Can you explain “penury?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

The term is used twice in the Authorized Version:

  • Proverbs 14:23: “In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.”
  • Luke 21:4: “For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”

By giving attendance to context clues, we gain a general sense of the definition of “penury.” In Proverbs, it is contrasted with “profit.” That is, one who works will obtain an income, but one who talks will suffer “penury.” (Can you guess what it is yet?) In the Luke passage, we have people with “abundance” distinguished from a woman of “penury.” (Surely, by now, you know its meaning!) This English word is derived from the Latin “penuria,” which is defined as “need, scarcity.” In other words, “penury” is extreme poverty.

The Hebrew word in Proverbs, “mahsor,” was elsewhere rendered—“poverty” (Proverbs 11:24), “poor” (Proverbs 21:17), and “lack” (Proverbs 28:27), among other translations. As touching the Greek term in Luke, “hysterema,” it was translated—“which was/is lacking” (1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Corinthians 11:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10), “want” (2 Corinthians 8:14; 2 Corinthians 9:12), and “which is behind” (Colossians 1:24), among other renderings.

Also see:
» “Ye have the poor always with you?”
» Who are the “poor” in Galatians 2:10?
» Must I tithe 10 percent of my income?