Focal Passage: Proverbs 16:16, 22:1-2, 3:9-10
Once again Proverbs draws us back to the life of wisdom in our attitude toward money and possessions. There is probably no greater challenge in the life of the believer than this. Questions of how we get money, how we use it, and how this relates to our relationship with God, are issues that should concern us as it did the Hebrews.
One does not have to have money for it to become a problem. Not having money may be the most difficult, for it introduces an attitude of desperation which can lead us to actions we would not normally engage in. Lack of money tests us to the point of what we are willing to do to get it. Someone has observed that you do not have to have money to be a materialist; you need only to consider it the most important thing in life. Again Solomon encourages us to consider the matter of wisdom. “Get wisdom — how much better it is than gold” (Proverbs 16:16).
When I entered the ministry, I actually thought I was taking a vow of poverty. The ministers I knew were right at the poverty line. Since I was married, my thoughts were how I would support a wife and family. Years of schooling loomed before me with little resources to assist me in the venture. I made my commitment with those thoughts in my mind. Fortunately, my Baptist denomination, church, college, and seminary made the task possible. It is not just ministers that have such a struggle. The laypeople with whom I worked could recount similar examples. The fact is the need for money is there for us all.
The questions are: How does a believer get money, how does he/she use it when they get it, and how does this relate to ones’ spiritual life with the Lord? Solomon offers wise advice. He reminds us that a good name is better than wealth. He further states that the amount of our possessions makes no impression on God. “The rich and the poor have this in common. The Lord has made them both,” (Proverbs 22:1-2.
To the money issue, Proverbs adds an equally troublesome subject, credit. We are light years away from the culture of Solomon’s time. There was no easy credit then. In fact, currency and coinage were non-existent. Wealth was bound up in cattle, land, and slaves. He is still on the mark in his advice and observations: “The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” The whole matter of owing money needs to be repeated over and over. A recent statistic is disturbing. The average credit card debt is over $10,000! And this is probably low. Added to this are the home mortgages, car loans, and other loans for pleasure and business, and the picture of a debtor nation emerges. Our federal government cannot even live without debt; truly Solomon has a word for us.
The final point of this lesson is our relation to God within the context of our possessions. We cannot ignore the will of God in our discussion of our possessions. Where does God fit in your budget?
I was taught to tithe from my mother. Tithe for us was giving to the church. My wife and I have practiced this all our married life. The tithe was and is always first. Even in the lean years we gave the tithe.
I do not believe that giving to the Lord should be a legalistic requirement. Giving should be an expression of gratitude to Him for His gift of grace. In another way, our return to Him a portion of what we have been blessed with is an acknowledgement of His ownership of everything. “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first fruits of your entire harvest,” (Proverbs 3:9-10). Luke adds a word from Jesus. “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust true riches?”
— Hay, a former pastor and retiree from the Tennessee Baptist Convention, lives in Dyersburg.