Wisdom for Finances Part 2
As we finish off our time in Proverbs for 2018, we come to the second part of our study concerning finances. What does the wisdom of God in Proverbs have to say about our money?
Well, as you can tell from the handouts for last week and for this week, there is quite a bit is has to say. If you put both of those handout together, you get over 100 passages from Proverbs 10-30 dealing with money. And what that tells us is that finances are an important subject that we need to both know about for ourselves and teach our children about.
But remember, these lessons aren’t simply tactics to be wealthy in the world. They are lessons about how to fear the Lord. That’s the theme of Proverbs. Walking in wisdom is an expression of fearing the Lord. It’s a humble life of obedience and practical worship, and it invites God’s blessing in your life.
Last week, I said that we could divide the money proverbs into 7 categories or principles, and we covered the first three. So, for today, we’ll do a quick review, and then finish going through the list. And again, I won’t cover every passage that I collected, but you’ve got a handout that you can use to study the topics even more or to look at with others in your family.
Principle number 1 was the principle of priority. Priority. That was a reminder, that even though money has value, it is not the most important pursuit in life. Money and wealth are not to be our priority. There are many good things in life that money can’t buy. Our main pursuit in life should be God Himself.
Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” That’s our priority. We pursue what God pursues—wisdom, holiness, and righteousness. That’s what honors God. And that’s what invites His blessings.
And as Christians we know that pursuing God means, first of all, surrendering to and worshiping Jesus Christ. That’s John 3 and John 5. You cannot honor God if you do not honor the Son. The Son who came to earth and took humanity upon Himself. The Son who died in the place of sinners and was then raised from the dead. And the Son who will come again in perfect judgment.
We recognize that everything we have belongs to Jesus. He is Lord. And so, the way we use our time and our energy and our abilities and our homes and our possessions and our money should reflect that we value what Jesus values. So again, we need to have the right priorities.
Principle number 2, we called the principle of Responsibility. Responsibility. This was the warning that living an undisciplined and irresponsible life places us in financial danger.
A lack of self-control can lead to poverty. This past week pointed me to an article about poverty from a Christian perspective, breaking down poverty into categories. These are reasons someone might be impoverished.
The first was voluntary poverty. So a person might choose to take a lower-paying vocation or position for the sake of the kingdom. That’s how Jesus lived, for example, once his public ministry began. That’s what a missionary does who moves to the Middle East permanently. Humanly speaking, they would have a better quality of life if they stayed here in the States, but for the sake of making disciples, they choose a more effective, yet less luxurious life. That’s voluntary poverty.
The second category is catastrophic poverty. This would be a reference to poverty that is out of your own control. For example, a famine or a flood or a fire can wipe out a city or a company of a field of crops. For some reason, unconnected to a man’s character, he and his family can become poor. Job would be a good example of that. Catastrophic poverty.
The third category is oppressive poverty. This is poverty due to the sinfulness of another. Someone might be oppressively taxed by a government, or withheld rightful payment from employers. You get one example of that in the epistle of James. The wealthy landowners were withholding the wages from the workers. And it resulted in their poverty. That is oppressive poverty.
And the final category is foolish poverty. And that’s the kind that Proverbs focuses in on. We can’t avoid the two middle categories of poverty, but we can avoid this one.
Proverbs says that an irresponsible life given over to pleasure and foolishness can lead to poverty. And the examples we’re given are those who are lazy or gluttonous or arrogant and unteachable or sexually immoral.
Today you might see it with someone who has no control on their spending, or who gives in to drugs, or to excessive amounts of entertainment and thrills. If you stay up late partying with your friends, and you can’t make it to work on time, and you’re unproductive, you’re in danger of losing your job. That’s a lifestyle that’s un supportable. It’s irresponsible. Don’t be like that. That was principle number 2.
Principle number 3 is the principle of generosity. And there are so many passages in Proverbs, and in the rest of the Bible, that call us to reflect the love and compassion of God, by providing for those who are legitimately in need. And the obligation to give increases the closer we are to it, either physically and spiritually.
In the New Testament, the examples of giving are most clearly seen in the church, when brothers and sisters, united in the love and salvation of Christ, gave to help one another. If it’s a brother in the same local church, the Apostles say: give. It’s a sin if you don’t.
And as the need is farther, say a church in a different city, hit by a famine, Paul doesn’t obligate the believers to give, but he reminds them of God’s blessing for being generous. And that’s basically the message of Proverbs.
Don’t hoard your money. God doesn’t bless that. Provide for the needs of others, particularly those with a need in your family and your immediate covenant-community, and God will bless you. He will take care of you as you use your resources for His glory.
So principles 1-3 were the principles of priority, responsibility, and generosity. Those are financial principles form the wisdom of God in Proverbs.
Now, it’s principle number 4. And this is in the handout for today. Principle number is the principle of Reality. Reality.
The Proverbs dad wants his son to think realistically about money and about how it relates to life. This is both informative and corrective.
One the one hand, money has advantages. It has benefits. It opens doors for you. But on the other hand, things aren’t always how they seem. Money also has its drawbacks. So don’t’ judge the world and the people simply based on the appearances of money. You can be deceived. That’s the principle of reality.
Just looking at the first couple verses in the handout, Proverbs 10:15 says A rich man's wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
Proverbs 18:11 says almost the same thing. Money brings an element of protection, just like the walls around a city. Proverbs in chapters 14 and 19 tell us that money can gain you friends. That’s a measure of protection. Chapters 17 and 21 say that money can be used to determine someone else’s decisions, like a bribe. And it can pay off someone who is angry at you. Again, another level of protection.
But, Proverbs 11:28 reminds us (and we saw this proverb last week): Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
Money alone isn’t enough to protect you. It can’t guarantee a better life. Rich people might seem to get off the hook for a while, but in the end, even the rich will face the consequences of their actions. That’s the reality. Things aren’t always what they seem.
Along those lines, there are a couple proverbs that remind us not to judge too quickly by appearances. Proverbs 12:9 says: Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread.
And Proverbs 13:7 adds: One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
It’s possible that a person can be very rich, and yet live very humbly. I read an article this week aimed at entrepreneurs, discussing some of the financial habits of the world’s richest people. This wasn’t just celebrities, it included CEOs of major, global corporations.
It said that many of them will still use coupons. And they still live below their means. They have a modest home and a modest car. They fly commercial. They pass on luxury clothing. And they’re not carrying around a wallet full of cash. So that means that they are very wealthy, and yet they don’t act rich. You wouldn’t know it by looking at them. They have nothing to prove.
On the other hand, there are plenty of people who spend a lot of money to look rich, and yet have very little. So looks can be deceiving.
I remember reading about a twenty-something old girl who wanted to remain anonymous in what she wrote, but was hoping to make it famous on Instagram. This was cited in a book by Tony Reinke called “12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You.”
In her own words, she said: “I buy a lot of things to maintain my image. I pay for meals out, new [swimsuits] (I’ve never photographed the same one twice), beautiful printed dresses nearly once a week, fresh flowers religiously once a week, … I spend money to make my life look a certain way, and I get a rush from looking that way, but my credit cards do not share my enthusiasm.”
Her credit card debt was rising faster than she could pay it off, but she couldn’t stop the compulsive buying. “As I’m writing this,” she says, “I’m eating the sushi I bought on my way home, photographed fifty times, posted, and got 231 likes on so far.”
If you saw a person’s digital life like that, you’d think, “Wow, I want that kind of life.” But the girl is saying to her interview, “I hate my life.” In fact, she goes on to say: “I plan on telling my parents about this when I go home next weekend so they can yell at me and force me to stop, because I know they’ll absolutely freak out. I know exactly how stupid what I’m doing is, but I just need someone to tell me, I guess.”
Again, looks can be deceiving. And we all need to guard both against vanity and immodesty in our own heart, and against judging the actions of others. We just don’t know their heart.
Just to sort of say it from another perspective, you should remember that not everyone who buys something flashy does it for the sake of appearances, and not everyone who buys something ordinary is poor. Appearances can be deceiving. Life isn’t always what it seems. And wealth doesn’t guarantee a better outcome. That’s reality.
In fact, if you look at the very next verse, you’ll notice a caution about wealth. Proverbs 13:8—The ransom of a man's life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat.
Basically, the message here is that having money makes you a target. That’s why some of the wealthiest people live with security guards and security cameras.
Guess what. I’ve never heard of a poor man who was taken hostage for a ransom. Who would pay, right? That’s all this proverb is saying. It’s not a sin to have more money. It just isn’t without its problems. More money means more to take care of. Or as you may have heard it said, “More money, more problems.”
I have never heard of a homeless person being abducted and held for ransom. Maybe it’s happened, but I’ve never heard of it. But that’s not a threat they face.
Again, it doesn’t mean it’s bad to be wealthy. But it is telling us that if wealth comes to you, be prepared for the additional work. It’s not all easy street. That’s reality. So you need to be careful.
Look with me at Proverbs 23. This is a caution against being lured into the world of the rich. It can be a trap. Proverbs 23:6—Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, 7for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, but his heart is not with you. 8You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words.
Be careful about trying to get into the rich crowd. Proverbs 25 is similar. Verse 6—Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great, 7for it is better to be told, "Come up here," than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
If your pursuit is worldly honor, shame may come just as easily. Lastly, just as we finish off this principle, we come to the truth of Proverbs 29:13. And this is stated in other Proverbs as well. But here’s the reminder. The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the LORD gives light to the eyes of both.
In the end, the poor man and the wise man are more equal alike than you might think. Ultimately, they don’t survive because of their money or their education or their abilities. They are both dependent on the grace of God. He made them. So don’t place too strong an emphasis on the value of being wealthy. That’s the principle of reality. Learn to see things as they really are, not as the world presents them.
Principle number 5 regarding our finances is the Principle of Integrity. Integrity. This should be fairly straightforward. Don’t make money by cheating or lying, or any other sinful method.
Proverbs 11:1 says that a false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.
Back in those days, if you sold someone a pound of grain, you had to measure out the weight. So you got a balance scale, which is basically like a little seesaw. And you put the grain on one end, and on the other end you put a recognized weight. But if that weight was off, or if the scale was manipulated somehow, you didn’t have the right amount of grain.
Well, a dishonest person could carry around weight that were slightly off on purpose. They had weights that were slightly heavier, for when they were going to buy something, and weights that were slightly lighter for when they were going to sell something. That’s cheating. And God detests it.
And the message from the Father is, “Son, don’t be a cheater. You do honest work. You trade fairly. Don’t promise people one thing, but give them something else.”
In the end, Proverbs tell us, money gained by sinful methods will not receive God’s blessing. That could be taking bribes. It could be withholding someone’s pay. It could be an oppressive government taxation. It could be lying on some form you fill out. Many, many ways unjust money can be made. But God opposes all of that because He is a God of justice and truth.
Proverbs 20:17 says it like this: Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
We are called to represent Christ. And if we don’t do that faithfully, God will avenge His name. Just remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira because they lied about the money. God struck them dead. Don’t cut corners or cheap people to make money. Be honest. Be a person of integrity. That’s principle number 5.
Financial principle number 6 is the principle of Industry. Industry.
This is a principle that gets repeated in Proverbs in many ways, and it is the connection between work and wealth. That’s God’s design. Income goes hand-in-hand with work.
In the New Testament, Paul tells the Thessalonians: If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat either.
In other words: Don’t reward laziness or irresponsibility. Don’t promote that kind of life. At the earliest stages of life and at the later stages, a person is more dependent on others. And the same is true when there are physical conditions. But an able-bodied person is supposed to contribute, not just sap the resources. And Proverbs reminds us that laziness can lead to poverty.
Proverbs 10:4 and 5—A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
It’s not a complicated exhortation to figure out. Get busy. Get to work.
Diligence, Proverbs 12 tells us is rewarded. It brings promotions and wealth. The lazy man, according to chapter 13, craves and gets nothing.
You could summarize the principle with two words: Work and wait. Work and wait.
This was especially visible in an agricultural society where wealth came from animals and crops. That takes work and that takes time. Animals have to be bred, and crops have to be planted. And you had to wait until the right time of year for you to get a return. You worked and you waited.
And the same is true today. You work. You save your money. And you wait. Don’t go chasing after some scheme thinking it’ll make you rich quickly. By the way, this is one of the reasons why I believe playing the lottery is foolish and sinful. It’s not God’s design for making money.
If you want a large sum of money to come your way, wait for your inheritance to come, and in the meantime, get to work. Build up your finances slowly.
Look at Proverbs 13:11—Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will in-crease it.
I think the way I’ve put it before is: Money fast, doesn’t last. Money fast, doesn’t last. Here today, gone tomorrow. The old English proverb says it like this: A fool and his money are easily parted. They can’t hang on to it.
That’s the idea behind Proverbs 13:11—Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Again, God’s design is work and wait. Be patient. And be diligent. Keep working hard. Don’t look for the easy way out.
For some reason, I’ve always been drawn to Proverbs 14:4, and there are a lot of ways that general truth can be applied, but I like the application to hard work. Proverbs 14:4 says Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
Who wouldn’t want a clean manger? No work. No cleaning. But, here’s the tradeoff. You forfeit the work an ox can do for you. Do you get the idea?
It might save you some work if you didn’t have an ox, but it will cost you in terms of productivity. It’s like a car today. If you don’t have a car, you don’t have to worry about maintenance or gas or things like that. But you can’t load 4 or 5 people onto your bike, at least not safely. And you can’t bring home 15 bags of groceries.
So again, the idea is that work, labor, industry, and diligence bring a return. They bring a blessing. If you try to avoid extra work, then you’re avoiding a greater harvest. Don’t look for shortcuts. That’s not God’s design. You work and you wait.
And the rest of the proverbs on today’s handout say it over and over again. Laziness brings poverty. Hard work brings a blessing.
By the way, working hard does not mean working in some kind of frenzy. It means you’re not wasteful, but you are deliberate and effective. Look at Proverbs 21:5—The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
That’s contrasting the diligent man with the hasty man. Just finish your work and get it over with. Who cares what it looks like in the end? If it’s a homework assignment, it’s not what the teacher is after. And more importantly, that doesn’t honor and represent God.
You never get the idea that God is just slapping things together. God is a craftsman. God is a skilled worker. And along those lines, we have Proverbs 22:29, another mention of the blessing of those who work hard. Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.
Folks, and you young ones especially, learn to work hard. Learn to do things well. Do things the right way. Work with excellence and patience and hard work, and God will bless you. That’s the principle of Industry.
We’ve got one final principle. Principle number 7 is the principle of Security. Security. The basic idea is that you need to do things that protect yourself financially. Don’t be reckless with your finances. Take some very practical steps to protect yourself.
One of those practical steps is something we alluded to in principle number 5. And that is that you put some money aside and save. Wealth comes slowly, which implies you’re not spending everything that comes in.
This is such a simple, and foundational idea, but so few people do it. One financial advisor refers to it as paying yourself first. Don’t put the leftovers into your savings. There may not be any. But earlier in the month, move some over to the savings, and make a commitment not to touch it except for a real emergency or need.
In an agricultural context, saving could mean putting some grain aside in storage. In our culture today, saving means that when money comes your way, you put a portion of it aside for the future. Or for an unforeseen expense.
You can put away $50 a month. And less than a year later, you’ve got $500 sitting there. For emergencies or for something nice you want to buy, and you won’t have to put it on credit.
So if your car needs some kind of major maintenance, you’re not having to be dependent on other people. You’ve already got money set aside for it. Or if you want to go on a little fancy vacation, the money is there.
Again, it’s not a sin to be in need, but as best we can, we want to be in a position to help others and contribute, rather than be in a position to be asking. And one of the ways we prepare for future needs is by saving. It’s a form of protection. It’s a form of security.
A second form of financial security is avoiding risky agreements. Avoid risky behavior with your finances. And the particular risk that the Proverbs dad warns his son about is putting up security or pledging security.
Look at Proverbs 11:15—Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
A more modern way of putting up security is to cosign for someone’s loan. That means that if your buddy can’t pay back the loan, you are agreeing to do it for them. So, the basic idea is they get the benefit of the loan, and you assume the risk on their behalf.
Well, why would anyone do that? Usually it’s because of some form of peer pressure. Now, just keep in mind, the Proverbs are talking about cosigning for a stranger, so this is someone you don’t know that well, and who is outside your own household.
Why would your friend need a cosigner? If no one in his own family will cosign his loan, why would you? Why would you enable him to do something that’s beyond his own financial means? And worse than that, why would you gamble with God’s money? Because ultimately, it’s not yours. It’s God’s money.
And you can look at the other Proverbs there that repeat the same warning: Do not pledge security for a stranger, for someone you don’t completely trust. Don’t take financial risks.
And if you get an email from a Nigerian prince, don’t go through with it. Your money is not waiting at the airport. Okay. Protect yourself.
A third way to provide financial security is to be cautious with debt. Avoid debt if you can.
Listen: the Bible never says that debt is bad or sinful. Sometimes it’s necessary. But that’s not usually the case. The Bible warns us that debt has a cost attached to it.
Look at Proverbs 22:7—The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
They should write that on the back of every credit card. The borrower is the slave of the lender. So be very careful about the kind of debt you take on. If you can’t pay off your credit card by the end of the month, then they’ve got you. They’ll charge you interest. And you owe them. And they’ve got lawyers and collection agencies to make sure you give it to them.
That’s why a credit card company asks for your social security number. They can ruin your life if you give them cause to. They’ve got you by the credit score. Be careful with debt.
So financial security means gathering your own savings, it means avoiding risky agreements, it means being cautious with debt, and lastly it means staying informed about your finances. Keep up-to-date with your financial records.
Do you know how much money is your checking account right now? Do you know on what day the rent is due? Or the electric bill? Or the water bill? Do you know how much of your money gets spent every month on eating out? Or on groceries?
This is not advanced stuff. This is basic financial security.
A lot of people know when payday comes and when the rent is due. But that’s it. They don’t know when the gas bill comes. Or when the water bill comes. And then, they’re caught off guard by it. They’re not prepared.
Or worse, they go out to eat, they swipe a debit card, and they get hit with a $40 fee because they over-drafted their account. All because they didn’t know how much money was in the bank.
Look with me at Proverbs 27, verse 23. And this is the last verse we’re going to look at today. This is a dad who is telling his son: “Son, make sure you know how much you’ve got.” Proverbs 27:23
Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, 24for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? 25When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, 26the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. 27There will be enough goats' milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls.
This is not just a lesson about being a good shepherd and knowing how well the sheep are doing. This is a lesson on finances. Know how your sheep are doing, because they are your provision. They give you milk and wool and meat. And you can trade them to buy other things.
Jesus made it clear that all of us will give an account to God for our lives, right. And that includes giving an account for the way we spend our time or our money. But how can you improve the way your spend your money, if you don’t even know where it’s going?
Do you have a budget? Do you look back over your finances and track in some way how it’s being spent? It doesn’t have to be complicated. It could just be a simple budget at first, and then you can try to stick to it.
I went ahead and put a stack of budget papers on the Information Table outside. It’s a budget we’ve used in marriage counseling for couples.
You write down all the income for a month, and you write down all the expenses. And then you add it all up. And if your expenses are more than your income, there’s probably a problem somewhere that needs to be addressed.
And if your income is more than your expenses, then you’ve got money you can put into savings for emergencies or bigger purchases. And, since we’re a church family, if you want help filling that out, talk to someone. And if they don’t know how to help you financially, they’ll help you find someone. I’m willing. And I know there are many other out there too who would love to partner with you and help however they can.
Well, that’s the seven financial principles from Proverbs. The principle of priority. The principle of responsibility. The principle of generosity. The principle of reality. The principle of integrity. The principle of industry. And the principle of security.
Isn’t God so wise? Isn’t He such a loving a gracious father. Before any modern financial expert could come up with his/her own principles, God already had them in His word for us.
Again, not so that we could become independently wealthy, but so that we could continue to depend on Him, and honor Him with our resources, and be useful for the glory of Jesus Christ. Let’s walk in humility and let’s walk in obedience so that the truth of Jesus Christ goes forth into the world.