“The plans of the diligent certainly lead to profit, but anyone who is reckless certainly becomes poor.” (Proverbs 21:5 HCSB)
We live in a material world. God created it—and in doing so, He pronounced it, “Good!” Although sin has tainted it, the truth remains, “This Is My Father’s World,” as the old hymn says. It all belongs to Him. In the Lord’s sovereignty, He has chosen to place men and women as stewards to manage His world—and all the riches it contains. This is the essence of stewardship—holding in trust the wealth of another, investing it wisely, as one who is accountable to the owner—and the owner is God.
There is so much in the Bible dealing with this topic. Few things are discussed more often. It is a big deal. So, we would expect to find significant numbers of proverbs related to stewardship in this intensely practical book—and indeed we do. In today’s assigned reading, there is much about money. In fact, throughout four chapters, we read about money, money, money! What are some of the lessons?
MONEY IS TO BE MANAGED
“The plans of the diligent certainly lead to profit, but anyone who is reckless certainly becomes poor.” (Proverbs 21:5 HCSB)
The first matter we are confronted with is that possessions are of such priority that a plan for them needs to be put in place. That plan is known as a budget. We carefully look at the income we anticipate, the resources we have on hand, the expenses we expect to encounter and plan accordingly. If we did a survey of those in the church and asked how many had a budget written down, which they adhere to, we would be dismayed over the number who fail in this matter. To fail to plan is to plan to fail.
Maybe you don’t have any idea where to start. First, pray and ask God for wisdom. A good rule of thumb is: 10% to God, 10% to savings, and live off the 80% that is left. Base this on your anticipated income for the year. Track your expenses for a month. Project this for the year. Look back at last year and think of those costs which are not billed each month—like medical expense, car repair, gifts, vacations, clothing and such—and then divide these by 52 and see how much to set aside each week (or according to how often you are paid). Put it on paper and do it now!
MONEY IS TO BE MANAGED ETHICALLY
“Making a fortune through a lying tongue is a vanishing mist, a pursuit of death.” (21:6)
Accumulating material wealth by dishonest means is a road to ruin. Here is another verse:
“The Righteous One considers the house of the wicked; He brings the wicked to ruin.” (21:12)
That may not mean the unethical person will necessarily be impoverished on earth—we can think of many examples where the wicked are wealthy—in terms of their bank account. But, there will come a final accounting where such will be bankrupt for eternity! How we treat what God gives us here, is a big factor in how God treats us hereafter. Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul?” Many are selling their soul for financial profit gained through dishonest means. The one they are fooling most is themselves.
If you have to sacrifice your reputation on the altar of financial success, it is too high a price to pay. Look at this: “A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)
A righteous person that can be entrusted with wealth doesn’t walk around like “Mr. Big Shot.” Solomon puts it like this, “The result of humility is fear of the Lord, along with wealth, honor, and life.” (22:4)
The fear of the Lord is a recurring theme in Proverbs and touches every dimension of life—certainly finances. “Don't let your heart envy sinners; instead, always fear the Lord. For then you will have a future, and your hope will never fade. Listen, my son, and be wise; keep your mind on the right course. Don't associate with those who drink too much wine or with those who gorge themselves on meat. For the drunkard and the glutton will become poor, and grogginess will clothe [them] in rags.” (23:17-21)
PEACE IN RELATIONSHIPS IS BETTER THAN POSSESSIONS WITHOUT IT
“Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife.” (21:9)
“Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife.” (21:19)
One of the first fights that newlyweds have is over money. It can continue to be a struggle. Across the decades of marital counseling I have done, it has been a recurring issue. That is why the couple needs to plan ahead as a team before the wedding and then work in tandem after the wedding. Don’t let family finances become a wedge in your relationships. Stretching your self too thin and living under that stress, might result in a lovely house, but at the expense of a loving home!
With few exceptions, I have witnessed the law of magnetism—opposites attract. A “spender” and a “saver” will be drawn to each other. That is actually by God’s design, but if not recognized can become Satan’s tool! Two spenders together will be like a meteorite streaking across the financial sky—they’ll have a blazing good time for a brief while, but then have consumed everything. Two savers under the same roof might accumulate a lot, but not be free to enjoy it. I mean, Scrooge was no fun—but too two of them would be miserable! God wants us to meet in the middle—to see the virtue of saving and the enjoyment of spending and fundamentally, no matter how much you have in the bank, to be rich in your relationships. I paraphrase our Lord’s words, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his family?”
The founding of our home on God, and the framing of our home with godliness has much to do with the furnishing our home with gladness.
“Don't envy evil men or desire to be with them, for their hearts plan violence, and their words stir up trouble. A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.” (Prov.24:1-4)
GOD GIVES SO WE MAY GIVE AND BE LIKE HIM
“The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered.” (21:13)
God is the greatest giver. His children should bear the Father’s likeness. This means we will not be greedy, but generous. Helping others is an essential part of being good stewards of God’s resources. There will always be those who have and those who have not. Doubtless, some of these are undeserving of assistance because they are making no effort to earn a living. You don’t help them, by giving to them—you only enable their sinful laziness. We will see what Proverbs says about that as we continue in our study.
But, the fact is, some struggle despite their best efforts. The Lord uses that to test us and train us. “The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord made them both.” (22:2) There is a sovereign mystery about God’s allocation of prosperity and poverty. Contentment with basic needs and not covetousness with intense greed is the godly attitude. Job said, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh.” (Job 1:21b). Since it is all God’s “stuff” He has the right to dispense it and direct it accordingly. He cares for the poor and provides for them—that provision usually coming through the giving of His people.
We reap what we sow. “A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” (22:9) Don’t think that God isn’t taking notes. “Oppressing the poor to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich-both lead only to poverty.” (22:16) Now or later—there will come a day of reckoning. “Don't rob a poor man because he is poor, and don't crush the oppressed at the gate, for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.” (22:22-23) “Don't move an ancient boundary marker, and don't encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong, and He will take up their case against you.” (22:10-11) If you want to be on God’s side, be on the side of the poor! Life isn’t fair, but God is just—and we ought to be.
Sometimes, those who most need our help are those who once provided for us—aged parents. “Listen to your father who gave you life, and don't despise your mother when she is old. Buy--and do not sell--truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The father of a righteous son will rejoice greatly, and one who fathers a wise son will delight in him. Let your father and mother have joy, and let her who gave birth to you rejoice.” (23:22-25) To honor Father and Mother means many things; it surely means to take care of them if they come to the place they can’t care for themselves. Had they not paid the price, you would not be around today.
By the way, it is not the responsibility of the government to confiscate one person’s wealth and then give it to others in an attempt to make life, “fair.” All that does is create a false god out of government, take away incentive for earning and giving, drain capital from the economy and make government the rich master. In the name of equality, there is only tyranny. True giving comes from the heart—and ultimately it is our heart that God is concerned about. One may argue that if government does not control finances that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. That is doubtless true. Even Scripture acknowledges that, “A secret gift soothes anger, and a covert bribe, fierce rage.” (Proverbs 21:14) Solomon isn’t advocating the practice, he is only admitting the fact of it. That doesn’t change when government takes matters into its own hands. What happens is that the ruling elite become the rich who care for themselves while passing out a pittance to the people. Socialism, Marxism and utopianism never work in a fallen world. It just transfers wealth from one set of people to another—and ultimately to those who are least suited to manage it but all too eager to wield power to master the citizens.
Capitalism isn’t perfect, either, but it is best suited for functioning in a Biblical manner in a corrupt culture. Possessing personal property is a God-given right—not a liberty bestowed by the government. “Don't move an ancient boundary marker, that your fathers set up.” (22:28) If the government can control your land, then it can confiscate your property. I underscore that such is tyranny, not liberty.
SPENDING ALL WITHOUT SAVING AND SHARING IS FOLLY
“The one who loves pleasure will become a poor man; whoever loves wine and oil will not get rich.” (21:17)
“Precious treasure and oil are in the dwelling of a wise person, but a foolish man consumes them.” (21:20)
Our purse strings are connected to our heartstrings!
We have heard it said that money is the root of all evil. The Bible doesn’t say that. Here is the quote, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:10 HCSB). The problem isn’t how much money we hold, but how much hold money has on us. What we love is what we worship. The love of money is idolatry.
Contentment rather than covetousness is called for. “Don't wear yourself out to get rich;
stop giving your attention to it. As soon as your eyes fly to it, it disappears, for it makes wings for itself and flies like an eagle to the sky.” (Proverbs 23:4-5) You are going to spend a lot of time on the job. When you finally settle in to a vocation try to find one you enjoy instead of having to endure. It may be that you have to labor at something which is drudgery for a time to make ends meet, but be praying and watching for something to open up that is more about meaning than only money. Otherwise, the job becomes a dead-end and your misery will cause you to make others miserable.
In the case of this reference, it is the desire for pleasure which money can purchase that is the underlying issue. Here is the one who is all about consumption. They take what they make and spend it on momentary gratification: it may be at the casino gambling, it may be at the beer joint, or in the clothing store or at the jewelry counter. There is no thought for saving, just spending.
Another way people squander their money and destroy their life—not to mention how they hurt others—is through illicit sex and intoxicating drink. The pornography and liquor industry rakes in millions and millions of dollars, while ruining millions of families. Heed this warning:
“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. For a prostitute is a deep pit, and a stranger is a narrow well; indeed, she sets an ambush like a robber
and increases those among men who are unfaithful.
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has conflicts? Who has complaints? Who has wounds for no reason? Who has red eyes? Those who linger over wine, those who go looking for mixed wine. Don't gaze at wine because it is red, when it gleams in the cup
and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a snake and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and you will say absurd things. You'll be like someone sleeping out at sea or lying down on the top of a ship's mast. ‘They struck me, but I feel no pain! They beat me, but I didn't know it! When will I wake up? I'll look for another [drink].’” (23:26-35)
Rather than always consuming, we need to save for a “rainy day.” The sun may be shining on you in your current finances, but a storm may come around the corner. I don’t want to promote a “survivalist” mentality—I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet—but, wisdom ought to cause us to take notice of the current state of the economy and its trends, that if not quickly changed will end in calamity. Here is wisdom: “A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished.” (22:3)
LAZINESS IS WICKEDNESS
“A slacker's craving will kill him because his hands refuse to work. He is filled with craving all day long, but the righteous give and don't hold back.” (21:25-26)
“I went by the field of a slacker and by the vineyard of a man lacking sense. Thistles had come up everywhere, weeds covered the ground, and the stone wall was ruined. I saw, and took it to heart; I looked, and received instruction: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest, and your poverty will come like a robber, your need, like a bandit.” (24:30-34)
God expects us to work. There is a dignity about industry. We cannot fulfill God’s call without it. To just draw a paycheck from the government or to live on handouts without trying to find a job and earn a living is sinful. It is laziness. There are those who work hard and don’t always have enough—there is more month than money. Some look long for labor and can’t find a job. Such need help, but we aren’t to provide a handout only, just a hand up—the lift they need until they can raise their own income.
Here is the New Testament principle, “In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: ‘If anyone isn't willing to work, he should not eat.’ For we hear that there are some among you who walk irresponsibly, not working at all, but interfering with the work [of others]. Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ that quietly working, they may eat their own food.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 HCSB). Instead of making a living, some make excuses. “The slacker says, ‘There's a lion outside! I'll be killed in the public square!’ (22:13) How laughable. They claim, “I can’t go to work, because I heard there is a lion on the loose and it might eat me on the way to my job.” Too bad such creative people don’t use their imagination to invent something profitable instead of finding a way to suck resources from society!
If you do not have marketable skills, get them! Here is a challenge to us, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand in the presence of kings. He will not stand in the presence of unknown men.” (22:29) Be noted for ingenuity in industry, not for excelling in excuses!
Don’t tell me I have no heart for those in hardship. I’ve been there. I have been given a pink slip, collected unemployment checks—and took the first job I could find! It wasn’t the job I wanted, and when something else opened up I left it, but I didn’t sit around on my back side living off others. While unemployed I filled in some sunken graves and picked up old flowers from a church cemetery to get a little cash. Now, there’s a fun job! But I was thankful for it. I have been a bi-vocational pastor for periods of my ministry, working in the church field and in a warehouse. I drove many miles and it took a lot of effort, but it was the right thing to do. There was a time when I pastored by day and ran a fifty pound jack-hammer all night—for basically minimum wage. But, I maintained my dignity—and God honored it. There is a difference, of course, between those who can’t do any better and those who won’t. We are reminded repeatedly of the need to give to those who are truly poor. The generosity of God’s people blesses me every week.
Additionally, these verses are reasons why Christians shouldn’t gamble and play the lottery. It has to do with greed. We want more than what can be provided through honest work. If we get a payoff, that money came mostly from the poor who had the least to give, but played the lottery in hope they might hit the jackpot—not to mention, those who lose everything from addiction to the thrill of gambling. How many children suffer the absence of a father or the lack of a good meal because Dad or Mom put it all into poker machines? Gambling isn’t good stewardship.
DEBT HAS THE POWER TO ENSLAVE US
“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” (22:7)
A nation with an economy built on debt has become a slave to those who loan the money—whether it is
Making yourself responsible for the debts of others is perilous also. Here is the warning, “Don't be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans. If you have no money to pay, even your bed will be taken from under you.” (22:26-27)
This has become my longest devotional piece yet! But, I alerted you at the beginning. The Bible says much about money! Do you think the subject is important?
There are probably few of us who score 100 on the finance test. I know there are some areas where I struggle more than others. But, wherever you are today, begin to move toward step by step becoming the money manager God wants you to be. Have a plan and work at it. “The plans of the diligent certainly lead to profit, but anyone who is reckless certainly becomes poor.” (Proverbs 21:5 HCSB)