The wicked borrows and does not repay but the righteous is gracious and giving. Psalm 37:21
Wicked – Does this verse mean that those who do not repay are wicked or does it mean that one of the characteristics of the wicked is their intention not to repay? If we knew that a man never intended to repay, why would we allow him to borrow? Such a man is untrustworthy. His promise is worthless. No one would lend to him (except, apparently, the government). So this verse cannot mean we already identify the man as wicked. If that were the case, we would not lend. The verse assumes we did lend expecting to be repaid. But this borrower does not repay. In fact, his actions tell us that he will never repay. He makes no effort to restore the broken confidence or the damaged trust. He just doesn’t care. He got what he wanted and now washes his hands of the obligation. We were duped. He appeared to be creditworthy but the facts demonstrate otherwise.
The Hebrew word that describes such a man is rasa’ (wicked, guilty, a criminal, a transgressor). The pictograph is “experiencing (knowing) a person who consumes and destroys.” You undoubtedly know at least one rasa’. You didn’t realize this person had such characteristics until too late, but you see it now.
The verse does not suggest that everyone who does not repay is wicked. Sometimes repayment is delayed for good reasons. Sometimes repayment is no longer possible. Things happen. The difference is this: A borrower who acts in some way, however small, to repay is not wicked. A borrower who makes no effort at all to repay is wicked. Actions determine character.
In the same way, the actions of the righteous determine character. The righteous is gracious and giving. The righteous is hanan. He shows mercy. He acts with benevolence toward others. In other words, he lives out the character of God in relation to fellow men. Furthermore, the righteous is nathan. He is giving. The usage of this verb covers everything from knowledge to real property, from production to offerings.
How do we identify the righteous man? By his actions. He gives. That is not the same as “he loans.” He shows mercy. That means he extends himself toward others. In this context, he is merciful toward the one who is unable to repay. The context does not demand forgiving the borrower who does not repay, but it certainly implies that the righteous is slow to lend but quick to give. While the wicked take advantage of the trusting generosity of lenders, the righteous give regardless of the borrower’s ultimate response. If you have experienced someone who consumes, your character as a righteous man or woman will be determined by the next one who asks to borrow. Twice burned does not apply to the righteous. They are motivated by God’s purposes, not the possible returns.
Topical Index: rasa’, wicked, guilty, criminal, borrower, repay, Psalm 37:21