Lecture 17: Being Money-wise (part b)
Lecture: Money Wise Part B
A. Wisdom and Righteousness
We have looked at the superscript and discussed the genre of the form of this literature which has a distinct inspiration. We looked at the purpose of the book in the preamble and that purpose was wisdom with the correlative term of righteousness. And righteousness is disadvantaging yourself so that you can advantage others as God defines advantaging the community. A Muslim may define serving the community different than I do but that might include killing the infidel as serving the community. So it has to be how God defines how you best serve. The opposite of that is wickedness and this is disadvantaging others to advantage yourself. So wickedness in Proverbs is far more subtle than not following the Ten Commandments. We usually think of wickedness as adultery, murder, thievery, and lying. In Proverbs, wickedness is putting yourself before others in the least little thing or taking advantage of others in any way. These are small things that include helping others before helping yourself. If you are wise then the skill of living is serving other people to a large extent. And if you are thinking about serving other people and serving God, it is those find details of life that will keep you from breaking the Ten Commandments. We discussed the relationship of the Law to the Proverbs and the Proverbs are much more detailed and fine-tuned.
B. Fear of the Lord
We saw the key to the book, as part of the preamble was the Fear of the Lord. The Fear of The Lord is a collocation that has to be studied as a unity, which entails an objective revelation of the Word of God. ‘My son if you listen to my words, then you will understand the fear of the Lord.’ So it is never apart from revelation whether it is Mosaic or Sages revelation. It is the Word of God and the second part of it was humility and we used 22:4 where you have humility and then in apposition to that, the Fear of the Lord humility. It also entails faith, therefore you take God seriously and believe that he means what he says and says what he means. Therefore you hold him in awe because he has your eternity life and death in his hands. At the tomb of Jesus, they held God in awe when they saw the empty tomb. The same was in the Exodus from Egypt; they feared God and put their trust in Moses. If you fear someone, you take that person very seriously.
C. The Lessons of the Parents to the Son
In the Proverbs, we noted the superscript and we said that Solomon was the main author but not the only author of the book. We don’t know the dates of Augur and Liminal and we don’t know the person who put all the proverbs together. I suspect that it is quite late and I will give a reason for that when we take up Proverbs 31. So we have different collections with the first collection representing the prologue which consists of ten lessons from the father and mother to the son; this didn’t exclude the daughter because the mother is also a teacher, thus she must have been taught. We assume this even though it is principally addressed to the son. The first lesson was about the competition between the world and the parents with the youth making a decision, one way or another. It is usually at the age of fourteen or so that a young person makes a decision on which way in life they will choose. There are influences on the young from the parents and from the world as represented by wicked men and women in Proverbs. The idea of the book is on how to become. There is easy money which circumvents character building and you learn to disadvantage others by stealing in one way or another. This can be applied to many different types of businesses and even the stock market where you depend on the work of others and you take their fruit without working for it.
D. Woman Wisdom
So are presented by woman wisdom, a personification of Solomon’s teachings. And her lessons are addressed to the simpletons who are the non-committed and she is always at the Gate of the city calling them to make a commitment to wisdom before they meet a temptation within the city. First of all, it is the parents to the son and then you have woman wisdom to the non-committed. The second lesson comes out of chapter 2 which is the fundamental lesson telling us of the psychological processes which you enter into in knowing the fear of the Lord: if you accept my word, if you store up my commands, if you pay attention to it, if you study, then you will have the key to the book, the Fear of the Lord. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair which is the purpose of the book which is the pivot of the preamble in Proverbs 1:3, namely doing what is right and just and fair. Chapter 2 says that if you enter into those psychological and spiritual processes then you will understand and have the key to the book and you will achieve the purpose of the book. The third lesson was the difficulty of the promises of health, wealth and prosperity which seemed detached from reality. And therefore we addressed that and said that there is suffering first. We discussed the value of wisdom which is better than money. We said that money can put food on the table but not fellowship around it. Money can give you a house but not a home whereas wisdom will include everything so it is much better. God used the values of this book in creating the world and thus suggests that we should live our lives in giving to other people. We look at the lesson in chapter four in the matter of guarding your heart which was the organ from which everything flows from such as will, feelings and the way we think and we talked about the metaphor of the way.
E. Adultery and Easy Sex
We took up the next major topic where the parents dealt with the adulteress and easy sex. And those were the last three, chapter 5 showing the folly of adultery and the wisdom and privacy of marriage. Chapter 7 shows the way of the adulteress in seductive words and chapter 6 showed the folly of it. We said in that society, adultery could reduce you to slavery. The 8th lesson was about woman wisdom addressing the masses and we have the passage that the Lord begot me as the first of his work. This was necessary because unless you have comprehensive knowledge, you have no absolute knowledge. At the end we have the rivalry between wisdom and woman folly and they are still contesting for the non-committed to the simpleton and that was end collection one. Then we started with collection two, the Proverbs themselves and the first thing we saw pertained to treasures of the wickedness verses hard work which took up the subject of being money wise. We saw that the Proverbs are individual pictures that are pieced together. We were trying to see what was in Solomon’s mind when is brought these proverbs together, when he associated them with one another and to see if there is a deeper context within them. In looking at this, we went back to chapter 6 discussing surety and the sluggard and then Psalm 49 that explained the riddle likeness and the refrains of Proverbs.
II. The Danger of Wealth
A. Two Dangers
We are now going to look at the danger, limitations, the value and how to have enduring wealth, topically. And we start off by considering two dangers of wealth; it first seduces us to sin and death, both by others and ourselves. Our wealth, our bank accounts, our possessions function like skin. It gives us beauty and it also protects us and money does the same thing; it gives us beauty and protection. The danger is that we want to get this at the expense of other people without work. In order to make ourselves more beautiful and to feel more secure we are enticed to sin and seduction to take wealth from other people so that we might have more security and beauty. This is why I think the very first lecture is against taking wealth from other people. This is a seduction unto death, not only the death of others whom we are taking the money from, but it leads to their untimely death. It is taking advantage of others through gambling, playing the pokies at various gambling establishments.
Money has a danger in making itself a god to all those who trust in it. The God of Abraham, the one who revealed himself through the trinity. He is our security for eternal life and he is also our significance because we know him. Luther defines a god as whatever a person loves; that is their god. So it is whatever you have a passion for it and thus you run after it. The average person loves money; they have a passion for it and run to get it. Calvin says that we all invent idols in infinite numbers, so we can run after a number of things to give us security. For young people, especially girls, sex appeal becomes their social security. They try and get the eye of others around them. My own definition is a god who or what one depends upon for life, security and significance. So what gives you security and significance? In Jeremiah 9:23-24, ‘let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth. For in theses I delight, declares the Lord.’ This justice and righteousness is defined by God. So if we have any boasting to make, any significance, it is because we know the Lord by his grace.
B. Wise in Their Own Eyes
In Proverbs 28:11 ‘a rich person is wise in his own eyes, but a poor person, who has discernment, sees through him.’ This is a definition of a rich person, the ashar which is distinguished from osher, wealth because wealth is good but a rich person is bad and you have to make that distinction because on the one hand wisdom is going to give you wealth but on the other hand riches is bad because you are wise in your own eyes, so we have to make this distinction. There are two aspects of a rich person, one is temporal which has abundant wealth and the other spiritual which becomes autonomous, independent of God’s teaching. A rich person has an inflated opinion of himself and so trusts in himself to negotiate life skillfully without depending upon the Lord who defines himself through inspired sages. They find their security in it. They want to be self-made people and they boast in that. We can prize wealth but not trust it. And it is often juxtaposed with the poor being a bad state in the present, and rich being a bad state in the future. The theologian Whybray comments that the ashar is always viewed with hostility. So the rich person is deceived because he trusts in his wealth as security. He is deluded because he is wise in his own eyes. He tends to lord it over the poor; he dominates and oppresses the poor and answers them harshly with perverse ways. So, paradoxically, both the ambitious rich person and the apathetic sluggard are wise in their own eyes and have less hope of salvation through wisdom than a fool. Outwardly, they look different but paradoxically they are the same. In the following, the sluggard is worse than a fool as there is more hope for a fool than those wise in their own eyes. Note the following:
Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.
Proverbs 26:16 A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly.
C. I AM is a Fortified Tower
The Lord is the true security whereas money is the false security. In Proverbs 18:10-11, ‘the name of I Am is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it (this is a quick action by the righteous) and are safe on high. The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale. Here, the righteous are safe and secure; you can get to them. These two proverbs go together as a pair because the same word translated too high to scale is the same word translated safe on high. The relationship is seen in both verses with the word ‘fortified’ and safe on high and too high to scale.
Proverbs 18:10 The name of I AM is fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe on high.
Proverbs 18:11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale.
The original NIV has a rich person ‘may’ be wise in their own eyes but this was wrong as there no verb there and the nominal clause says, ‘he is wise in his own eyes.’ At that time, I don’t think we understand that a rich person is a spiritual condition as well as a temporal condition. This carried over into the New Testament when Jesus talked about the rich man who can’t go through an eye of a needle and so if this is a connotation in the New Testament we understand this as a spiritual condition then you can see why this person can never enter the kingdom of God. This concerns a spiritual attitude toward the wealth that they have. In 1st Timothy 6:9-10, ‘those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’ You can have money but it is dangerous. But compared to Proverbs 6:6, the statement in 26:16 about a sluggard is stronger.
D. God Provides the Ability to Gain Wealth
I think it is appropriate to sight Deuteronomy where you have the same idea of the danger of money. As with the rich man, money seduces you in making it your security. It leads to a false imagination and it tempts you into a false security if you have too much money. And this is what Deuteronomy 8:11-10 is saying. ‘Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery….You may say to yourself, My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.’
The opposite of forget in Hebrew is to remember and the opposite to remember is to dis-remember. So when you remember you are re-remembering yourself to that situation and when you forget, you dis-remember. So when the Bible was taken out of the schools, you dismembered the next generation from the fathers. It is a dismembering; this captures the idea of what we mean to forget, but we should not dismember ourselves from the Lord. There is a great tension, God’s covenant obligation is to bless us and to enrich us but it is very dangerous because at the same time this blessing can become a seduction into a false security independent of God. That is the tension we have. ‘You may say to yourself, my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God gives you the ability to produce wealth and so confirms his covenant.’
E. Godliness with Contentment is Gain
In 1st Timothy 6:6-11 we have, ‘but godliness with contentment is great gain. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it, but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of god, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. ‘
III. Limitations of Wealth
It cannot save you from the ultimate enemy, death. It cannot do what wisdom does and so wisdom is better than money. We developed that in Proverbs 3:13-18 which says ‘blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. And we have Job 28:12-19 again, ‘but where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? No mortal comprehends its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says that it is not in me; the sea says that it is not with me. It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighted out in silver. It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or lapis lazuli. Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels of gold. Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies. The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it; it cannot be bought with pure gold.