Solomon on Money
THE PRESENCE OF MONEY IN our lives is natural and constant. Like time, oxygen or gravity, money is a part of reality; a principle of life that cannot be escaped. Even in very simple cultures, where personal and business transactions were carried on through a system of barter, the concept of money was present - the wampum beads of the Indians served the same purpose as the currency in our wallets today.
As a complete guide for life, the Word of God gives instructions in all areas, including the wise use of money. Indeed, the Bible includes more than most of us realize about money - how to use it, how not to use it, the proper attitude toward it. The Book of Proverbs is a very practical guide in matters pertaining to life. Therein we are encouraged to "make plans by seeking advice" (20:18). We will therefore look at some advice in the area of handling money from this Old Testament Book of Wisdom.
The first step in any worthy endeavor is to establish proper "thinking". We certainly need proper thinking when it comes to handling money. The Bible may cause us to re-think some long held notions about money and how we use it.
Modern man usually does not think of God when he considers possible sources of wealth. However, the Bible says, "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth" (10:22). Modern man generally looks to money to provide security for himself and his family. Money, however, cannot provide the security that man needs in the spiritual, eternal realm. "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge" (14:26). "Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death" (11:4). The worth of possessions, principles and people cannot be measured in terms of their monetary value. Again the wise man says, "Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all" (22:2).
Materialistic thinking views the attainment of money worth any sacrifice. Yet, "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife" (17:1). "Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse" (28:6). There are many things in life worth more than money. We must, therefore, allow God's Word to mold our thinking when it comes to money lest we become deceived by the foolishness around us.
God is the ultimate source of wealth, but He does not reward the lazy. We must work for a living. The hobo once sung about the "big rock candy mountains", where "they hung the jerk who invented work", but in the real world work is a blessing from God. "He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment" (12:11). "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty" (14:23).
Even though the Spirit says, "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children" (13:22), it also warns about money which is inherited rather than earned, "An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end" (20:21).
The book of Proverbs often condemns the "sluggard" and his laziness. "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in the summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son" (10:4,5). See also 6:9-111; 13:4; 18:9; 19:15; 20:4,13; 21:25,26; 22:13; 24:20-34; 26:13-17
Some people work diligently (as the wise man instructs -12:24), yet for the wrong motive. Their purpose is to get rich and spend their lives in the selfish pursuit of luxury and leisure. This idea is not highly spoken of either. "A greedy man brings trouble to his family" (15:27). "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered" (21:13). "It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one's own honor" (25:27). If you pursue plans that include the obtaining of great sums of money without diligent labor, or with selfish intentions God will not be your life long companion.
BORROWING & LENDING
Our culture has deeply ingrained ideas about borrowing and lending - ideas that are certainly not reflected in the Bible. For example, borrowing is accepted as a necessary and normal part of everyday life. Our news sources tell us that a strong economy is one characterized by more spending and less saving. The use of credit cards to extend spending capacity is seen as a positive sign of confidence in the economy. An increase in the savings rate among Americans is always interpreted as the sign of weakness motivated by fear and selfishness. Furthermore, since the events of 911 the purchase of consumer goods on credit has been advertised as almost a patriotic duty. How many people purchased a new car recently, putting their families in big time debt, then walked away from the deal with the feeling that they had just helped defeat the British at Saratoga (or the Taliban at Kandahar)?
The Bible has a different perspective on debt. No where in either the Old or New Testaments is borrowing money ever recommended or even spoken of in positive terms. It is always described as unwise. The practice of lending money is viewed similarly. "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender" (22:7). If you have contracted a debt to some individual or institution, you have placed yourself in slavery to them. "My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another . . .then do this, my son, to free yourself . . . go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler" (6:1-5). If you are in debt or have co-signed for someone else's debt take the wise man's advise and free yourself as quickly as a gazelle running from the jaws of the hungry lion.
When it comes to the use of credit cards consult the wise advise (with editorial comment) given in Proverbs 23:1-3:
"When you sit to dine ( i.e. walk into a department store and observe the fine things laid out on the tables) with a ruler (i.e. Visa, MC, Penny's , Lazarus, etc), note well what is before you (i.e. things, neat things that you just HAVE to have), and put a knife to your throat (i.e. scissors to the credit card) if you are given to gluttony (i.e. in the habit of buying things you can't afford. Don't fool yourself. If you could afford the stuff you would not be using a credit card! And just because you can afford a minimum monthly payment does not mean you can afford it! ). Do not crave his delicacies (i.e. the clothes, and other stuff that will make everyone say WOW), for that food is deceptive" (i.e. it will cost a lot more and take a much longer time to pay for than you realize.)
Don't allow your attitude toward the borrowing and lending of money conform to the world. What the world accepts as normal is not always good. Normal people are in debt and stay in debt most of their lives. God wants better than that for His children.
(To Be Continued Next Issue)
By Ed Barnes
From Expository Files 14.5; May 2007