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A Psalm for Pollyanna?

June 15, 2018 • Life for Leaders

Praise the LORD.
Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.

Psalm 112:1

 

Is Psalm 112 perfect for a Pollyanna?

A little girl with a big smile.When we call someone a Pollyanna, we don’t usually mean it as a compliment. Pollyannaish people always look on the bright side, so much so that they seem to ignore the genuine pain and unhappiness of life. In fact, our word “Pollyanna” is based on a character from a popular children’s novel written in the early 1900s. This book by Eleanor H. Porter, entitled Pollyanna, focuses on the experiences of Pollyanna Whittier, an orphan who overcomes life’s trials and disappointments by playing the “glad game.” No matter what happens in life, Pollyanna finds something to be glad about. Though the character of Pollyanna was not immune to suffering, we tend to call people “Pollyanna” when their view of life is so optimistic as to seem naïve and unrealistic.

Would Psalm 112 have been Pollyanna’s favorite? At first glance, this might seem to be true. The psalm begins by proclaiming: “Blessed are those who fear the LORD” (112:1). According to Psalm 112, those who fear the Lord will act in godly and generous ways. They will also receive rewards for their obedience to God. “Their children will be mighty in the land” (112:2). “Wealth and riches are in their houses” (112:3). They “will never be shaken” (112:6). Sounds a bit like Pollyanna, doesn’t it? Just fear the Lord and everything in life will be great.

But it doesn’t always work out this way, does it? Taken by itself, Psalm 112 paints a rosy picture of life, one much rosier than life often turns out to be. In fact, sometimes those who fear the Lord suffer, while those who reject God appear to flourish. We know this to be true, not only from personal experience, but also from the Psalms. Psalm 10, for example, observes that the wicked person is too proud to seek God, yet “His ways are always prosperous” (10:4-5). Psalm 94 wonders “how long” the wicked will be allowed to crush God’s own people (94:3-6). Taken as a whole, the Psalms don’t sound much like Pollyanna.

Thus, Psalm 112 is not meant to be the last and only word on the earthly rewards for those who fear the Lord. It is one word among many in the Psalms. And it is a word we do need to hear. This psalm reminds us that earthly rewards often follow from right living. When we seek to do God’s will, when we live according to his commands, we will experience goodness in this life, even as we look forward to the life of the future. Yes, we will also know sorrow. But the joys and rewards of seeking the Lord and his ways will sustain us.

Something to Think About:

As you think about your life, how has your obedience to God led to blessing?

As you read about the actions of the righteous in Psalm 112, which of these are found in your life?

Where do you need to grow in your obedience to God?

Something to Do:

Psalm 112:9 says of those who are blessed that they “have freely scattered their gifts to the poor.” Could this be said of you? Are you generous with what God has given to you? If your answer is something other than “yes,” decide how you might be generous with the poor. If you aren’t sure how you might do that, find out how your church cares for the poor in your community. Or, you can always trust World Vision to use well what you give them for service to the poor.

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for the reminder of Psalm 112. Thank you for encouraging me to fear you and to delight in obeying your commands. Thank you for the promise that my life will be better if I walk in your ways.

Yes, to be sure, there isn’t a simple formula for blessing, as if you must reward me every time I do something right. Yet if I make your ways the pattern of my life, I will surely benefit, as will those whom I serve in your name.

Thank you, dear Lord, for your grace, which stands behind every good thing I experience in life. All praise be to you, O God, giver of all good gifts. Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Virtues for those in business (Psalm 112)

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Psalms

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