Though part of the Old Covenant, the Proverbs provide us with great information about wise living even though we are in the New Covenant. Tough economic times make us think about our finances and our prosperity, or lack thereof. I just want to share with you 8 points I learn from Proverbs finances.
Proverb Point #1: Don’t Put Your Trust in Material Prosperity
“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”–Proverbs 23:4-5.
“Whoever trusts in riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.”–Proverbs 11:28
In tough times, it is easy to think money will fix all problems. Don’t put your trust in it. We need to seek first God’s righteousness. He’ll take care of us. Money is merely a tool. We need to make sure we keep it a tool and not let it be our god.
Proverb Point #2: Don’t Let Personal Pleasure Govern Your Purchases
“Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.”–Proverbs 21:17
It is not wrong to enjoy pleasure if God has blessed us with the finances to afford them. However, if we pursue pleasure even when we can’t afford them, all that awaits is the poorhouse. We may last for a while, floating along on credit. Eventually, our lack of self-control will catch up with us.
Proverb Point #3: Work
“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”–Proverbs 6:6-11
“The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.”–Proverbs 21:25
The New Testament says if a person doesn’t work, don’t let them eat. I certainly don’t encourage you to become a workaholic, making the pursuit of riches through work your life’s goal. But that was covered in point 1. However, we do need to understand that finances come from work. Relying on God doesn’t mean sitting on our lazy behinds waiting for God to drop money in our pockets. It means using the ability God has given us to work and provide for us and our family as best we can.
Proverb Point #4: Honor the Lord with the Firstfruits
“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.”–Proverbs 3:9-10
As we prepare our budgets and cash flow plans, the very first item we need to consider is how we can further the Lord’s work. This will include our giving for the work of the local congregation. It may include supporting a preacher or missionary directly. It may mean purchasing materials that can be used to spread the gospel. Before we eat up our income with purchases for our personal use, we need to help build the Lord’s house. We need to offer to His work the firstfruits, not the leftovers.
Proverb Point #5: Be Generous and Give
“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.”–Proverbs 11:24-25
Before we start thinking about ourselves, we need to give to others. When we view God’s blessings to us as a means to bless others and not as a means to simply horde for ourselves, God will bless us even further. When He sees that He can trust us to share, He’ll be happy to share with us. Regrettably, this is counterintuitive, especially in frightening financial times. We think we need to hold on to as much as we can in case something goes wrong so we can take care of ourselves. When we trust God to take care of us and therefore share generously with others, God will take care of us.
Proverb Point #6: Save
“Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.”–Proverbs 21:20
“She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.”–Proverbs 31:21
Sadly, in days of plenty we often live out our hearts’ desires. Then when troubled days come, we have nothing in reserve. The fool eats up everything he has. The wise save some for a rainy day. Or, perhaps as with the worthy woman, the wise save some for a snowy day. So many of our emergencies come simply because we did not put anything back for a later time. After we’ve honored the Lord with our firstfruits and shared with others, before we buy our present goods, we need to put some back in the storehouse. If we eat up all our income this month, we are going to be in trouble in the future.
Proverb Point #7: Don’t Dig a Debt Ditch
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”–Proverbs 22:7
“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”–Proverbs 6:1-5
Maybe we can’t prove that debt is sinful. But debt is bad. It puts us in slavery. We need to quit incurring debt. We need to start filling in that debt ditch. Even if it costs us some sleep, we need to get rid of the debts. Live on less than you make. Only buy what you can afford. Quit digging that ditch.
Proverb Point #8: Know Your Business
“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. There will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls.”–Proverbs 27:23-27
We’re not shepherds and goatherds so this point can be easily missed. However, the point is we need to know our business. We need to know our financial state. We need to know what is the condition of our business, our job, our finances. We need to keep our checkbooks balanced. We need to know where our money is and where it is going. If we are just spending willy-nilly, the money won’t last forever. However, if we keep up with it consistently and purposefully, then we can plan and what God has blessed us with will take care of us, even in tough times. Don’t let the planning and the review slip by just because it’s no fun. Keep up with your financial things. Know where you are. Know where you are going. Know what it will take to get there.
Well, now we know what the proverbialist says about prosperity. The question is will we do it.
You can’t turn on the television or fire up an internet home page on Yahoo, Google or some other place without getting a face full of “Government Bail Out.” It’s almost more prevalent than Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Now, I’m not an economist, so I don’t fully understand what needs to be bailed out. And I’m not a politician, so I don’t fully understand what the government plans to do about it. But, I am a house owning, debt paying off, job working, family raising American who begins to get a little worried when I hear things like “Biggest crisis since the 1930’s” and “Reminiscent of the Great Depression.”
At the same time, I’m a Christian. Should I face this financial fallout with a Chicken Little attitude? Or should I take another approach? I’d like to share three keys, I think we as Christians need to keep in mind as we hear all this news and begin to get our fears and worries up.
- Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (cf. Matthew 6:33): Yes, that still applies during an economic recession. It still applies even in a depression. No, God didn’t promise we would live in a nice house, drive nice cars and wear nice clothes. But He did promise to take care of us if we sought His kingdom and righteousness first. We need to remember that stocks, bonds, insurance plans and savings accounts will not take care of us in the long run. God can and will if He is our priority. No, that doesn’t mean throw financial caution to the wind, running up debt, wasting money and then expecting God to bail us out (our government’s example notwithstanding). It simply means make serving God a priority, even if you think it will cost you money and God will take care of you.
- Take it one day at a time (cf. Matthew 5:34): Let tomorrow worry about itself, Jesus said. We need to simply face today. You know what, the economy may come crashing down next Monday. But it hasn’t crashed yet today. Next Monday may be really rotten. It may be the most horrible day of our lives. Who knows? But today is not so bad. We’ve eaten today. We’re still able to access our internet today. We are living in our home today. Let’s not make today rotten by focusing on how rotten it might be next week. No, as with our last point, this doesn’t mean throw caution to the wind and live recklessly today trying to capture fun in the sun while it lasts. That is just as much letting today be dominated by tomorrow as the fearmongering approach. Rather, live wisely today. Make wise choices with your money and material blessings today. Don’t do it out of a sense of control as if you can somehow make sure that next Monday is not rotten if the economy turns south and we run into a Great Depression and it becomes so bad we are like a third world country. But simply live wisely today and rejoice in today’s blessings. Don’t let today’s blessings turn sour in your mouth because you are worried about what might happen next week. Just take it one day at a time.
- Share (cf. II Corinthians 8-9; Hebrews 13:16): This is the hard one. Financial ruin looms around the corner. Our natural reaction is to hoard. If I don’t take care of me, who will? I need to look out for #1. We need to remember instead that sharing on an individual level is how God expects us to take care of each other, not government bailouts. When times are good, we need to share those blessings. When times are bad, we need to share what blessings we have. I think of the story that I’m sure I read in one of those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books of “The Poor Family in our Church.” As the story is told in first person–
The preacher had announced that he had learned about a poor family in the congregation and wanted the church to do something good for them. On the following Sunday, they would take a special collection for this poor family. Our family took it very seriously. We knew we didn’t have much, but we wanted to help out the poor family. So, we made some sacrifices. We cut and scraped. Mama bought cheaper meat for supper. Daddy put some of his overtime money in. The kids cut some neighbors’ yards. By Saturday, we had scraped together $20. (This obviously took place several years ago.) On Sunday, we were so proud we all sat up on the second pew. We were beaming as Daddy dropped in the $20 bill. We knew there were so many better off than we were and they would do so much more. But we had done what we could. That afternoon, the preacher knocked on our door and handed Daddy an envelope, saying he hoped we would accept this gift with the love he had intended it. The preacher was smiling as he left. Daddy slowly opened the envelope. $25 fell out.–
The sad fact is, it is often those who have the least to share that are the most generous. We as Christians need to share. Whatever we face in the future, we need to remember that the blessings God has given us are meant to be spread around, not hoarded.
Hey, I don’t know what’s going to happen in America’s financial future. Frankly, I have the feeling that sooner or later, we’re going to have to pay the piper. Band-aids like government bailouts won’t fix the problems. They will only postpone the inevitable. But God has shown how we should act no matter what comes our way financially. Let’s quit facing this like Republicans or Democrats and start facing it like Christians.