The sanctification of the checkbook is extraordinarily difficult for many. We like to tell ourselves that obedience to God’s way is “impractical,“ as though we knew more about it than He does. Always, always, always we must turn to the Word. And on this subject, we have a treasury of doctrine.
First, wealth is a good thing. Wisdom promises her blessings to us: “That I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, that I may fill their treasuries“ (8:21; cf. v.18). When we obey God, as a general rule, we may expect His blessings, financial blessings included. “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it“ (10:22). This is not an absolute promise, as though we put a coin into a celestial vending machine, but it is a general principle.
But as we seek wealth, God’s way, as we seek God’s blessings upon our endeavors, we must do what He says to do. What does God say to do with regard to the acquisition of wealth?
First, we must fear God – “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life“ (22:4). In the second place, we must be generous — “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself“ (11:25; cf. 22:9; 28:27; 11:24). Then third, God says that we must work hard — “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty“ (14:23). Fourth, we must learn how to study – “By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches“ (24:4). And last, we must know how to take it easy — “A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished“ (28:20). Some will always seek rebellious short cuts — dishonesty (13:11), ruthlessness (11:16), etc. God will not bless them.
On the flip side, Proverbs gives us many of the causes of poverty. Multiple causes of poverty exist. Some of the more obvious causes come readily to mind. First, there is laziness – “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich“ (10:4; cf. 13:4). But the problems are not always caused by the one who becomes poor. The second cause is economic oppression – two categories come together here. Obviously, those who are oppressed are made poor (13:23) — by private individuals (22:16), and by tyrants. “Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people“ (28:15). But secondly, those who oppress also come to poverty. “He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty“ (22:16; cf. 28:8). A third cause is foolishness – “He who is surety for a stranger will suffer, but one who hates being surety is secure“ (11:15 cf. 17:18; 22:26). When it comes to money, don’t be a gullible fool. The fourth thing to mention is sexual immorality – Stay away from immoral women, “Lest aliens be filled with your wealth, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner . . .“ (5:10). “. . . a companion of harlots wastes his wealth“ (29:3). And last is living in luxury – “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich“ (21:17).
Proverbs also teaches us the importance of savings. True wisdom defers gratification, and provides for others downstream. Our culture is truly rebellious at this point. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous“ (13:22).
Another important point is to note what borrowing does and does not do. Borrowing and lending are not an evil activity — rather, they are a revelation of dominion. Borrowing is an indication of servitude — “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender“ (22:7). But the activity of lending itself is blessed. “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given“ (19:17). It is not sinful activity because it is a blessing to be in a position to lend.
The last thing to note about finances is that God encourages us to keep our perspective. Financial balance is determined by the Word of God, and that alone. What is more important than wealth? First, your justification is far more important than having money. “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death“ (11:4). Second, your integrity should not be given away or sold for anything — “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich“ (28:6). Third, when answering this crucial question — “What should I prefer to have over money?” — a good answer is a sensible woman — “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD“ (19:14). Fourth, a man should much prefer having a good reputation to having wealth — “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold“ (22:1). And then last, valuable beyond rubies, is the gift of low blood pressure — “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease!“ (23:4).