Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.
Does your giving exceed your talking? Or does your talking exceed your giving? Have you kept all your promises to give? Or have you disappointed some by not performing? It is much easier to talk about helping than to actually do it. It is much easier to boast of generosity than to actually be generous. If you have opened your mouth, it is time to pay.
In a dry location like Israel, where Solomon lived, clouds and wind brought great hope of rain for a people dependent on agriculture for their survival (Pr 3:20; 16:15; Lev 26:3-5; Deut 11:10-15; I Kgs 18:41-46; Job 36:26-28; Ps 68:9; 147:8; Jer 5:24; Zech 10:1). The joy would have been great at the sight of clouds on the horizon and the feeling of wind. But it was a terrible disappointment when the clouds and wind did not produce any rain.
This proverb is a simile, where the comparison drives the interpretation. You must identify the boaster and the false gift to understand the lesson. Is the false gift a bribe, and the boaster the giver or receiver of it? Is the false gift a worthless trinket, and the boaster the giver or receiver of it? Is the false gift a token of insincere love, and the boaster the giver or receiver of it? No, in all three cases! The comparison shows it is a promised gift that is never given, and the boaster is the pompous man pretending to be a benefactor.
Clouds and wind brought the expectation of rain, which caused gladness and hope in those needing it. When the clouds and wind did not produce the desired and needed rain, there was great disappointment and grief. A man promising to give without performing is just as disappointing and frustrating. The lesson? Keep your commitments of helping others. Never let your offers or promises of giving exceed your actual performance. Job’s righteousness included his great care of the expectations of the needy (Job 29:13; 31:16).
When Pharaoh’s butler was released from prison and restored to his job on Pharaoh’s birthday, he fervently agreed with Joseph that he would put in a good word to Pharaoh to seek his release as well. But the butler forgot all about the agreement for two long years (Gen 40:1-23). Can you imagine Joseph’s disappointment, as days and weeks went by without a word from the butler or Pharaoh? The clouds and wind had brought no rain.
Most men love to talk the talk – they will tell you with little prompting about how kind and generous they are; but it is hard to find a faithful man that walks the walk (Pr 20:6). The Law of Moses called it defrauding to hold back day wages even one day (Lev 19:13; Deut 24:14-15). And Solomon condemned both holding back help from your neighbor and/or promising to help him but postponing the actual giving of help (Pr 3:27-28).
These talkers promise the moon or more, because it is easy and effective to buy the praise of men this way. But these liars either do not intend to perform, are unable to perform, or forget about the commitment when other matters take their attention. In all three cases, the promised expectation becomes a vain lie. Those that boast about such lies are terrible. Righteous men never mislead where the expectations and hopes of the needy are at stake.
Consider politicians. Solomon wrote this proverb in the midst of several about kings and governing (Pr 25:2-7,15). Rulers want desperately to be popular rulers, so they are sorely tempted to offer incredible future favors to secure their popularity. It is so very easy to promise special benefits to each group of constituents. In democracies and republics, where leaders are elected by the masses, the unkept promises are Legion. If you are a leader of any sort, make sure that you fulfill all your promises without fail.
Consider the devil. He promised your first mother she would become as a god, if she ate the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:1-7). Rather than become as a god, she damned herself, her husband, and all her children to death and an eternity in hell. The devil has been lying ever since, and when you sin, you are betting on his lying promise to make you happy in spite of God’s condemnation of that sin. He is a deceiver and destroyer of men by lying about the pleasures of sin, just ask Amnon or Judas (II Sam 13:1-29; Acts 1:18).
Consider ministers. Many are liars for the devil, promising blessings that will not come (I Kgs 22:19-23; John 8:44; II Cor 11:1-4,13-15; I Tim 4:1-3). Many promise fantastic miracles and riches for tax-deductible donations. The gospel of compromise of seeker sensitive ministers that promises liberty without repentance and holiness is a false gift (II Pet 2:14-19). Measure these imposters by their fruits, not their promises (Matt 7:15-20).
Consider men. How often have they seduced women by promising things they could not or would not do? Consider husbands. How often have wives had expectations dashed by husbands that did not perform their word? Consider fathers. How often have children been disappointed and discouraged by fathers that did not keep their promises? Many of these liars boasted of their generosity, based only on promises. There is only one Father that always gives as much as promised (Rom 8:32; I Cor 2:9; Eph 3:20; I Pet 4:19).
The gospel of Jesus Christ, the only pure truth on earth, strongly condemns those that talk about helping the poor but do not keep their commitments (Jas 2:15-16; I John 3:16-19). The real measure of charity and generosity is performance, not comforting words or promises. Paul wrote the church at Corinth and told them to make sure they performed what they had committed to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem (II Cor 8:1-15).
Have you ever said, “Do not worry, I will take care of it,” but then failed to keep your obligation? Have you ever said, “I will be checking on you to see if you need anything else,” but forgot your commitment? Have you ever told a group, “Do not give it another thought, for I have already promised to take care of that,” but knew you were stretching your ability to perform? The proverb condemns this kind of pompous lying about gifts. It is your duty to restrain your words and expand your giving, lest any be disappointed.
The best kind of giving does not involve your mouth but rather your money. Instead of cheap and easy talk that gets hopes high in those needing help, quietly give a generous gift or provide a significant service that ends their need for help. Now that is rain without a cloud! God loves considerate people who creatively think of liberal gifts for the needy, but He has no use for those who speak of doing much but pay little (Isaiah 32:8).
God Himself promised the greatest gift ever, and He most surely paid in full, right on time. He promised eternal life to His elect before the world began (Titus 1:2), and He sent His only begotten Son to die a cruel death on a Roman cross at the exact time He had planned (Dan 9:24-27; Gal 4:4-5). The clouds of God’s mercy are full of rain. He has saved His people from their sins, and they rejoice now and shall praise Him for eternity.