Lecture 18: Being Money-wise (part c)

Course: Proverbs

Lecture: Money Wise Part C

IV. The Value of Wealth

A. Temporal Values: This is divided up into two parts, temporal and spiritual. So we have talked about the danger of wealth. It seduces us into trusting it instead of God and it causes us to wrong our neighbor. We saw the limitations of wealth in that it cannot save us from death nor can it give us the spiritual riches that wisdom gives us. It cannot buy the wisdom that we really need that has been gotten without prices which we are well aware of. Temporal values do give us security against misfortune as seen in Proverbs 10:15, ‘the wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.’ So wealth does become a fortification in a certain sense. If you are sick and have money, you can afford a doctor and the best medicine. Money can also hire a lawyer if you need one and if you have enough money, you can get anyone in jail and anyone out of jail. It helps in an economic depression, especially if a person or business comes against you. So money certainly has value to it. It is also a security against slavery in Proverbs 22:7, ‘the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.’ We also have in Proverbs 28:8, ‘whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for one who will be kind to the poor.’ But charging interest from the poor was forbidden in the Torah and preached against by the prophets and censured by the sage in Exodus 22:25, Ezekiel 18:8. This is taking advantage of the poor, yet eventually it will go back in helping the poor.

The temporal value is a security against misfortune and also against slavery. It is also to enjoy a more abundant life. If you have money, you can live better than you don’t have money. Proverbs 12:9 says, ‘better to be nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.’ We translate it as servant here, but that is a bit inaccurate as a servant is still independent and makes their own decisions. A slave is not independent and cannot make his or her own decisions. So the Hebrew word is actually, a slave. However, we can’t translate is as slave because of the history of the slaves in America. But this slave is an indentured slave not a kidnapped slave. But people would use this to justify slavery and misunderstand the Bible. Whereas kidnapped slavery is a capital offence. When the Bible talks about a slave, it is a person who went bankrupt and couldn’t meet their financial obligations and therefore justice had to satisfy those obligations by committing themselves to somebody else. It seems to assume that you are nobody if you have only one slave. This is from R. Whybray page 81 in Wealth and Poverty in the Book of Proverbs. Israelite slaves were not necessarily purchased in a purely commercial transaction; they were a frequently defaulting debtor or a poor person who had no alternative but to enslave themselves. Money enables you to have a slave so that they can have a better life, and we all have slaves. We have appliances in our house. It used to be that people did these things for others but now people slave themselves out to businesses that make these appliances. Now we call it a job and labor. We can’t really enjoy life fully without these machines, just like those people who had slaves to do their work. Money enables us to have a more abundant life. Without money, you can’t get an education; we couldn’t have a house or classes. So Proverbs recognizes a real value in money, but they are temporal yet very real. However, we should never trust in money.

B. The Spiritual Values: Augur says give me neither poverty nor riches but give me my own quota of food, otherwise I will have too much and disown God as this is the danger of money or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God. A very thoughtful man, on one hand, he is afraid of disowning God and the other is by his life, he may be forced to steal and thus dishonoring God. He is supposed to be representing God and now reduced to stealing and thus makes a bad name upon the people of God. It saves us from a loss of a relationship with people. In other words, the poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends. We should be kind to the poor but we don’t want to be with people who are constantly demanding things from us. So we withdraw from the relationship because they are constantly asking for things and so we don’t want that context, thus we stay away from that kind of person. Part of being wise with money is being generous. I don’t pass by beggars who are homeless. I don’t really know whether they use the money for drugs or what; so if I have to err I would rather err on the side of being generous. The president of Knox’s college, a very rich person, always gives a dollar to a needy person he passes. One time he threw out a dollar from his car and it blew down the road and the beggar ran after it down the road putting his life in danger. We should be generous but we don’t want to be with that person, but once we make eye contact, it becomes more difficult. So we have Proverbs 14:20-21:

The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends.

He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.

So we see that the poor are shunned and you don’t want to be with them but at the same time you should be kind to them. So you have to put this together; you don’t want to be poor yourself because you don’t want to lose relationships. This is just an honest statement of life. Look at Proverbs 18:23 where a poor man pleads for mercy, but a rich man answers harshly. In Proverbs 12:24, we see that laziness ends in slave labor. These spiritual values save us from loss of relationships with God and people, and furthermore, it empowers us to be righteous, thus being able to help the poor. God wants to give us wealth and in turn help other people but we realize that it is a danger that we turn from God and trust in that wealth. We see this in Proverbs 11:24-25:

One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes other will himself be refreshed.

We can give to the poor and help them. In Ephesians 4:28, it says: ‘he who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.’ So the reason we should work is to help other people and in return this enables us to be righteous. I remember the chaplain at Dallas spoke on this text telling us about sharing what we get in finances to help others, especially the poor. I was so convicted that I ask forgiven from God. It was that very same day that a woman rang me on the phone wanting to meet with me. In seeing her, I discovered she was destitute with four children in her van and had come from California because the Lord had told her to return to Dallas with her four children. So she was in Dallas with no money and she asked if I would be willing to fill up her tank with petrol. The end results: I helped her find a place to rent and bought some appliances for her. This is an incredible experience for me, having learned that money that I should help others and then to be presented with a situation immediately afterwards ended up being such a blessing for me. Most likely, I wouldn’t do this for everybody but the Lord spoke to me about this person. Money does enable us to be righteous, so this is a very real value of money.

Proverbs 13:8 is a difficult proverb to understand: ‘a person’s riches may ransom his life, but the poor do not respond to rebukes.’ The word ‘rebuke’ denotes an angry protest of moral censure involving loss, either real or threatened.’ The word in Hebrew is gearah. It is a moral censure and it involves losing something. So a poor person doesn’t respond to a moral rebuke that will involve a financial loss. They have no way of responding to it. Note that the imprecise parallels, ‘ransom for his life’ do not respond to rebukes’ implies the ransom for his life is in connection with a moral rebuke for his crime. The person who can ransom his life for his crime (Exodus 21:30 and Numbers 35:31) feels the pinch of financial loss and so may be motivated by the pinch to respond to the moral censure of his crime. But the poor person, who has nothing to give to redeem his life, cannot be pinched and so does not respond to the moral censure. Without hope of redeeming his life, he turns a deaf ear to the threat of financial loss and its accompanying moral censure. If we are charged with a fine of any kind or an unexpected expense and that expense causes us concern because it is money that could have been used somewhere else; so in this situation we can be corrected in our thinking or feel rebuked and try to be more careful. So if you feel from a financial cost we will respond to a moral rebuke otherwise not, especially if we don’t have the money to even pay the fine or that expense; we don’t care. These are the spiritual values in regards to money. A person could just decide to live a poor life and put themselves in a situation where the government has to take care of them especially in a welfare type of situation.

V. How to Have Enduring Wealth

A. Proverbs 11:23-27: There are five points in this. The first of which will have already spoke about is Proverbs 1:7, ‘the fear of I AM is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction/discipline’. We also need to honor God with our wealth with the first-fruits of all our crops; then our barns will be filled to overflowing at it says in Proverbs 3:9-10. We give our substance to God which will be in any form: ministry, money and service. I want to say to the community, ‘I depend upon God.’ God owns everything that I have in the first place and we take the opportunity to give the best back to him. The third point is to be righteous and to do righteousness. Given to the poor is a way to have wealth; it is a faith way of living. Look at the following in Proverbs 11:23-27:

The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

A generous person will prosper; whosever refreshes others will be refreshed.

People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.

Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it.

The idea of giving freely is going through life with an open hand. It means to scatter and the Hebrew word for that is Pazar. Most people go through life with a closed hand, but the wise person goes through life with an open hand, wanting to help people. A Christian person will never try to monopolize the market forcing prices to increase. We have in Proverbs 21:6, ‘a fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.’

B. Being Money-Wise in Being Generous: First of all, do not become surety for a stranger, you may lose your freedom and become a slave or in debt. And don’t feed the leech, they will only multiply. Proverbs 30:15 warns us, ‘the leech has two daughters, give, give they cry.’ Neither should you feed a fool; a sluggard is worse than a fool. In 2nd Thessalonians 3:10, ‘for even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: if a man will not work, he shall not eat.’

We are obliged to help only the truly needy. First we have Proverbs 3:27a that says not to withhold good from those to whom it is due. This is somewhat ambiguous in that it may mean a morally good person owns temporal good. The Hebrew reads, ‘do not withhold good from the one who processes good.’ The one who processes good cannot mean material good; it must mean moral good. So the pun must be that you do not hold material good from the one who processes spiritual good. So there is an obligation here. You go through life generously but you have an obligation to those who are morally good, and thus not to withhold material good from them. In the Law in Deuteronomy 14:20-21: when you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. And in leaving what remains, it literally means that ‘it belongs to’. In Timothy 5:3-6, ‘give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grand-parents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.’ Note that the poor includes those due to the misfortunes of life. The foreigner or soldier as it is, were not given a portion of the land in Israel and the fatherless don’t have anyone to work the fields. Solomon prayed for discernment as we should also in regards to our giving and our generosity. This also depends on your walk with the Lord and the grace of the Holy Spirit within us.

We are not to give more than we can afford as seen in Proverbs 3:27b with the qualification, when it is in our power to act. So we don’t borrow money in order to help others. We have to have the ability to help. In Ecclesiastes 7:18 whoever fears God will avoid all extremes. By fearing God, this enables us to have the discernment to make decisions in regards to those who are needy. Be aware that you don’t give to look good with other people.

C. Be Diligent, Content and Patient and Work Hard

He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgement as it says in Proverbs 12:11 and 24. Working the land is fertilizing, cultivating and tilling it; it is hard work. Fantasies involve get-rich schemes. It is anything but hard work and diligent hands will rule where laziness ends in slave labor. And in Proverbs 14:23, hard work brings profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. In being content, he who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich as it says in 21:27. Being content with godliness is of great gain in 1st Timothy 6:6. And we have in Proverbs 13:11 saying that dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow. In Proverbs 21:5, it says that the plans of the diligent lead to profit, as surely as haste leads to poverty. Note that haste is in parallel with plans of the diligent and implies neither foresight nor hard work. Within monetary matters, haste connotes greed and haste in speech connotes a lack of reflection as Van Leeuwen puts it.

It is an imperative that you establish a firm economic base by taking care of your sources of income through planning and working hard. Get your fields ready and then build your house. Know the condition of your sheep and cattle because riches do not endure forever; doing these things in a timely matter will keep you from starving and going without. (Proverbs 27:24) You have to keep replenishing the sources of your income. Notice that a king’s crown is not secure for all generations, saying that you have to keep care of those under you, otherwise you will lose any authority you might have over them. There is a constant resupply in the creation order to sustain wealth and this is part of the wisdom of God in creation by constantly reproducing itself. As God supplies these new sources of income, we have to keep using these sources so that they replenish themselves for an enduring wealth.

Proverbs 22:16 is the last proverb of Solomon. ‘One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich; both come to poverty. Toy says that gifts were made to the rich not out of love, but to secure favors. These are the same as bribes. The oppressor and self-aggrandizer unexpectedly suffer the loss of what is essential to life. (Luke 14:12-14). What about the exorbitant bonuses to CEO’s and the low wages to the worker? In Proverbs 31:10-31 we have a noble and competent wife is worth far more than rubies. We can contrast Othniel, first warlord, who was enriched by Aksah versus Samson, last warlord, who was enslaved by Delilah.

In conclusion, we see that the whole thing is a matter of the heart as stated in Proverbs 4:24-27. And your heart has to be right with God. And it is God’s grace in Proverbs 28:13. We all fail, and I know I fail and these high ideals are beyond my natural ability; it is only by God’s grace. Take comfort in whoever conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy and a final prayer, ‘commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plan will succeed.’ (Proverbs 16:3) The word renounces is turning your back on it, it requires action. This is not a book on how to have wealth; it is about how to become a person who has wealth and this has to come from your heart. We need to be in constant prayer and realize God’s grace along the way, committing to God whatever we do and your plans will succeed.