William J. Stewart | Lessons from the Book of Proverbs
There is no shortage of confusion on what the Bible says about wealth. There are some who affirm that God’s plan for His people is to shower financial wealth upon them, while others speak of material prosperity as though it were a plague to be avoided.
The Bible says a lot about money, both in the Old & New Testaments. The wise king had plenty to say on the topic. We will note some of his words about finances today.
THOUGHTS ON WEALTH
Solomon acknowledges some definite advantages to having money. Among them, we are told that riches will bring a measure of security. In Proverbs 10:15, we read:
The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty.
Solomon is not encouraging us to trust in riches, but acknowledges those with wealth do enjoy a degree of assurance in financial matters that the poor do not.
Wealth also has the ability to affect our friendships. Notice:
The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich has many friends. (Proverbs 14:20)
There are certainly those who are ready to take advantage of a friend with wealth, but that is not who Solomon is talking about here. It is a matter of loyalty. The rich man’s friends will tend to stand by him more than his poor counterpart’s. In fact, in Proverbs 19:4-7, Solomon states that even the poor man’s brothers will hate and abandon him, whereas the friends of a noble will remain (the benefits they receive by association certainly don’t hurt).
Yet a warning is given to the rich:
Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:5-6)
Despite the inherent value riches add to one’s life, God does not want riches to be our ultimate pursuit. Work, and work diligently, but do not make your aim in life to attain wealth. Life is not about amassing riches. And it doesn’t take much for wealth to depart—robbery, recession, loss of job, medical bills, poor planning, etc.. Again, we ought not put our trust in riches.
Solomon gave another warning about the danger of riches:
There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: riches kept for their owner to his hurt. (Ecclesiastes 5:13)
Wealth, correctly employed, is a blessing to those who have it and others. However, wealth that is hoarded can destroy a man. Consider the rich young ruler who came to Jesus, asking what he should do to enter the kingdom of heaven. When the Lord told him to go and sell all that he had (for Jesus saw that his wealth was a god to him), he walked away in sorrow (Matthew 19:16-22). The apostle Paul warned about loving money (1 Timothy 6:9-10), but immediately thereafter encouraged the rich to use their wealth for good (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Financial wealth, with the proper perspective, is a blessing.
THOUGHTS ON POVERTY
Though Solomon was a wealthy man, and acknowledged the benefits which the rich enjoy, he was not oblivious to the blessings that are inherent to the poor. A trait of the rich is that he may never be satisfied (see Ecclesiastes 5:10-12). However, a poor man with the right attitude is truly rich:
There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches. (Proverbs 13:7)
Again, the wise sage tells us that wealth is not the end all and be all of life. He says:
Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich. (Proverbs 28:6; cf. 16:8; etc.)
Whether we ask David, Solomon, or Paul, it is wrong for God’s people to participate in the overthrow of our governing authority. Solomon is so blunt as to say that those who do so invite calamity and ruin from both the king and the LORD.
GENEROSITY & GREED
God seeks those who have wealth to be generous with it. Early in the Proverbs, we found this:
Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase. (Proverbs 3:9)
If we are blessed with wealth, we would do well to remember where it came from. God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). We should be ready and willing to give back to His cause. Certainly part of doing so involves giving to the collection for the saints (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), but also giving to the needy (Proverbs 28:27; Matthew 25:31-46).
Of course the opposite of generosity is greed. Greed will destroy a person (1 Timothy 6:10). Solomon clearly states that the greedy will bring troubles to themselves (Proverbs 1:19) and upon their family (Proverbs 15:27). Why should we be greedy about that which is temporal and passing, and which is not our own—for we are stewards of what God has blessed us with? Riches, without a godly perspective, are destructive.
Finally, let us realize that whether we are rich or poor is of no consequence to God. Solomon wrote:
The rich and the poor have this in common, the LORD is the maker of them all. (Proverbs 22:2)
For many, their material wealth will depend upon where they are born and what opportunities are available. For some, it will depend on decisions made in life (career choices, self-control, etc.). But rich or poor, God loves us, and in Jesus Christ, He offers a heavenly home, not based on the size of our bank account, but our response to His will. Obey & live!