Financial Wisdom


 A lot of people are surprised to discover that the Bible has more to say about finances than the afterlife.  Actually, this makes complete sense because financial issues touch almost every part of our lives.  Depending on the state of our bank account, we’ll either feel on top of the world or buried under it with no hope.

It also surprises a lot of people that obedience to God is linked to financial blessing:

If you fully obey all of these commandments of the Lord your God, the laws I am declaring to you today, God will transform you into the greatest nation in the world.

The Lord will bless you with good crops and healthy cattle, and prosper everything you do when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  (Deuteronomy 28:1, 8  TLB)

Part of financial wisdom involves how those who have treat those who do not.  It also involves keeping the right perspective—keeping your focus on God, the One who blesses, not on His blessings.  Scottish Reformed preacher Sinclair Ferguson wrote:

Work is not the result of the Fall.   Man was made to work because the God who made him was a “working God.”  Man was made to be creative with his mind and his hands.  Work is part of the dignity of his existence.

In this Proverbs 6, King Solomon gives some advice on this very subject.

A Biblical work ethic, Proverbs 6:6—11; 26:13—16; 28:19, 22

Here’s another surprising factoid:  work is a blessing from God!  God gave Adam, the first man, the blessed duty of working in Paradise, thereby ruling over it.

And God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; you are masters of the fish and birds and all the animals.”  (Genesis 1:28  TLB)

One of the results of the Protestant Reformation was the development of what has become known as the “Protestant work ethic.”  It’s not an exaggeration to say that before Luther ignited the Reformation with his revolutionary ideas, “work” was a dirty word.   This negative idea surrounding work came from several sources; the Hebrews, for example, came to regard work as a curse from God and the Greeks looked upon work with disdain.  It wasn’t until the 1500’s and the Reformation that man’s attitude toward work changed—it was brought back to its Biblical basics.

Check out the ant, 6:6—11

And as you sleep, poverty creeps upon you like a robber and destroys you; want attacks you in full armor.  (Proverbs 6:11  TLB)

Aesop wasn’t the first person to see how industrious the ant is.  Solomon beat Aesop by a few centuries.  The advice is directed to a “lazy fellow,” or “sluggard.”  The Hebrew word means, literally,  “a sluggard, slow, lazy person.”  The idea is that the “lazy fellow” is an unambitious person.  When you think about it, comparing this person to the teeny, tiny lowly ant, it’s really degrading.  Still, even a lazy bum can learn something from an ant.

Warnings about laziness are all over the book of Proverbs, proving something many of us have long suspected:  there are a whole lot of lazy people in the world!

If we look at the ant, we see that it spends its days doing what’s important:  gathering food.  Now, we can learn a couple of lessons here.  First, the ant is not lazy and neither should we be.  It’s smart enough to know what’s good for it and it doesn’t depend on anybody else to do the work it should be doing.  Second, what’s important to the ant is survival—it needs food to survive and it won’t rest until it has all that it needs to get through.

Here’s a principle that has many applications for the believer.  The obvious one is the financial one:  make hay in the sunshine.  In other words, work while you can and while you are able to.  We need to be farsighted enough to make plans for the future.  But there is another principle that may not be so obvious and the answer to this question will determine whether you get it or not:  What’s really important in your life?  What you spend most of your time doing will reveal it.  If you’re a Christian, then like the ant, you should be doing things that relate to your faith.

Laziness might well be among the top 5 sins infesting the church right now.  We should all take the time to examine ourselves to see how are spending our time; especially our free time.  Are we reading our Bibles?  Are we spending time with God in prayer?

Thomas Miller was right on when he observed:

He lives long that lives well; and time misspent is not lived, but lost.

The lazy bum’s excuses. 26:13—16

The lazy man won’t go out and work. “There might be a lion outside!” he says.  He sticks to his bed like a door to its hinges!  He is too tired even to lift his food from his dish to his mouth!  Yet in his own opinion he is smarter than seven wise men. (TLB)

The lazy person uses the craziest excuses to get out of doing work.  What’s really strange about the “the sluggard” is that he has no idea how lazy he really is!  He has deluded himself into thinking he’s OK and everybody else is in the wrong.  In fact, a character trait of the lazy bum is that he is full of self-conceit and thinks he has wisdom nobody else has.  He thinks he has life—his and everybody else’s—all figured out.  But, he’s really just a lazy bum.

The lazy person would rather stay in bed.  The humor is priceless:  the lazy man is like a door on a hinge; it moves but goes nowhere.

The prosperous way, 28:19, 22

Hard work brings prosperity; playing around brings poverty. (TLB)

Trying to get rich quick is evil and leads to poverty. (TLB)

The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. (NIV)

Prosperity doesn’t just happen.  It all depends on diligence and hard work.  The way to prosperity isn’t a mystery.

The two different translations of verse 22 give us good sense of what the Teacher is trying to say.  “Get rich quick” schemes attract a certain kind of person—the kind of person who has no discernment and is usually not too generous to begin with.

On lending and borrowing, Proverbs 6:1—5; 22:7; 15:16, 17

In Israel during Biblical times, there were no banks or credit unions.  Lending money was a private matter between two people.  Loans were personal exchanges, usually with great risk.  It was not uncommon for two strangers to engage in these personal exchanges, hence the Teachers advice here.

Pitfalls of borrowing and lending, 6:1—5; 22:7

Son, if you endorse a note for someone you hardly know, guaranteeing his debt, you are in serious trouble.  You may have trapped yourself by your agreement.  (verses 1, 2  TLB)

Since it was so common for one to underwrite another’s debts, entering into such an arrangement could be disastrous if the debtor turned out to be a “misfit.”  It all boils down, once again, to the ability (or inability) to exercise judgment or discernment.  The KJV’s translation of verse 2 may give us an additional insight:

Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.

It seems that, at least in the case, the one lending was behaving in a boastful manner.  He had resources and wasn’t afraid to “show off” to others; to play the big shot.  The advice is to avoid this attitude in financial matters.

Quick! Get out of it if you possibly can! Swallow your pride; don’t let embarrassment stand in the way. Go and beg to have your name erased.  Don’t put it off. Do it now. Don’t rest until you do.  (verses 3, 4  TLB)

Here’s the remedy to your financial problem:  swallow your pride and make things right.  Don’t be afraid to straighten things out.

Contentment, 15:16, 17

Better a little with reverence for God than great treasure and trouble with it. It is better to eat soup with someone you love than steak with someone you hate.

Verse 16 stresses reverence or fear of God as being superior to wealth.  A great big feast is just not satisfying when love is absent.  Cold soup, even, is better than a sumptuous steak when love is present.  In other words, believers need to be content.  If we are content, we won’t rush out and take out unwise loans.

Contentment is one of the most distinguishing traits of a godly person because a godly person has his heart focused on God rather than on possessions or position or power.  (Jerry Bridges)

Build a good reputation, Proverbs 22:1, 2, 9; 11:16, 22—26

In the Bible, there is a real high premium placed on a good reputation.

If you must choose, take a good name rather than great riches; for to be held in loving esteem is better than silver and gold. The rich and the poor are alike before the Lord who made them all.

In the original, the word “good” does not appear; it’s always supplied by the translators.  What the Teacher is saying here is that it’s up you to earn your name by the kind of person you are.  There is equality of all men before God, but down here, we earn our reputations by how we live.

Wealth is not disparaged in these verses; they are just saying that a good reputation is more valuable.  In fact, in Jewish teaching, a good name excels all other blessings in life.

Grace versus greed, 11:16

Honor goes to kind and gracious women, mere money to cruel men.

Two contrasts here:  “kind and gracious women” versus “cruel men.”  No, the teacher is not stating something definite about the sexes.  Women can be cruel, too.  The sense of this verse is a little obscure, but what it seems to be teaching is this:  you can seize wealth by any means, but honor is a reward for the kind and gracious person only.

Generosity, 22:9; 11:24—26

Happy is the generous man, the one who feeds the poor.  (22:9  TLB)

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself. People curse the man who holds his grain for higher prices, but they bless the man who sells it to them in their time of need. (11:24—26  TLB)

The Bible is full of paradoxes, and here is one:  if you want  to get richer, you have to give what you have away.  In God’s economy, generosity very often determines one’s prosperity.  You must give to gain.

He gives generously to those in need. His deeds will never be forgotten. He shall have influence and honor.  (Psalm 112:9  TLB)

But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much.  Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes.  God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.  It is as the Scriptures say: “The godly man gives generously to the poor. His good deeds will be an honor to him forever.”  (2 Corinthians 9:6—9  TLB)

A paradox indeed.  Dr. Ironside’s comments—

Bunyan’s quaint rhyme, propounded as a riddle by Old Honest, and explained by Gaius, is in itself a suited commentary on these verses:
A man there was, though some did count him mad,
The more he cast away, the more he had.
He that bestows his goods upon the poor,
Shall have as much again, and ten times more.

Solomon’s financial wisdom comes from experience.  He had learned by doing.  He knew the value of a strong work ethic and he knew the importance of generosity.  When you give, you can’t help but get.  It’s a law of the universe.

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