IF YOUR MONEY COULD TALK

 

Week of June 29, 2008

 

Bible Verses:  Proverbs 3:9-10; 11:24-26; 13:11; 15:16-17; 16:11; 23:4-5.

 

Biblical Truth: God’s people are to honor the Lord in the ways they think about, make, and use their money.

 

Check Your Spiritual Balance Regularly: Proverbs 3:9-10; 15:16-17.

 

[9]  Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; [10]  So your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine. [16]  Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil with it. [17]  Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred.  [NASU]

 

[9]  This verse represents the only time Proverbs advises making any of the sacrifices required by the books of Moses. Honor is a verb used occasionally, as here, in the sense of making sacrifice to the Lord [Ps. 50:23; Isa. 43:23]. Wealth refers to having enough of the goods of life for them to be considered riches or wealth. Since what is sufficient is highly subjective, it probably refers to anything and everything beyond the basic daily requirement of food and clothing. In Proverbs, such wealth is viewed both negatively and positively. Wealth is considered an insufficient security, but also as a reward for the wise. Such wealth may not only be the reward of wisdom. But, when submitted to God, wealth may be transformed by wisdom into an opportunity to worship Him. First is often a reference to first fruits. Israel was called to sacrifice to God from the first portion gleaned from all their crops. This was a way of expressing thanks to God. Such offerings express our understanding of God’s supremacy over all things. This offering of the first fruits makes clear our complete reliance upon God rather than the yield of our fields. This principle of giving to God from our first fruits is an abiding principle of all God’s people today [1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8:2-3; Mark 12:44].

 

[10]  The reward for such giving is now stated. The giving enjoined by the Mosaic Law was to be done in recognition that God had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt [Deut. 26:1-10]. They were not their own. They had been bought with a price. They possessed nothing, but managed everything. They had nothing but what had poured out of the hand of God to them. Such giving cannot be viewed as taking some of ‘mine’ and giving it to God. Instead, it is selecting some of what is God’s and trusting Him with it as He has trusted me with that which remains under my discretion. Such giving is a supreme act of faith. It evidences that we believe the God who gave us this is able and willing to give us more from where this came from. My part is but to evidence my belief that He is this kind of God by the sacrificial act of giving. Thus, I am free from a miserly attitude that believes I must store up just in case God doesn’t come through in the future. Rather, I enjoy the freedom of knowing that One with infinitely greater resources than me is more committed to my good that I am. God promises that, in response to such faithful stewardship, He will fill and, indeed, overflow our hands and houses with His blessings. Overflow comes from a root word meaning to break through, break down, break over, or burst. God is able to burst wide open any storehouse you can manufacture. God’s ability to give exceeds your ability to receive and retain by as much greater a measure as infinity is than finitude. You cannot outgive God. While such is the standard pattern of God’s working with the faithful, He does not guarantee that He will not suspend this pattern in order to accomplish some higher purpose in our lives.

 

[15:16-17]  This is another of Proverbs’ many ‘better … than’ bits of wisdom. The point here seems to be the comparative quality of contentment and covetousness, worry and wealth, treasure and turmoil. The little of line one is not specified. It does not require that we picture abject poverty; the contrast is with great treasure. This comparative little is not, in itself, to be preferred over great treasure. It is little when accompanied with the fear of the Lord, which is of far greater worth. The connection of great treasure with turmoil shows that this treasure is acquired outside the bounds of God’s will. In verse 17, the contrast is between comparative wealth (a fattened ox) and poverty (dish of vegetables). The contrast also extends to the relational atmosphere in which the meals are shared: love and hatred. Relationships are more important than wealth. Any calculation of success must factor in the quality of relationships before material wealth and its luxuries. The latter without the former is, ultimately, worthless and unsatisfying.

 

Never Fall in Love with $$$: Proverbs 23:4-5.

 

[4]  Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. [5]  When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.  [NASU]

 

[4]  This warning against pursuing wealth is somewhat new in Proverbs. Proverbs promises wealth as a reward for wisdom [8:21; 14:24], righteousness [15:6], generosity [11:25] and diligence [10:4; 12:27]. It roundly condemns ill-gotten gains [10:2; 15:27]. True, Proverbs tells us that God promises to redistribute the wealth of those who are greedy after gain [21:6; 28:8], that clamoring after riches is a trap whose jaws are seldom seen in time to do anything about it [11:4; 28:22], and that it is better to be poor and possess integrity than it is to possess things but lack honesty [16:8]. But, Proverbs does not, generally, cast a negative light upon wealth itself. Here in this verse, the warning is against exhausting oneself and all one’s resources in an effort to gain a life of luxury. This does not denounce hard work to provide well for one’s family, to meet one’s obligations and to keep from being a burden to others. Here, the concern is the person who sacrifices everything (family, health, time, God, etc.) in an effort to gain a life of untouchable wealth.

 

[5]  This verse follows upon the previous one, providing here the justification for the warnings sounded there. The idea of the first line is that of letting your eyes fly away from what they should be fixed upon and, in a fancied flight of imagination, letting them become transfixed upon the luxuries of wealth. The trouble with such a make-believe world is that, soon, the bubble pops and it is gone. Pursuing riches is like grasping wind, nearly impossible and certainly frustrating. When given as a gift from God, wealth can be a great blessing. But, when pursued for its own sake, it is unattainable or, at least, unretainable.

 

Make Every Buck Honestly: Proverbs 13:11; 16:11.

 

[13:11]  Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it. [16:11]  A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; all the weights of the bag are His concern. [NASU]

 

[13:11]  Wealth is often viewed in these proverbs as a sign of God’s blessing. Here, the way in which wealth is obtained is in view. The end does not justify the means. The contrast is between wealth that is obtained by fraud and the one who gathers by labor. What Solomon has in view is the gaining of wealth through get-rich-quick schemes, which are founded on nothing but vaporous speculations. The idea might be extended, by way of application, to unscrupulous and unethical methods of becoming rich. The second, and contrasting, means of gaining wealth is by labor. The idea is that which is gained through diligent, consistent, measured, accumulation, perhaps not to be limited only to manual labor. Not only are the means of gaining the wealth contrasted, but also the longevity of the wealth that is gained. That which is gathered through vain speculations dwindles. The word describes that which is small and insignificant, as well as that which decreases. The idea could be either that the wealth gained through such means will never amount to much in the first place or that what is gained will not last long. The contrast is with that which increases, a word describing abundance and that which is great and numerous. That which is gathered little by little, whether through manual labor or through incremental investment, will grow.

 

[16:11]  This proverb underscores the Lord’s desire for justice from the king [see verse 10]. The word translated weights is literally ‘stones.’ Merchants used scales and a set of pre-weighed stones to measure out silver in payment for goods and services. Unscrupulous businessmen would carry a set of stones that were lighter than labeled and also a set that were heavier than labeled. His choice of which set was used was determined by who was paying whom. Official weights and measures were established by the king. This proverb goes beyond simply warning of God’s interest in justice in commerce. The word translated concern is literally ‘work.’ God is intimately involved in establishing what justice in the business world looks like. The standard of ethics for business is divinely established. Unethical business practices are not only in defiance of the king, but of God Himself. There is more to be considered in business than mere pragmatics. Let every businessman take heed, for, ultimately, the Lord weights the hearts of all men.

 

Grow in Generosity: Proverbs 11:24-26.

 

[24]  There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. [25]  The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. [26]  He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.  [NASU]

 

[24]  Solomon now takes up the theme of generosity. In doing so, he uses a form that states simple, observable fact. He does not necessarily commit to this as an unalterable, infallible pattern, but simply that, if one looks after these patterns of dealing with things, he will discover that this is generally true. What is true is that the one who gives, gets and the one who hangs on, loses that which he clutches. That the generous increase their store by giving is a theme that is taught often elsewhere in Scripture. Similarly, the stingy, selfish man ends up, by his hoarding, with less than he started with. The context here does not make clear what it is that is justly due. Nor is it immediately clear to whom it is due. A possible view is that what is referred to here is a man withholding from himself that which is justly due to himself. Thus, what is spoken against in the second line is not a lack of generosity to others, but rather a person who is so bent on hoarding his money that he won’t even spend a dime on himself. Such a person does not win by hoarding, but rather ends up with less than if he had not compulsively clutched to his wealth at all costs.

 

[25]  This proverb is built upon a synonymous parallelism in which the second line repeats and underscores the first. The basic thought has already been sounded in verses 17, 24a, and will be heard again in 22:9. The first line is, literally, ‘The soul of blessing will be made fat.’ The ‘soul’ represents the person, the inner drive and passion expressed in their actions. From their inward person, and out through their physical body, flows ‘blessing’ to others. Such a one will be ‘made fat.’ This is a metaphorical way of describing their prosperity and health. The expression was powerful in a part of the world prone to drought and inconsistent crops. The picture in the second line may be from the agricultural world, or it may simply picture the personal satisfaction of a drink of water.

 

[26]  Solomon continues on the theme of generosity. Yet, this time, the proverb has a more definitive reference to commerce. The word withholds is different from the word so translated in verse 24. The word there implies the power of the one who holds back what he has. Here the word describes what only God or His designated authority has the right to withhold. Thus, it appears that the idea here is of one who possesses a storehouse of grain in a time of famine or want. With neighbors in need and asking to buy from his store, he refuses, because he calculates that, if he waits, the price he may charge will skyrocket. Such a one will be cursed by the people. He is a profiteer, not a neighbor. It is not wrong for him not to sell the grain. Consider the example of Joseph in Egypt who purposefully stored up grain to relieve human hardship, rather than exploit it [Gen. 41]. It is, however, wrong for one in such a position to purposely not sell for the express purpose of exploiting his neighbors at a later time. Natural disaster or personal misfortune is a time for generosity and fairness, not profiteering. If one is generous and works to meet pressing needs, God will see to it that, through those to whom he has been a blessing, a tangible blessing will return.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.          What principles of giving to God does 3:9-10 and 15:16-17 teach us? What role does trust play in giving that honors God?

 

2.          What is the warning in 23:4-5? When is wealth a great blessing?

 

3.          What temptation is 13:11 and 16:11 warning us about? What contrast does Solomon use to get his point across?

 

4.          Verses 11:24-26 present a paradox: that we become richer by being generous. How is this true? How have you experienced the truth of this paradox in your own life?

 

References:

Proverbs, John Kitchen, Mentor.

Proverbs, Tremper Longman III, Baker.