Wealth: an abundance of what is valuable; currency for exchange of goods and services is probably the first example which comes to mind in the modern culture. To classify wealth in the category of the abundance of minted or printed currency is the narrow view, because wealth includes other kinds of abundance, such as time and real properties and intellectual/creative/practical/occupational skills and spiritual wisdom–all of which, when properly stewarded and generously shared, yield dividends in one’s gladness of heart and which work effectively in the good welfare of others with whom we share them.
People more widely read and of greater experiences than I can relate all manner of culturally relevant anecdotes, stories and quotes to urge a worldly wisdom about how to view wealth. My understanding of life comes from the pages of Scriptural history. Nothing makes the impact on my thinking and my conscience like the way God interacts with people like me in their dusty existence this side of glory. There are so many examples from Scripture which powerfully underscored to my mind and heart that God owns everything I have–every breath I take, and every blessing He has granted. Here are the passages which came to the forefront of my mind as I listened and examined the Proverbs presented in my pastor’s sermon on wealth. He took us through a study in the Book of Proverbs with specific verses. I have printed the ones featured in the sermon. Everything else I share are my meditations as I work out with trembling the calling of God in my life to use what He has given me for His glory. I hope you will take this time to go with me into the Word of God as I share my meditations on His sovereignly faithful and righteous posture on wealth and its acquisition and its use.
The Book of Proverbs in the Bible presents Solomon’s sober reflections on wealth: how it is acquired and how it is viewed and how it is invested. Solomon also reflected on how people naturally react to both wealth and poverty. Solomon was one of the wealthiest men on earth. He was endowed by God with riches of wisdom and material wealth in measures beyond our modern comprehension for one man to possess–let alone to steward. He did not know very much about poverty, but he observed a radical difference between the lives of those who are wealthy and the lives of those who are not wealthy.
The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.”
Don’t many of us know the truth of that observation in our own experience? In our modern culture, social media points directly to the truth of how the population sector pictured there in abundance of youth, abundance of physical appeal, abundance of cash and all it purchases, is highly favored in the following. The popular attraction does not require one to be thoughtful or prudent; in fact, in our day, it is better for one’s popularity if he is not. To be sure, Solomon is the most desired celebrity figure among all the aspirations of kings and rulers on earth; many know of his material wealth and social and political conquests; but few ever absorb his thoughtful writings on wisdom in the Book of Proverbs. A graphic example from the pages of Scriptural history is the painful reality of social snubbing in the life of a man named Job. While Job enjoyed abundance and shared it in his broad social circle of influence, he was honored and widely respected and favored among the populace of his day. But when Job suffered extreme losses to his “bottom line” and his health, his friends lost their attraction to him and their respect for him; in their abundance of enjoying God’s mercies in their own lives they shared precious little mercy with Job. Anyone who suffers grief and mourning in the loss of youth/vigor/physical beauty, loss of a dear one by death, or the loss of home or livelihood by natural disaster or corporate downsizing knows the truth of Proverbs 14.20.
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Solomon observes that wealth acquired by honest labor and patient diligence is blessed; laziness and squandering will only yield ruin:
A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.”
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it…A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.”
–Proverbs 13:11, 22
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”
There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it.”
Solomon was privileged from his childhood. He lived in the palace of his father king David. He enjoyed the favor of his father and his mother, with education and attention and exposure to the principles of administrating a monarchy, as well as instruction in the covenant between God and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He enjoyed the life of a prince and heir to his father’s throne. When he ascended the throne, he realized the enormity of what God was bestowing upon him; he had the sense to be unnerved by it–to know that his own strength was not sufficient or equal to the task. He prayed diligently for wisdom, that the work of the kingdom given into his hands would diligently glorify and uphold God’s Kingdom, governing His people wisely. Had Solomon hastily taken the reins of the monarchy, had he begun his reign slothfully, had he ignored that desirable treasure of wisdom, he would have come to dishonor among the peoples he influenced. For a monarch, all the gold of Ophir could not compensate for the poverty of being dishonored among his people. Nevertheless, we can see from the history of Solomon’s life, even the model king squandered his God-given abundance of power, privilege and influence to make him hasty in the matter of acquisitions of property which God forbade, and of making political treaties with pagan kings through marriages to wives from pagan cultures. The king whom every political figure on earth desires to emulate sired offspring from wives adherent to pagan culture, and he occupied himself in such prodigious and intensive urban development projects that, somewhere along this line of excessive achievement, his parenting relationship with the prince and heir to his throne was impoverished. The grave consequences for Israel began to unfold when his son Rehoboam succeeded Solomon on the throne. Rehoboam’s heart bore the bitter root of parental neglect, and his haste and squander of his power and privilege and position yielded a judgment from God ending in a divided kingdom and a loss of honor and provision for the children of Israel for generations and centuries to come. My heart is torn apart by the realization of the weight of what Scripture and history declare about the consequences of becoming complacent and blind and lazy in the understanding and investment of God’s gifting which I carry in my life.
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Solomon speaks of the dangers and ruin which come upon those who acquire wealth of any kind by wicked and deceitful devices:
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.”
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.”
A graphic and sober warning comes from the encounter between king Ahab and a vineyard owner named Naboth. Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard and attempted to press Naboth to trade it for another vineyard or sell it for money. Said vineyard was Naboth’s family heritage over several generations. He was unwilling to trade it or to sell it for any price, since it was his family’s heritage and was his chief means of sustenance and trade. Ahab’s wife Jezebel comforted him by promising to acquire the vineyard. Her scheme unfolded deceitfully by way of dinner invitation to Naboth, at which dinner Naboth was falsely accused of blaspheming the king. What followed was the brutal execution of Naboth by stoning. Having eliminated the hindrance to possessing the vineyard of Naboth, Ahab took possession of it. Not very long afterward, the LORD spoke to Elijah the prophet, commanding him to go to Samaria to confront king Ahab with the following words of judgment:
Thus says the LORD: ‘Have you murdered and also taken possession?’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours’.”
1 Kings 21.17-19
Elijah went on to pronounce a comprehensive woe upon Ahab and his posterity as a consequence of his deceitful ensnarement of Naboth:
“Because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel sin.’ And concerning Jezebel the LORD also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.”
–1 Kings 21.21-24
Scripture tells us that Ahab repented for his wickedness and that God gave Ahab a remitted sentence, saying that the full weight of the promised calamity would not fall upon Ahab in his days, but instead, would fall out upon his son (1 Kings 21.27-29). Three years later, war with Syria was on the horizon, and Ahab went out to war in disguise to avoid being killed. The strategy failed and Ahab was struck down in bloody battle. When he was buried in Samaria, his bloody chariot was brought for cleansing in the pool at that place, drawing a significant gathering of bloodthirsty dogs to drink at the bloody pool (1 Kings 22.37-38). Twelve years into the reign of Ahab’s son Joram, there was a battle with Syria in which Joram was wounded, forcing him to leave the front and return home to Jezreel to recover (2 Kings 8.25-29). While Ahab’s son Joram was recovering in Jezreel, Elijah’s successor Elisha was commanded by the Lord to anoint another king over Israel; his name was Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi (not the same Jehoshaphat who ruled in the southern kingdom of Judah a generation earlier). Twelve years after Ahab’s death, the day of reckoning pronounced on the house of Ahab and Jezebel had arrived. 2 Kings 9 tells of the outcome of God’s displeasure with the predation of Ahab and the unrelenting wickedness of Jezebel on the murder of Naboth and the seizure of his family’s heritage as God spoke to Elijah in 1 Kings 21.17-24. Ahab and Jezebel are only one frightful expose in the historical accounts.
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The Book of Esther tells us of the greed and murderous envy of Haman who was the viceroy of king Ahasuerus of Persia. Haman was greedy for recognition to the point of being worshipped. When one man in the kingdom refused to worship him, Haman plotted a mass genocide of all of the people in the kingdom of this man’s ethnic heritage. The man’s name was Mordecai, and he was a Jew. Mordecai had saved the king’s life by informing him of an assassination plot perpetrated by two of the king’s guards. When the king remembered Mordecai’s loyalty and bravery, he planned to give public honor to Mordecai–instead of Haman. Ultimately, queen Esther revealed to king Ahasuerus the deceit and lust for power which fueled Haman’s plan to murder all the Jews throughout the kingdom of Persia. Haman and his sons perished by hanging for their greed and lust for the riches of power.
In the New Testament, a married couple who owned a significant piece of property decided to participate in the “crowd funding” to help the Christians in Judea who were being blacklisted from trade and commerce for their faith in Jesus the Christ. They were becoming impoverished and even losing their properties because of the tradition of the Jewish laws of ownership and acquisition. This couple sold their property to contribute, but they lied about the amount they received for the property, misrepresenting the sacrifice of their giving. When Peter confronted them about their deceit, they died on the spot (Acts 5.1-11).
There is no getting away from God’s judgment on those who play wicked games.
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One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion gathers it for him who will pity the poor…”
Proverbs 28.8 is prophetic in nature as it promises the greedy and exploitative opportunist that everything he acquires by his code of acquisition will inevitably be handed over to the Righteous One who will pity the poor. This warning is in contrast to the prophetic blessing of Christ Jesus upon the meek–those who are gentle and compassionate in their dealings with others; these shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5.5)
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Solomon observes the judgment on the selfish and the stingy who are endowed by God plenty while their hearts are hardened by a begrudging and unfaithful spirit:
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
I remember the encounter David had with a fellow descendant of Judah, his father Jesse’s patriarchal tribe. His name was Nabal, and he was wealthy–extremely wealthy. I read about this in 1 Samuel 25, and it has made a lasting mark on my soul. While David was forced to live rough, in exile in the wilderness of Paran, avoiding armed conflict with king Saul, David and his men had been watching this cousin’s flocks and protecting them from harm and theft by marauders and sheep stealers. When sheep sheering time came, Nabal went to Carmel with plentiful flocks of healthy sheep for sheering. It was a time of feasting, and Nabal was feeling like he was living the wealth of life itself. When David sent 10 young men to Carmel to request of Nabal whatever he would agree to share with them, the answer that came back from Nabal to his cousin David was this recorded in vss 10-11: “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?” It cuts my heart open every time I read it, because Nabal knew that David is the son of Jesse, and he knew his relationship with David’s family line. Nabal knew of David’s reputation as a valiant warrior and defender of Israel; quite probably, he also knew the testimonies that God had directed Samuel to anoint David as the next king. But even if he did not know of David’s destiny, he knew that David’s reputation as a shepherd had secured his prosperity at the festival of sheep sheering, as one of Nabal’s young servants testified of David and his men: “Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master; and he reviled them. But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, nor did we miss anything as long as we accompanied them, when we were in the fields. They were a wall to us both by night and day, all the time we were with them keeping the sheep.” (vss 14-15) With Nabal’s hardness of heart and stinginess with his properity, David’s own heart was burned severely enough to consider leaving Nabal’s prosperity nothing but a wasteplace of scorched earth behind him: “I have protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belongs to him. And he has repaid me evil for good.” (vs 21) Nabal’s wife Abigail, instead, ministered to David and his men with food and refreshment, apology and encouragement in the Lord. Aware of all that God had ordained for David, and deeply apologetic to David for her husband’s folly, Abigail spoke to David of God’s judgment awaiting the wealthy fool who refuses help to a fellow shepherd who has done him good, while yet suffering in his own adversity: “My lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives…a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling.” (vss 23-29) When Nabal returned from Carmel, he settled into a private feast for himself. Upon Abigail’s return, she found her husband stinking drunk and spoke nothing to him until the next morning, when she laid out the facts of his hostile behavior toward the good shepherd and his men on the prior day:
So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone.Then it happened, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.”
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Solomon reflected on how wealth does not guarantee freedom from trouble; he speaks openly about how a holy fear of the LORD is better for the peace in a person’s life, whether he owns much or little; and he soberly reminds those who are given to heeding wisdom that the LORD is the Maker of both. God is sovereign over the fortunes of all men.
The rich and the poor have this in common, the LORD is the maker of them all…By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.”
–Proverbs 22:2, 4
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.”
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.”
One of the most commonly known tragedies in Scripture is the moment when the “giant” of lust “slew” king David. David had slain giants of all kinds during his life and career as shepherd, warrior and king. It was a moment of leisure and laziness of mind which found the chink in the armor of his disciplines. Instead of going with his armies to battle, he chose to remain at home in the comfort of his palace. Instead of using the quiet time for being in the Word of God and prayer for his troops on the frontlines, he allowed his leisure and idle mind to draw him into a daydream of craving another man’s wife–his neighbor’s, to be exact. Greater treasure and trouble came to him because his fear of the LORD was on vacation.
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Why don’t the contemporary anecdotes from our day make the same penetratingly cautionary imprint on my soul? I believe that is so because God’s immediate punitive response in the contemporary circumstances reported are not visible; and any that might be proposed are subject to much modern conjecture; and nobody wants to talk about God’s judgment in our day. In the Scriptures, what we see is direct, unmistakable judgment from God without any variables. He may delay judgment in our times, and the circumstances of His method of judgment may be explained away. Nevertheless, He does fit the judgment to the insult against His wisdom and His righteousness in the matter of wealth in any provision in our lives.
These are the passages which came to the forefront of my mind as I listened and examined the Proverbs presented in my pastor’s sermon about what wealth is all about. These are the examples from Scripture which powerfully underscored to my mind and heart that God owns everything I have–every breath I take, and every blessing He has granted. It’s all His. And He has given me all the riches in Christ forever–no one can take them away from me. Makes me realize how much I can truly afford using and giving and serving Him in this world for His Kingdom’s sake. I don’t regret one moment of energy poured into serving Him in the Body of Christ while something of a worldly pleasure passed me by. But I pray that I will finish well as I grow into greater understanding of God’s desires for how I use what He has given me in this season of my life. May He multiply it for His glory.