The mega-theme of Proverbs is wisdom. This book, and the Bible, define wisdom as the skill of living, particularly in the areas of life where the normal rules of life don’t apply. This wisdom isn’t found where we’d normally think to look. This wisdom finds its source in letting God be God to you in every corner of your life. So far we’ve looked at what happens when you let God be God to you when it comes to our words, our singleness, our marriages, our parenting, our pride, our sexuality and more. Today we’re going to look at what happens when we let God be God to us in the area of money.
We have just a few weeks left in our study of Proverbs and today we hit one of the most important topics (along w/ wisdom, foolishness, sexuality) addressed in this ancient anthology of proverbial sayings. The mega-theme of Proverbs is wisdom. This book, and the Bible, define wisdom as the skill of living, particularly in the areas of life where the normal rules of life don’t apply. This wisdom isn’t found where we’d normally think to look. This wisdom finds its source in letting God be God to you in every corner of your life. So far we’ve looked at what happens when you let God be God to you when it comes to our words, our singleness, our marriages, our parenting, our pride, our sexuality and more. Today we’re going to look at what happens when we let God be God to us in the area of money. As we all know, this is an incredibly relevant topic.
Q: WHY IS GOD CONCERNED W/ HOW WE VIEW ANDUSE MONEY?
When we’re talking about money we’re talking about little pieces of metal (coins) and cut out pieces of paper (bills). Aside: Dollar bill ($0.09). Penny ($0.024). The primary reason taht we are concerned about these pieces of metal and paper is that we’ve decided they represent value. Since these bits of paper and metal represent value our spending, in turns, reveals what we value. In other words, we exchange money (objects of value for what we assign value to. This is why money is significant and this is why God cares about how we view/use money. How we use, steward, and manage our money reveals what we value – and what we value affects our life now and forever.
Jesus said it this way (Lk 12:34) “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In other words, the direction of your money reveals the direction of your heart. Your financial spending is an info-graphic of your heart’s treasure. Where your money is going reveals where your heart is going. For that reason, what we’re going to see today, money is bothhazardous and helpful. Money has ability to show that you value God more than things, making it helpful to your soul and others. But, money also has the ability to show that youvalue things more than you value God, making it hazardous to your soul and unhelpful to others.
Q: HOW IS MONEY POTENTIALLY HELPFUL?
Proverbs speaks very positively about money. Let’s look at some examples of that:
21:20 “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling…”
10:22 “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.”
8:18 “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness….”
13:22 “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…”
14:24 “The crown of the wise is their wealth, but the folly of fools brings folly.”
15:6 “In the house of the righteous there is much treasure…”
21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance…”
This is a very high view of wealth. Proverbs consistently connects hard work, self-control, balance, discipline to wealth. Because of that it is easy to get the impression that Proverbs is all about making money…and in a way, it is, but not how we would imagine. The original audience would assume the biblical origins of universe. God created all things and he created us as his image bearers. Learn from Genesis 1-2 that God put us here to create and steward, as his representatives. Therefore, the more money you have the more good you can do – creating, cultivating, giving, serving. Commentator Bruce Waltke importantly notes that one of the central insights of the book of Proverbs is that:
“The righteous are [those who are] willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are [those who are] willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.”
But, at same time we’re told that money is a good thing, it’s not the best thing. Proverbs speaks of numerous things that are better than wealth, even great wealth:
#1 Fear of the Lord (real vibrant relationship with God than have great wealth)
15:16 “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.”
#2 Wisdom (skill of living, before God and others)
3:13–15 “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16:16 “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” (8:10-11, 18-21)
#3 Love of others (rich relationships with others)
15:17 “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.”
#4 Character (who you are, not merely what you have)
16:8 “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (integrity)
16:19 “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (humility)
22:1 “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (reputation)
In other words, money is good thing, but it is not best thing. Money is a help, but it is not our ultimate hope. Money is important but it is not ultimate. So, all that said, how should we use and view our moeny?
Q: BIBLICALLY, HOW SHOULD WE USE OUR MONEY?
The overwhelming message of Prov/Bible is that we should use our money money to berich towards God and rich towards others. What does that mean? To be rich toward God and rich toward others is the opposite of treating money as though it was made for things. To be rich towrd God and rich toward others is the opposite of acting as if your life consists in the abundance of your possessions. It doesn’t. You life consists in knowing God. That’s what life is. Jesus said it this way…
Jn 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…
Being rich toward God is considering God to be greater riches than anything on the earth. How do we do that? How do we show the immeasurable value of God with out money? We use our earthly treasure to show how much we treasure God. It’s a posture of heart and life that says, “You are God. You made me. You gave me all I have. All yours. How can I show world you are my treasure?” Christian: If our spending reflects same values as everyone else, how does that point to value of God? The value of God should move us to use our earthly riches to be generous towards God and others.
We see this in Proverbs in two ways primary ways: tithing and generous giving.
3:9–10 “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. Those you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Mt 23:23)
This is an important section that we frequently overlook. Jesus does not say the Pharisees were taking it too far by tithing off of their spice rack. Rahter, he told them to pay attention to weightier matters of the Law, without neglecting the fomer. So, practically speaking, we shouldn’t think of tithing as heroic, high-level commitment. Tithing is entry entry-level obedience. What is a tithe? The tithe (means 10%) is the first item (i.e. firstfruits) in a Christian’s monthly budget. It is 10% of gross income that you give to the cause of Christ, spread of the gospel and provision of Jesus people within the local church.
Think about this with me. How could it be otherwise? Something comes first in our budgets, doesn’t it? Every month we put our firstfruits toward something. Every month we write a check or submit an electronic payment to something first. Do we really want to say to our Lord, “I’ll fit you in, if I can” or “here’s a tip”. So, when it comes to our giving back to God what is God’s we should start w/ the OT standard and build on that. Some would argue, “10%? Why so much?” Yes, but remember that its all his. He lets you keep 90%. You should thank him for the amount he allows you to keep and not begrudge what he invites you to give. Others will say, “Yes, but the NT doesn’t talk about the tithe, so there’s grace…” This is true, though I’d agrue the passage above does speak to that. But, think with me here. Is it not incomprehensible that a child of living God, after glories of the life and work of Jesus Christ, would give church less than OT standard? Clearly no.
But, many of you (me included) grew up in homes where one ever told you this or modeled it for you. So here’s how it works. We write our personal budgets and put Lord first w/ our tithe every month, and then create our budget for everything thereafter. This is basic obedience. The gospel pushes us beyond mere rote obedience to give joyfully, sacrifically and cheerfully.
Some of you have asked, “Does the 10%+ only go to the church?” Yes. In the OT the tithe and otehr gifts went to the temple and priesthood to support ministry and care for the people; the local church would be the NT equivalent. Additionally, the church is a family so our first obligation is to our redeemed family. Third, all other giving in the scriptures falls into a different category…we’ll look at that now.
11:24-25 “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”
14:31 “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”
19:17 “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”
21:26 “The righteous gives and does not hold back…”
22:9 “Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.”
28:27 “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”
All other giving is described in terms different than “tithing” or “firstfruits”, it is typically just called giving or being generous. For us today that would include helping others in need, supporting missionaries, giving to non-profits and more.
In summary, wealth is helpful. Work hard. Get the promotion. Remember its a good thing, but not the best thing; its a help, but not our ultimate hope; its important, but not ultimate. Use earthy riches to show that your God offers you greater riches than anything on the planet. As you do that, keep in mind that wealth can also be hazardous…
Q: HOW IS MONEY A POTENTIAL HAZARD?
Money is not only helpful, but it is potentially hazardous. Surprisingly, Proverbs spends the most time here, warning us about the potential hazards of money and wealth. Few of us get all of these in full blown form, but often we’re suffing from a number of them at the same time, like a low grade fever, without knowing it.
#1 Enslaving. Money is hazardous b/c it has power to trap you.
22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”
#2 Blinding. Money is hazardous b/c it has power to blind you and make you overconfident.
28:11 “A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.”
26:12 Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
30:8-9 Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
#3 Unsatisfying. Money is hazardous b/c it has power to create an appetite that can never be satisfied.
27:20 “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.” (context is greed)
#4 Threatening. Money is hazardous b/c it has power to bring danger into your life.
13:8 “The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat.”
#5 Questioning. Money is hazardous b/c it has power to bring false friends into your life.
19:4 “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.”
19:6 “Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.”
#6 Toiling. Money is hazardous b/c it has power to keep you away from home and other more important things.
23:4 “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.”
#7 Corrupting. Money is hazardous b/c it has power to corrupt your integrity.
20:23 Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good.
11:26 “The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.”
#8 Fleeting. Money is hazardous b/c it has power to make you short-sighted and misplace your ultimate hope.
11:4 “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”
11:7 “When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.”
27:23-24 “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever…”
Q: WHY ARE WE STILL DRAWN TO MONEY?
18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”
18:11 “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.”
In the ancient near east, most cities had walls. Walls protected from invaders and weather. Walls kept the inhabitants of the city safe and protected. For that reason, people wanted to live in the city because it brought security and signficance (hubs of law, education, business, government, etc).
Notice what 18:10-11 is saying. One of the primary reasons we are drawn to money is that it brings security and significance instead of God. It’s not a stretch to say that there is no better way, outside of Jesus, to feel secure/significant. Money is the alternative to God. Why is that? Money doesn’t just make happy, it makes you happy b/c it becomes your ultimate source of security and significance. We don’t just like little bits of metal and paper, we like what they can do for us. And, in our context, they can do a lot – namely give us a sense of security and significance. What’s interesting though is that some people mainly look to wealth for significance, while others mainly look to wealth forsecurity. Frequently there is a measure of both, but we tend to lean one way or another. When we do this moeny goes from being a gift, to being a god. Let’s look at these…
Money offers us the illusion of signicance.
How does this work? We feel important because of the clothes we wear, car we drive, food we eat, home we own, and more. One of the reasons we need all this stuff is because our personal significance is tied directly to it. We don’t just look at others who have less and think “they’re below me economically” but “they’re below me”. Why would we do that? Money corrupts our hearts which leads to many of the hazards above.
Money also offers us the iliusion of security.
Those who look to money for significance, spend more money. But, those who look to money for security save more money. Those who look to money for significance think, “I have money so I’m important” Those who look to money for security say “I have money so I’m safe.” They think, “I have a little cushion in the bank so I’ll be OK…I am OK.” This particular form of idolatry is sneacky b/c it can hide behind saying, “I’m just being a good steward”. At times there is a fine line between being a wise steward and finding security in money. There can be a fine line between owning money and being owned by your money.
Money, more than anything else, offers to you significance and security apart from God. This is ultimately why money is hazardous. When money functions as our ultimate signficance and/or security it lures you out of finding yoursignificance and security in God – and that is hazardous to you life and hazardous to your soul.
READ Lk 12:15-21
Note what Jesus is and is not saying. Jesus is not saying that it is bad to be productive farmer, to financially prosper, to get a promotion, to get a pay raise, to get a good return on investments, etc. Jesus does not call him “fool” because he was productive. Rather, Jesus calls him “fool” because of the way he used his money gave no indication of being rich toward God – he didn’t value God and that was chiefly evidenced in what he did with his money. What we ultimately value has eternal consequences – that’s why Jesus cares about how we use and view our money.
Q: HOW DO WE MAXIMIZE THE HELPFULNESS AND MINIMIZE THE HAZARDS?
There is a helpful scene in 2 Cor 8 where the Apostle Paul is trying to take up a collection for church in Jerusalem that is experiencing economic hardship. This is instructive for us. How does he motivate people to be generous? Does he appeal to their will? (ex. Just give! The money is in your pockets and it should be in that plate!) Doe he appeal to their emotions? (ex. Do you know how hungry they are? Do you know how selfish you’re being?). No. He does neither of those. He goes after their hearts.
”You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Cor 8:9
In other words, he reminds them of the gospel. He is, in effect, saying that “Your ultimate security, ultimate significance and ultimate riches are bound up in person and work of Jesus Christ. “Why would you look for it anywhere else?! Why would you not give, given what you’ve been given by Him?”
This is important. You might ask, “How have we become rich? How does Jesus make me rich?” This is fundamental to Christianity. This does not refer to small piece of metal and paper. The riches in view here are much more profound. They are spiritual riches that are now ours by faith in Jesus Christ. Including:
Predestined, rescued, redeemed, and made alive together by faith in Jesus Christ.
Our sins have been forgiven.
We have been declared not guilty.
We have been adopted as sons/daughters.
We are now in Christ and Christ is in us.
Died to the power of sin.
Forever free from condemnation.
We now belong to God and God belongs to us.
We are made complete, spiritually set apart for him.
Our life is now hidden in Christ and we have been given Spirit of power, love and self-discipline.
We are established, sealed by God in Jesus Christ.
Given the Holy Spirit as a pledge and down payment.
We are blessed with every spiritual blessing and chosen to be holy.
We are recipients of his lavish grace.
Our debt has been canceled.
So, we may approach throne of God in boldness, freedom, confidence.
Jesus is not ashamed to call me brother.
Rescued from Satan’s power and transferred into Christ’s kingdom
We have been given exceedingly great and precious promises of God.
Made joint-heirs with Christ. Christ is heir of all things, which means we are an heir of all things.
In other word, to be rich toward God, you must see two things:
First, you must see the supreme value of God.
Second, you must understand the supreme value of the riches you possess by faith in Jesus.
Savonarola, Italian reformer, “What must not he possess who possess the Possessor of all things?
If the Creator is yours, your emptiness has found its fullness, however much money you have or don’t have. In light of all that we have in Jesus, why would we think, “Do you know what I need? More stuff.” So, another important implication of this is that we shouldn’t say, “I’m struggling w/ giving”. Rather, we should say, “I’m struggling seeing how Jesus is better than my car/concerts/hobbies.”
Again, money has potential to show that you value things more than you value God, which is ultimately hazardous to your soul and unhelpful to others. But, money also has the potential to show that you value God more than things = helpful to your soul and others. We maximize the helpfulness and minimize the hazards by increasingly seeing/savoring supreme value of Jesus every day – and all that we are in him. Then use your earthy riches to show that your God offers you greater riches than anything on the planet. Must ask, “How can I use my money to show that God, not money, is my ultimate treasure?” Evidence that we are not rich toward God is seen in how little we give and how much we own. This is why Jesus warns us…
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Lk 12:15
Our life consists in the abundance of our God.
Some practical suggestions:
#1 Daily read Bible, pray, exercise the means of grace in order to reassert the supremacy of God in your heart.
#2 Daily put your trust in his promises that your deepest needs will be met – whether you have much or have little.
#3 Honor (esteem, admire, revere) the Lord with your money, by placing him first in your budget.
#4 Be generous with your money as God has been with you in Jesus Christ.
#5 Work hard, plan well and get help.
21:5-6 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance…”
19:20 “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”
Do all this trusting that, “My god will supply every need of mine according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Ph4:19