shamed into lowering its pricing once more to an affordable level. 

Now, Mylan held the patent, it was their product, their drug. What they did was perfectly legal–but it had monstrous results, and real people suffered.

Solomon speaks of this attitude in Proverbs. In chapter 11, he is teaching the youth a series of wise sayings, often in the form of parallel versets, or ideas. His goal is to raise and influence godly young rulers and leaders of tomorrow, and in these passages he teaches you snd I about the importance of the true bottom line:

23 The desire of the righteous is only good,
But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.–Proverbs 11:23

Verses 23-27 are connected by the word “good.” Good can be a vague term in the English language: Superman does good. Peaches are good. Here, Solomon uses “good” to mean that the righteous desire to do good for others–even at cost to themselves. 

This is contrasted by the second verse and the hope of the wicked. The evil they desire for others ricochets onto themselves. This is not a scheme of Wile E. Coyote (Genius), it shadows the public anger and outcry of the common man, much like the epipen fiasco. 

Another modern example is the cavalcade of celebrities and politicians gathering at posh resorts in places like Switzerland to decry fossil fuels and climate change–and each flying in fuel-guzzling private jets. They deserve the mockery that they receive from citizens who will bear the burden of the carbon taxes that they propose. Read on:

24 There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right,
But it leads to poverty.–Proverbs 11:24 

As Solomon warms to his theme, you see that he is describing a paradox. The generous gain, but the selfish and greedy lose.

You receive earthly blessing when you have a giving spirit. When you are a blessing, you are blessed by others in return. Scripture continually illustrates how the righteous are to help the poor, as well as each other. The community of believers can be its own support system in times of need.

How many in your church have been hit by job loss, or some financial crisis, and simply “fallen off the radar” when it came to caring for them and their needs? In our culture, it is easy to have a reaction to tragedy and poverty as if those suffering have deserved it, or brought it on themselves. 

But this is not Christ’s attitude. Jesus, in Matthew 5:7, preaches blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. He urges you to give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away (Matthew 5:42). And Jesus repeatedly tells His disciples, to love one another, as I have loved you (John 15:12).

Peter, Paul, and others carried this into the early church. The poor were cared for, and the community was blessed–individuals like Dorcas are even mentioned for their compassion (Acts 9:36). Paul urged the practice of hospitality (Romans 12:13), and you cannot help but begin to understand the close community of those early believers. They brought blessings to others–and were blessed in kind.

The more believers do this, the more their Heavenly Father is pleased, and the more blessing He will bestow. 

This is refreshing:

25 The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.–Proverbs 11:25

Solomon brings to your mind, a metaphor from agriculture. In verse 24, he uses “scatters,” meaning to sow seed. Here, in verse 25, he speaks of watering crops. 

It is here that you should pause and realize that what Solomon is teaching, and what God is displaying among His children, is not about earthly wealth. This pertains to philanthropy, not to personal investment. This brings you to verse 26 and the heart of this section:

26 The people will curse him who withholds grain,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.–Proverbs 11:26

One who “withholds grain” is someone who controls and profits off a necessity of life. This is about merchants who hold back a supply of a life essential in order to maximize profits. Those who do will be cursed by their fellow men, and cannot expect to see diving blessing in their lives. There are other proverbs about this:

3 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to act.–Proverbs 3:27


24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
    will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.–Proverbs 24:24

Now what is a “life essential?” Are you seeing a dramatic spike in food prices? The cost of everything is increasing these days, while your paycheck barely keeps up. Much of these items are not essential. You do not need “Wavy Lays” potato chips, “Pop Tarts” or “Pepsi” in order to survive. I am reminded of the whimsical, popular song “The Bare Necessities,” sung by Baloo the bear in Disney’s 1967 hit, “The Jungle Book:”

And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it
I'll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you

[Check out Louie Armstrong's version!]

Of course, you cannot simply find life’s basics by achieving a sort of “jungle zen” like a cartoon bear–but he does have a point about what we can do without.

However, commodities such as grain, vegetable, medicines, and fuel are vital. As the cost of these rises, you face true crisis. 

It is true that those in the seat of power who manipulate markets while they do not suffer, are justifiably cursed. Solomon is warning them in that people will turn to God to curse them–and this is real danger. You have children to feed, a future to plan for, a home to manage. Those who profit unduly from this–even though it is perfectly legal–they may nevertheless be practicing wickedness. 

This can be the boardroom of a Fortune 500 company–or those who hoarded and sold toilet paper during the COVID crisis. 

In contrast, when you are a blessing to others, they will pray for you to be blessed. Commentator Bruce Waltke explains that:

the proverb admonishes the reader to be like Jesus who did good, and was rewarded with eternal life.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”

This echoes Solomon’s concluding thought in verse 27: 

27 He who earnestly seeks good finds favor,
But trouble will come to him who seeks evil.–Proverbs 11:27

Here, you see the true essential of life: the Bread of Life, Himself, Jesus. This paradox of blessing others, or being cursed for selfishness is not about earthly wealth, but about eternal wealth in Christ. Solomon urges you to a higher ethic in your earthly dealings, for they are to be evidence of Christ in you.  

Jesus calls you to seek first the Kingdom of God. You can be prosperous and profitable in this life, but you are a mere steward of what has been given to you: 

14 But who am I, and who are my people,
That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
For all things come from You,
And of Your own we have given You.–I Chronicles 29:14

So, instead of seeking wealth, seek the One who gives it to you. As Waltke beautifully describes:

The truth “seek and you will find” takes on new meaning: when you seek for others you will find for yourself.–Bruce Waltke 

Are you content with only Jesus? This is the key to understanding all of this, and how to cope in a world of want. Jeremiah Burroughs, in his Puritan work, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” reminds you of your true focus: 

I am discontented because I have not these things which God never yet promised me, and therefore I sin much against the Gospel, and against the grace of faith.–Jeremiah Burroughs, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” 

In this age of inflation, crisis, fear, and suffering, can you be content if all you have is Christ? When you focus on Him, your concern for other things–even things you think are essential, fades away. He becomes your true bottom line:

When the heart of a man has nothing to do, but to be busy about creature-comforts, every little thing troubles him; but when the heart is taken up with the weighty things of eternity, with the great things of eternal life, the things of here below that disquieted it before are things now of no consequence to him in comparison with the other-how things fall out here is not much regarded by him, if the one thing that is necessary is provided for.–Jeremiah Burroughs, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment"

No matter what essentials are withheld from you, no matter the hardship, when you focus on Christ you can say, truthfully, “it is well with my soul:” 

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

 *Note: A knowledgeable reader has pointed out that the patent for the epipen did not expire, but was sold. This has been corrected.


The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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