Wealth: Themes in Proverbs II

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The book of Proverbs is nothing if not a practical book. We find in this book the wisdom of God as it applies to our daily lives, and in this message we will be looking at how divine wisdom applies to your check book. Not only does it apply to our individual check books, it also has a great deal to do with how people are able to live together in community at all.plant-from-bible

The Text:

“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it” (Prov. 10:22).

Summary of the Text:

As we are going to see, the wisdom of Proverbs likes to reason with double variables. It is better to have this and not that than to have that and not this. We find this kind of reasoning implicit in this text. It is better to have riches and no sorrow than to have riches and sorrow. Of course, worse would to have no riches and sorrow, and better would be to have the riches and no sorrow. We are looking at four options, not just the two that are usually mentioned.

Now the thing that undergirds all of this is the blessing of the Lord. Whatever you have, whatever you own, you must want that blessing on top of it. And if what you own does not have that blessing, then you must either drop everything to seek that blessing, or get rid of what God is apparently not going to bless.

Wealth is Covenantal:

“Honour the Lord with thy substance, And with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, And thy presses shall burst out with new wine” (Prov. 3:9–10).

The fundamental relationship here is not you here and wealth over there. It is a relationship between you and God, accompanied with a multitude of different kinds of counters.

Wealth Is Information:

Speaking of counters, wealth is not “a thing” in itself. It is not as though every spiritual problem would be solved if you just learned how not to think lustful thoughts about gold. Money is a measuring stick, and this means that it is a bearer of information. And so the question is whether you are using that information to keep score the way a Christian ought to keep score.

“Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 20:10). Back when currencies were backed by gold, this did not refer to a violation of the tenth commandment, but rather was a preservation of the ninth. Floating currencies are a lie, and it is no mystery why liars love to have it so. Relativism doesn’t work anywhere.

Wealth Is a Good Thing:

As was assumed above, wealth in itself is a good thing. God is the one who gives us the ability to make wealth (Dt. 8:18), and we must never forget that. The suspicion that some Christians automatically have with regard to wealth is unfortunate, and it is just as likely that they are in the grip of envy as that the wealthier brother that they are “concerned about” is in the grip of greed. “Evil pursueth sinners: But to the righteous good shall be repayed. A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: And the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just” (Prov. 13:21–22).

Wealth Is a Good Thing If . . .

Nevertheless, Scripture is filled with warnings. Here is one of them. “Labour not to be rich: Cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away as an eagle toward heaven” (Prov. 23:4–5). Do not expect, just because you are you, that money will not do what money always does.

Wealth is a Comparative Good:

Not only are you in relationship with God, you are in relationship with everyone else. This means that you must always think in terms of economic trade-offs, and not economic solutions.

“Better is little with the fear of the Lord Than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, Than a stalled ox and hatred therewith” (Prov. 15:16–17). “Better is a little with righteousness Than great revenues without right” (Prov. 16:8). “Receive my instruction, and not silver; And knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; And all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it” (Prov. 8:10–11; cf. 3:13-16, 18:18-21)

Wealth is a Scorecard:

The proverbs of Scripture are generalizations. They are good generalizations, but still generalizations. They are like the rules of football, and exceptions to the way it usually goes could be compared to bad calls by the refs. They happen, but in the main the way the game is played determines the outcome. And considered this way, hard work relates to how you actually do. “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: But the hand of the diligent maketh rich” (Prov. 10:4). “He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: But he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. A faithful man shall abound with blessings: But he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent” (Prov. 28:19–20). “In all labour there is profit: But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury. The crown of the wise is their riches: But the foolishness of fools is folly” (Prov. 14:23–24).

Wealth Is Part of a Story:

Take time into account. This is because one of the fundamental things that money measures is time. “An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; But the end thereof shall not be blessed” (Prov. 20:21).

Wealth is Messy:

Don’t pretend to yourself that if you had “just a little more,” all your problems would go away. That is like wishing you had 100 cattle instead of 10 so that you could spend less time shoveling out the barn. “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: But much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4).

And Wealth is Where Christ Is:

“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it” (Prov. 10:22). And so we return to our first point, which is that wealth is not the covenant, but is one of the factors of the covenant. Your relationship is with God through Christ. Everything else must revolve around that. It must revolve around that, which is not the same thing as being banished or utterly banned.

We are to be “heliocentric” Christians in this, not geocentric. And everything is wrapped up in this.

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5 years ago

Good stuff. Thanks!

5 years ago

As was assumed above, wealth in itself is a good thing. You used an extrapolation of one verse from Deuteronomy and an inference from a verse from Proverbs to claim that point, with no exposition. Yet you don’t mention the clear teachings of the Gospels or any of the New Testament once. Nor do you mention this much more direct summary quote about wealth in Proverbs: Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:… Read more »

5 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Now that we’ve jumped to the New Testament, let’s continue with Jesus, who seems to be pretty clear on the place of riches in the Christian’s life. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupts, and where thieves break through and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.- Matthew 6:19-21 That’s not saying “don’t put your mind on wealth.” It’s not saying, “don’t build up wealth the… Read more »

Valerie (Kyriosity)
5 years ago

Might want to correct the category on this one. Books –> Expository, I think.