Proverbs on Money
September 06, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Money and Possessions
Well, you knew it was coming soon or later: you're going to hear a sermon on money. So often, skeptics concerning religion say, "All they ever do is talk about money." The fact of the matter is though that Jesus talked about money more than just about any topic, and we need to hear the wisdom of Christ, and we need to hear the wisdom of the book of Proverbs today. In effect, we're going to sit at the feet of one of the savviest financial advisors in all of human history, and we're going to gain instruction from Him.
A year ago, Forbes put out a list of the top wealthiest - top 100 wealthiest - people from history, and they did some criteria where they adjusted some wealth based on 2007 dollars. And they based it on the percentage - the individual's percentage at their peak wealth of their nation's gross domestic product - so they had all those things, and they made out a list of the top 100. I find those kinds of things interesting. I like to read that kind of things to see who's number one and number 10 and all this kind of thing.
Number one on that list was John D. Rockefeller, who basically had a 90% monopoly on the oil industry from top to bottom for a good number of years. Can you imagine what that would be worth today? But his own peak wealth in adjusted dollars was $318 billion, greatly dwarfing anything that Bill Gates or any of the others have today. I found it interesting that most of the top 100 lived in the last century and a half, and what amazed me further is that 21 of the top 50 were born in America. And a number of others moved to America to make the bulk of their wealth. I found that interesting and convicting.
The list from Forbes, however, went back in antiquity back into history, and I find that interesting too, studying famous wealthy people from history like Marcus Licinius Crassus who died in 53 BC worth 200 million sesterces, whatever that is. I actually didn't find out what a sesterce is worth, but 200 million sound like a lot of them. And he was, I think, 10th. Listen to how he made his money. In part, he had the world's first fire department, and he would go to the plantations, the wealthy plantations around his area when they were burning, and he would, while the plantation was burning, begin to negotiate a price.
And the longer it went, the less the thing was worth, of course. Finally, they would sell. If he said, "I'm not selling, this is my ancestral lands," he would take his fire department and go home, and the thing would burn to the ground and be close to worthless at that point. So, he really had people over a barrel, and, in this way, he amassed a fortune that would be worth about $170 billion today. What I found interesting though about that list is that nowhere on it is King Solomon.
He isn't referred to; he's not mentioned. He was just dispensed with. I guess Forbes didn't think much of 1 Kings 10:23-24, which says this, "King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom that God had put in his heart.” I would like to sit at his feet and learn money from him today, to try to find out about wealth, because he was the richest of any man that lived in his day.
His ships and other venture brought in, it says, 666 talents of gold. Every year. A talent is 75 pounds. I calculated that out to be close to 800 to a million to a billion dollars a year, just in that gold income. A billion a year coming in. He had a fleet of trading ships that brought wealth, vast amounts of wealth from distant lands. He was a man who knew from personal experience the advantages and, may I say, disadvantages of wealth.
It's interesting how Proverbs says, "Cast but a glance at wealth and they're gone” (Proverbs 23:5). We'll talk about that later. But you know, within one generation, his own son, Rehoboam had lost it all, just about all of it. As Pharaoh Necho came in and took all of the gold shields and all the other wealth that Solomon had accumulated and took it away…
How to Read Proverbs
Wisdom: The Science of Skillful Living
So, as we come to the book of Proverbs today, and we come to learn about money and material possessions, we're sitting at the feet of one of the all-time world experts on the topic. Now, in this sermon, I'm going to also have us sit at the feet of the all-time world expert on material wealth, and that's Jesus. And though I'm not going to speak much about Jesus' view on money, we're going to learn some basic principles, some rudimentary rubber-meets-the-road-concepts, about producing wealth from Solomon. And then we're going to find out from Jesus what to do about it, what to do with it, so that's basically the two parts of the message I'm going to give today.
Now, just I want to take a step back, because in my series on Proverbs, we've been mostly in the first nine chapters of Proverbs, and that reads differently than 10 through 31. It just does. And generally, when you think of Proverbs, you think of the stuff I'm about to do today. You think about pithy, wise, little sayings that are troublesome in some ways because sometimes it seems like they're not true but are generally helpful in everyday life. Wisdom - the Hebrew word for wisdom is hokma, which means "skillful living" - literally, a sense of skill and living.
And, as we've said, this is a practical kind of rubber-meets-the-road book with an eye for detail. I like what commentator Derek Kidner said about Proverbs. He said, "There are details of characters small enough to escape the mesh of the law and the broadsides of the prophets, and yet they are decisive in interpersonal dealings. Proverbs moves in this realm, asking what a person is like to live with, or what he's like to employ. Or how he manages his daily affairs, his time and himself. This good lady over here, for instance, does she talk too much? Or that cheerful soul over there, is he bearable early in the morning? And this friend who's always dropping in and wearing out his welcome, we'll here's some advice for him. Or that rather aimless young man who doesn't seem to have a direction in life, what advice can we have for him?"
I love that kind of summary of the kind of practical aspect of the book of Proverbs, how it just speaks to daily life issues that we face all the time. And the central question is - we've already kind of set the table over these first number of sermons in Proverbs - is this: will you be wise, or will you be foolish? It's wisdom or folly. John Calvin called the physical creation here "the theater of God's glory." Well, when you have your brief time on the stage, will you do so as a fool or as a wise person? God is watching you; He is the audience - how we live.
What is a Proverb?
Alright, when we come to Proverbs 10 through 31, we come to pithy kind of everyday life statements that are memorable and that teach us something about how to live. Every culture has its Proverbs. We have ours as well. You know some of these from Ben Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac, like, "A stitch in time saves nine." Or, "Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Or, "Apple a day, keeps the doctor away” - those kinds of things. These are just general kind of statements. They're easy to remember, they're poetic or rhyming a little bit, they have a kind of a symmetry to them, and they teach you something about life.
General Clues on How to Read Proverbs
But we need to be careful as we come to Proverbs to try to understand how we should interpret this book. Mark Dever - I was listening to a sermon that he preached recently on Proverbs - and he was talking about just different clues, so we can know how to interpret Proverbs. And the first clue I thought was very, very helpful, and that is that you just need to use common sense as we come to these to apply them.
Take for example, the everyday life proverb, "Look before you leap." What does that mean? Look before you leap? Well, I think it means before you take a decisive action in life, be certain that you've considered all of the ramifications. Think about what will happen next after you take that decisive action. That's what it means. I think we know that.
We know it doesn't mean that every single time that someone leaps before looking, a disaster occurs. We don't throw out the proverb because someone said, "I want to test it," and one day they leap without looking, and everything worked out just fine. It's still generally true. We know that, in general, it's best to look before leaping.
We also know that the saying, "Look before you leap," doesn't just have to do with leaping. I think you know that, don't you? Frankly, when is the last time some of you leapt? I'm sure it's been a while for some of you. I don't mean anything insulting, but you probably haven't leaped in a while. But still the proverb, "Look before you leap," is helpful. It extends to more things, like pulling out decisively into traffic. Look before you leap is almost literally true there. "Alright, look both ways, be very careful as you... "
Or quitting a job. I've actually been on the job with somebody who was hot-headed and they just quit dramatically. Very dramatically. I'll never forget that day as long as I live. This guy dumped over a huge rack of hardware that was so carefully binned and organized. The only thing we could do is get a shovel and shovel it into the dumpster and buy all that hardware pre-sorted again. He came back a week later asking for his job back. He did not get it, needless to say.
But here's a man that didn't look before he leapt. He had nothing to go to. He had no career opportunity. There was nothing else for him to go to. So, I think we understand generally what it means. Now, as we read Proverbs 10 through 31, we're going to come on basically a topical handling of many things, and you've read the... You've read this book before. It's amazing, I don't understand the order to it, do you? I mean, just reading through Proverbs 10 or 12 or 14, and you just don't know why it comes out in that order. And any of you who have been here any length of time know that I'm a pretty fanatically committed expository verse-by-verse preacher. I decided not to do that to you in Proverbs.
To go verse by verse through Proverbs, I think is not the most effective way to handle it but rather pulling out what it says on these various issues and putting them together so that we can study them in a concentrated way. So, over the next few weeks, we're going to look at Proverbs on various vital topics, like conflict resolution, just person to person conflict resolution. Proverbs on parenting, just I think Proverbs is probably the greatest, most practical manual there is on parenting, and raising children. Proverbs on sexual purity, the need for sexual purity, and the need for us to be very careful to be pure in our hearts in this day and age. Proverbs on work, on being a good worker.
Proverbs on Money: The Major Themes
We're going to talk about these various topics, but today the issue is money. And what I want to do is I want to draw out some major themes from the book of Proverbs. I went through the whole, all the chapters, and then drew out anything that related to money and then show some of the best of them, and then drew out these major themes. And I want to preach it in that way.
Spiritual Health is Better than Material Wealth
First, the first major theme is this, and this is a simple one; you've heard it before, but we can't hear it enough. And that is that spiritual health is better than material wealth. It is more important for you to be spiritually healthy than it is for you to be materially wealthy. Proverbs 16:16 says, "How much better to get wisdom than gold or to choose understanding rather than silver?" If you can only have one or the other, please choose wisdom before God. Be a wise man or a wise woman rather than be wealthy.
Wisdom, as I said, is ultimately living wisely before God with an eye to eternity. And frankly, as we look across the whole Bible, Old and New Testament alike, many a rich man is actually a fool. We have Nabal in 1 Samuel whose name means "fool,” and he's very wealthy, so just because you're materially wealthy, it doesn't mean you're going to be wise. Jesus told several parables in which a rich man is actually a fool in God's sight.
For example, the Rich Man and Lazarus. Here's a rich man who's eating lavishly from a fully provided table, and there's a poor man who's at his gate day after day, longing to just get something that would fall from the rich man's table. And this... And clearly in the parable, the rich man has no relationship with God, no concern for the things of God, and ends up in hell. And what a fool.
Or again, the Parable of the Rich Fool, in which this man has a bumper crop and he decides he's going to tear down his barns and build bigger barns and then spend his years in ease and luxury and comfort, living however he wants. And he doesn't realize in the proverb, in the parable, it says, "You fool, this very night, your soul will be required from you. Who then will get what you stored up for yourself?" (Luke 12:20) So again, you can be wealthy materially and still be a fool in God's sight.
Solomon, I think, understood this as well or perhaps better than anyone else, how spiritually empty it can be to accumulate wealth and not be right with God. I have a genuine hope that Solomon ended up well with God, that he repented from his idolatries. I don't know that for sure. But you can imagine during his low point when God is so distant from him, going into all his treasuries, where all those talents of gold are and realizing they did nothing for him, just left him feeling empty.
And so, Solomon said this: Proverbs 15:16, "Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil." So, spiritual health is better than material wealth. Practical step, then, is you should honor God with your wealth. Proverbs 3:9-10 says, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine."
So, basically, if you would be faithful to give to God what is His, give of your tithes and your offerings... Give generously. Let me just encourage you, FBC, I just was so blessed by your response to the Lottie Moon Christmas in August push. We really didn't say anything about it week after week, we didn't use high pressure techniques, we just prayed, and we let the need be known to you. And we more than met the prayer goal of $25,000.
I'm very encouraged by that, and, actually in some ways, not surprised, because you have been very, very faithful over the years to support missions through your giving. But yet, for all of that, we've never been further behind in our budget than we are right now, and so there are still needs. Everything's fine, and money in, money out and all those things are fine. But staff, elders, always we've been careful about expenditures, but we know that we're in economic downturn and difficulty. We know that. But we walk by faith, not by sight. We don't look at what the market's doing; we look at what God's provided us with, and we want to be generous. And so, I just want to urge you to continue in this good work of giving to the Lord. I'll say more about just the need to store up treasure in heaven later on in the message.
How Wealth is Made
Secondly, the book of Proverbs tells us a lot about how wealth is made. How do you make money? How does it come in? You're saying, "Alright, now it's getting good. Alright, I want to know. How does that happen? How do we make money?" Well, first of all, Proverbs tells us that money is a gift of God; it's given as a gift of God. Everything you have is given you by God. Keep that in mind. Proverbs 10:22 says, "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth and he adds no trouble to it."
So, again, that's one of those things that is generally true. Okay, you look at Job and he could say, "Well, I beg to differ, I had a hard day today," but in general, it's generally true that it is the blessing of the Lord that brings wealth, and He adds none of the trouble to it that non-Christians face. God especially gives it to those who pursue wisdom and righteousness.
Proverbs 8:18-21, Wisdom speaking in the first person, says, "With me," with wisdom, "are riches and honor. Enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit, says Wisdom, is better than fine gold. What I yield, surpasses choice silver, I walk in the way of righteousness. Along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full." So, a wise life generally results in material wealth. Again, Proverbs 22:4, "Humility and the fear of the Lord brings wealth and honor and life."
Thirdly, wealth is the product of hard and honest labor. You want to get rich, work hard. Bottom line. Work hard as a student, get good grades, do your responsibilities, develop a character that's the opposite of a sluggard, and, at the end of that kind of a life, you're going to have all your needs met and then some. And so, it says in Proverbs 10:4, "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth."
Also, money is accumulated by careful saving over the years. Listen to Proverbs 13:11, "Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow." We talk to anybody that knows anything about money, they'll talk to you about the value of compounded interest and investing early in life so that things can double and double again over a period of time.
So, therefore, you can just take a step back and say, "Okay, these first two kind of themes that spiritual health is better than material wealth, and this insight, should teach you how to make a budget." When you make a budget, you should calculate how much you're earning, and then as you're starting to look at how you're going to spend expenditures. Step one: give to the Lord. Right off the top, what your tithes and offerings are going to be. Just give it to the Lord as though it weren't even there. Go from that. Step two: financial planners will tell you, pay yourself. Savings. Store up money in savings and then live off the rest. It's just wisdom from the Lord.
Also, wealth comes as an inheritance from parents, the book of Proverbs says. Proverbs 19:14 says, "Houses and wealth are inherited from parents. But a prudent wife is from the Lord." I think the thrust of that proverb has to do with where a prudent wife comes from, but it does say houses and wealth are inherited from parents; it just makes sense. Godly people who live a long, long time - they have more than they need at the end of their lives, and they'd like to give it to their children, and so it comes in that way.
Negatively, Proverbs teaches us well how you can amass wealth in a bad way. Wealth can actually come in through sin. Proverbs actually has much to say about the wealth of the wicked. Solomon realizes that, just because someone is wealthy, it doesn't mean they're righteous. Proverbs 28:6 says, "Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse." So, you can be a rich person and have perverse ways.
Wealth can come from highway robbery, for example, in Proverbs 1. We're talking about this at family devotion just a few nights ago, how after Proverbs 1:1-7, just that introductory section that ends up with, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." After that, the very first topic dealt with is the warning that a godly set of parents gives to their son to not fall in with wicked people who entice him to get involved in highway robbery. "Come, let's lay in wait for some poor soul and let's take his money and his possessions, and we'll divide a common purse" (Proverbs 1:11-14).
Wealth can also come from dishonest business practices. From the bad, the faulty scales or weight system. We'll talk positively about that in a few moments, but it can come negatively from people who just twist things and act in a perverse way as business people. Proverbs 20:17 says, "Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel." So, you can actually get wealthy through fraud.
Or exorbitant interest. We'll come back to this topic later, but Proverbs 28:8 says, "He who increases his wealth by exorbitant interest amasses it for another who will be kind to the poor." So, it is possible for you to gain a lot of money by charging excessive interest rates. Or you can become wealthy by oppressing the poor. Proverbs 22:16 says, "He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich, both come to poverty."
Finally, wealth can come negatively through stinginess, being a miser, an Ebenezer Scrooge. At the root of that is idolatry. People just love money for in and of itself. And so, it says in Proverbs 28:22, "A stingy man is eager to get rich and is unaware that poverty awaits him." Now in all of those negative cases, the wealth amassed by wickedness amounts to nothing in the end. It amounts to nothing. Proverbs 10:2 says, "Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death."
How Wealth is Lost
The third major theme in the book of Proverbs discusses how wealth is lost. You think, "I don't want to know about that." Well, yes, you do. You want to find out how it is that money dwindles away, how it bleeds out of life. But before we even get to that, let me say this. First of all, all material wealth will be lost some day. I hope you know that. Everything you have materially, you will give up some day. All of it.
Stepping outside of Proverbs, listen to 1 Timothy 6:7, the Apostle Paul says, "For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it." And again, Job 1:21, Job said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart." So, Proverbs itself makes it clear how temporary is wealth. Proverbs 23:5 says, "Cast but a glance at riches and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle."
Well, that's certainly true on your death bed, but it could also be true before that as well. I think the bottom line - and we'll come back to this at the end - is be wise and understand you are a temporary steward of material possessions. You have a window of opportunity to use your money wisely. Use it wisely. Because one way or another, it's going away. One way or another.
Well, what are some of the things that Proverbs says causes us to lose our wealth? Well, sexual immorality leads to poverty. It's a link you may not have thought of, but it does. Proverbs 5:8-10 says, "Keep to a path far from the adulteress. Do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man's house." And again, Proverbs 29:3 says, "A companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth."
I think we can extend that, just like "look before you leap", to just immorality in general. Addictions and other immoral lifestyles lead to a squandering of wealth. Being addicted to alcohol or addicted to drugs, or any of this kind of over clear-cut wickedness is a good way for money to be destroyed quickly.
So also is laziness and negligence, and we're going to talk more about this in the sermon on work, but, in Proverbs 24, it says this, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man." Say, "Boy, I'm looking forward to that sermon, I like to sleep in. I like to rest a bit. It's Labor Day, we get to sleep in tomorrow." Well, do what you will, but a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and pretty soon, your wealth is gone. Well, we'll talk about that in the sermon on work, but I think the point is, you can get into bad habits, and, when you get into those lazy bad habits, little by little, things just fall apart. You don't maintain your possessions or property, you don't look after your car or other things the way you should, and it just costs you more money down the line. Laziness does.
And this proverb was projected up on the screen: Proverbs 27, it says, "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks. Give careful attention to your herds. For riches do not endure forever and a crown is not secure for all generations." In other words, be sure you know what's going on in your career, with your business, with your finances. Study it, stay with it, because it's not guaranteed that it'll be here tomorrow. So, stick with it. I think that's the wisdom that Solomon is giving.
And finally, I think maybe most acutely for some, a love of pleasure can cause money to go away, just being addicted to the good things of life. Proverbs 21:17 says, "He who loves pleasure will become poor, and whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich." And again, I'm going to talk about this in terms of being addicted to honey later on, but you can just get addicted to the good things in life and start to overspend and start to overlive, to live beyond your means. And before you know it, you're in deep trouble. We'll talk more about that in just a moment.
The Dangerous Side of Wealth
Fourthly, the dangerous side of wealth… There is a danger to wealth. There are two great danger the book of Proverbs sees: Yearning for money and trusting in money. These are two great dangers when it comes to material wealth. First of all, yearning for it. It says in Proverbs 23:4, "Do not wear yourself out to get rich, have the wisdom to show restraint." A famous saying: somebody came up to Rockefeller as he's amassing that equivalent of $300 billion. Someone said to him, "How much is enough?" And he answered, "A little more. A little more."
Well, that's... I'm not talking about Rockefeller per se, I'm not going to stand in judgment over him in particular, but that attitude is idolatrous, dear friends. Yearning for money is really a hard issue. It really just has to do with worship; it has to do with idolatry. Proverbs 28:20 says, "A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished." So, yearning for money is very dangerous.
Secondly, trusting in money is dangerous. Proverbs 11:28 says, "Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf." And this is so important. We talked about this in Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on anything other than the Lord." What that means is, you look ahead to the future. Don't think, "Well, at least I've got money or my parents have money, and we always got this to fall back on."
That's not a good way to think. It's actually very dangerous. And if the Lord knows that you as a Christian have that attitude, He may be bringing some things on you that are greater than your resources to teach you to trust only in Him and not in the money. So, don't yearn for money and don't trust in it. Proverbs 18:11 says, "The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, they imagine it to be an unscalable wall." Well, it isn't. Not at all.
Justice for the Poor and Needy
Fifthly, one of the big themes concerning money in Proverbs is justice for the poor and needy. Concern for the poor and needy comes up again and again. The book of Proverbs is keenly aware of the issue of poverty, the needs and the claims of the poor and downtrodden. We've already seen a number of Proverbs that mention the poor and the needy, and wicked men who get wealthy by oppressing them.
Proverbs acknowledges that there are in many cases - obvious inequities in life. Proverbs 13:23 says, "A poor man's field may produce abundant food but injustice sweeps it away." That does happen. It could be that an individual is working hard, they have a harvest coming, but in their country maybe, in their area, or maybe even in this country, there are systems that are unjust and take that harvest from that individual and then they'll become poor, even though they've worked hard. It does happen. God is concerned that the righteous demonstrate their compassion by caring for the poor and needy by showing them material kindness. Proverbs 14:31, "He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."
Now, recently, I read one proverb that really convicted me, especially given our present economic situation. If you look at the last 15 - 18 months economically, look at what happened to the stock market. Many people could ask rightly the question, "What should I put my money in? What is safe? What's a safe investment? That I know if I put it there, it's going to be secure?"
Can I give you what Proverbs says about that? You ready? Proverbs 19:17, "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done." Now, there's a good investment, dear friends. This may be, I think, the most certain savings plan there is in this world. Invest in the poor and needy. You may say, "How can I give to the poor and needy? I have to provide for my own family, we're in tight times right now." Then you proceed perhaps to store up a little bit of money for the future, some savings, some other things, maybe some investments, and you begin to ask the question, "What should I invest it in? What's going to bring back a return on investment?"
John Newton who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace,” he said this about this very proverb, Proverbs 19:17. He said, "If you had a little money to spare, would you not lend it to me if I assured you that it would be repaid when wanted? And you trusted my character, and you knew that it would be. Would you not lend it to me? Proverbs 19:17 says, ‘He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth to the Lord, and that which he hath given will he pay him back again.’ ‘What think you of this text?’ asked John Newton. ‘Is it the word of God or no? I dare stake all my interest in your friendship, that if you act upon this maxim in a spirit of prayer and faith with a single eye to his glory, you shall not be disappointed.’”
Well, there's a good holding place for your money, dear friends. You say, "Well, if I give it all away, then I'll become poor and needy myself." This proverb says, "No, you won't. God will give it back to you when you need it." Meanwhile, you'll be storing up treasure in heaven.
Borrowing and Lending
The sixth major theme has to do with borrowing and lending, and boy, is this a needed topic for us today. We are a debtor nation par excellence. We're in debt, dear friends. Federal deficit. I don't know where it's at recently. When I wrote this sermon and what I found on the internet - 11.6 trillion. If it's now 14.1... The numbers are just so big they boggle the mind. What is a trillion dollars?
The typical American family, at a more detailed level, is buried in debt as well. According to the Federal Reserve fund, the household debt equals - get this - almost 25% of net worth. Can you imagine one quarter of what you're worth, you owe that amount. 136% of disposable income. 136% of your disposable income you owe.
After wages fell behind inflation for a decade, Americans mortgaged their homes and ran up their credit cards to cover living expenses. They didn't adjust their lifestyles; they'd continue to live in the same lifestyle and end up with credit card debt. 2005, Americans spent $42 billion more than they earned. And that's scary when you think about that.
Our trade deficit with the world is 850 billion. That's what we owe to the world. These are shocking statistics. Average American household with at least one credit card has more than $9,000.00 in revolving credit card debt. Sadly, most people are oblivious to the cost of that debt, just how expensive it is to carry that kind of debt.
For example, if you wanted to stop using your credit card and pay off a $1,000.00 credit card debt, making only the minimum monthly payment, it might take you as much as 10 years to do it. That's because even though the principal slightly diminished every time, you're racking up large amounts of interest as well.
The pitch is appealing. Have you heard it? "Easy monthly payments." It entices you to spend more than you ought to, but is it easy for you? Or for them, the people offering it to you? It's not easy for you. According to the Federal Reserve, consumer debt in America as of January 2007 was $2.2 trillion. Credit card rates, 12.4%, something like that… Pretty soon you're in deep trouble.
Another problem with this whole borrowing and lending, as I've mentioned, is out of control appetites. Proverbs 21:20, it says, "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil. But a foolish man devours all that he has." So, there's a devouring, a principle of devouring. We get into debt with ravenous appetites for life, as we define it, and pretty soon get into debt.
I was amazed (I don't know if you were), but I was amazed to find out that Michael Jackson died in a mountain of debt. Didn't that amaze you? Maybe it didn't amaze you, maybe we're just used to it at this point, but I'm thinking, "My goodness! The man was an earner." He had immense earning power. Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars rolling in, and yet when he died, his estate was, in arrears, $500 million. Now apparently, his estate will be able to pay it back since he owns the Beatles money and recorded songs and all that sort of stuff, so they'll be able to get it back, but I just couldn't believe it.
He was spending $20 to $30 million more than he was taking in year by year. He had a lavish lifestyle with huge shopping sprees of toys and antiques. And, according to one account, he had absolutely no sense of the value of things. No sense of the value of money or possessions. It just didn't compute.
Well, that's a grand or a grotesque example of problems that many of us have as well. We struggle being content with what God's given us, content with the food He's given us, with the clothing He's given us, with the lifestyle we have, content with that, and wanting more, greedy for more, and putting it on the credit card. So, Proverbs gives warning about borrowing. Proverbs 22:7, it says, "The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender." Or could we say, even more shocking, the borrower is enslaved to the lender.
I remember distinctly when I graduated from MIT, I suddenly got four credit card applications in the mail. "Now that I have achieved this high level," blah, blah, blah. They were flattering me. And Chase Manhattan was inviting me to work on their plantation. "Come and work on the sugar plantation. We'll give you this huge amount of money that you'll then blow, and you'll get into debt to us and you'll be working on our plantation the rest of your life."
Well, that's exactly what happens in third world countries. Like I was reading about a tea plantation in Ceylon, and they go up to lower caste people in India, and they give them more money than they could make in a year, just give it to them with certain strings attached. They blow it on alcohol or other things, or who knows what they blow it on; then they're enslaved to the tea plantation. Well, that's what Americans do on the credit card thing. We get enslaved and we can't get out of it.
Now, I have no idea how you stand individually with discretionary debt. I don't know, but my guess is there could be some of you that are struggling with this problem, and there are some excellent Christian resources to help you get out. So, I would urge you to find out what they are. Crown Financial is one of them; there are others. Find out how you can get out of debt.
On the flip side, Proverbs gives a very stern warning to those that lend at usurious rates. Proverbs 28:8 says, "He who increases wealth by exorbitant interest amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor."
Good Business Practices
Final major theme is business practices. We'll just touch on this briefly because we'll come back to it in work. Honest scales and weights equals honesty in business. Proverbs 11:1, it says, "The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight." And again, Proverbs 16:11, "Honest scales and balances are from the Lord, and all the weights in his bag are of his making."
Again, the scandals have rocked the news, like Enron and Bernie Madoff with his whole Ponzi scheme thing. I didn't know what a Ponzi scheme was so I looked it up, and it's pretty clever how it works. Some say that Social Security is the biggest Ponzi scheme of all. I guess you can look that up and see if it's true. But, at any rate, the fact of the matter is, there's a lot of dishonesty in business practices.
The bottom line is the Lord wants us to be honest, to use honest scales and weights and measures as employers and as those rendering a service. Conversely, as workers, we should live in the same way toward our masters and serve them, it says in Colossians 3, "With sincerity of heart and reverence to the Lord."
Good Money Habits Summary
So, let me summarize what Proverbs says about this. Trust in the Lord with all your heart; honor His righteousness above all money. Secondly, beware of money, either seeking it too much or trusting in it. Absolutely. Money is one of the greatest idols there is in this world. Thirdly, remind yourself that someday all of your money will be gone. So fourthly, honor the Lord with your wealth, giving it away for His glory, invest in eternity by advancing the gospel and giving to the poor and needy.
Fifthly, work diligently and honestly, knowing well the condition of your means of making wealth. Sixthly, amass savings gradually by reducing expenditures and increasing earnings. And seventh, beware of debt.
Now, let me tell you something, that's all just practical wisdom in the book of Proverbs. What it is, is a well-oiled machine, that in this world under the sun and, to use of language of Ecclesiastes, will produce material prosperity. It just will. You follow those you're going to become wealthy. The question is, what to do with it?
Wealth and Righteousness on Judgement Day
And I don't think Proverbs answers that as well as the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Puritans who made famous that expression "the Puritan work ethic" became incredibly wealthy, but in the second and third generation, they decayed in their faith. They went away from Jesus. And one Puritan scholar said piety begat, or gave birth to prosperity, and the daughter devoured the mother. And it can happen in America too. How, as we follow these principles, we become a wealthy nation and then become as a result, idolaters. But instead, Jesus points to a better way.
Material Wealth Limited Now, Useless on the Day of Judgement
First and foremost, material wealth is limited now, it can't bring you much happiness, and it is useless on the day of judgment. Proverbs 11:4, "Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death." This is a true warning to all who would desire or yearn to get wealthy. Jesus put it this way, "What profit would it be to you," using the business language, "What profit would it be to you to gain the whole world and forfeit your soul?" Or, "What would you trade in exchange for your soul?" Jesus says.
But it says in Proverbs 11:4, yes, "Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death." Yes, but what kind of righteousness? Well, the Bible is very clear: Perfect righteousness delivers you from death on the day of wrath. But where can you get that? All has sinned and fall short of the glory of God; we have no perfect righteousness. Proverbs 20:9 says, "Who can say I have kept my heart pure, I am clean and without sin?" No one. But instead, the Bible points to Jesus, a perfect righteousness. He dealt with money perfectly.
Christ’s Wisdom on Money
Future topics: He dealt with relationships perfectly, He dealt with sexual purity perfectly, He dealt with parents perfectly, both dealing with His parents and dealing with others. Everything He did was right. That is a perfect righteousness that Jesus just wants to give you by faith as a gift in exchange for your sin. You give Him your sin; He will give you the righteousness that will deliver on the day of wrath.
"God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Look to Christ and Him crucified to find out something that will be not just worthwhile but absolutely effective and effectual on the day of wrath - the righteousness of Jesus.
Secondly, what about all your money that you're going to get when you live such a wise life? When you work hard and you get good grades, and you get a good job and you save, and you don't get entrapped in that whole lifestyle, there's no addictions in your life, you live simply, you save money, give to the poor and needy. Guess what? You're going to have surplus. What should you do with it?
Well, I don't have time to get into all of the answers, but I want to encourage you to read this book by Randy Alcorn The Treasure Principle. He gives you an excellent defense on how you can invest in eternity. The book's right out here in the book stall; you can just pick one up after it's over. It's a simple read, and in effect, he says, "Store up treasure in heaven with the money you have temporarily." The mentality is you're going to lose it anyway; lose it now by faith. Give it away. Give it to the poor and needy. Give it for the sake of the gospel.
Jesus put it this way, Luke 12:32-34, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I told you that Solomon was one of the all-time great experts on wealth and what to do with it… Jesus was greater.
For you know, 2 Corinthians 8:9, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor so that you, through his poverty might become rich." The best thing that we can do with our money, having earned it by these principles, is to give it away for the glory of God, the salvation of others. Close with me, if you would, in prayer.