The Bible has a lot to say about money, possessions, and riches. Nowhere are these topics covered more thoroughly than in the book of Proverbs. For over 30 years, I’ve found myself immersed in these passages – first as a young man trying to make a living for his bride, then as a father wanting to take care of his children, and now as a middle-aged man wanting to leave a legacy of generosity and integrity.
These four trusted sayings have been instrumental in forming my ethos about work, money and the things money can buy. Even today, these succinct passages speak strongly to me as I wander through the financial wilderness of adulthood. I hope these lessons are helpful to you, as well.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
God is a generous giver. That, I am certain. We cannot know God without bumping into his kindness and his extravagant gifts of grace, forgiveness, healing and hope. He gives to us, and when we start following Him wholly, we are compelled to give all we have. We do not give to get something from God, we give because we are following God. We give as worship, as a response to what we’ve already been given. We give because we have been given so much. Generosity with our time and money is one of the first signs of spiritual maturity and one of the first indications that we’re speaking with and hearing from God.
Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. Proverbs 12:11
Very few people get rich quickly. Most wealth is earned because we spend less than we make for a really long time. Sure, there are some speculative opportunities that might flush out a quick profit, but I’ve found that people who chase quick wealth usually end up quickly broke and disappointed. If it sounds too good to be true, ask more questions, talk to wise people and proceed with extreme caution. Be faithful in the land God has given you, for a long time. Time is our friend. Do not chase fantasies or trust those who do. Lazy people look for shortcuts, but faithful people are willing to put in the work.
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17
I’ve been poor and I’ve known poor people all my life. I remember my parents giving to others when we had very little ourselves. I also discovered early in life just how much Jesus cares about the poor. He lives and moves among them in the most remarkable ways, listening to their cries and lifting their heads.
When we use our abundance to serve the people that Jesus is living alongside, we get invited into a journey with Jesus. We realize the poor are not a problem to be solved but a people to join. (Eugene Peterson) When we engage with his work among the poorest in our communities, we find a Jesus incarnate, active, alive and speaking. The Jesus we find here cannot be found anywhere else.
One more thing. Every time we get serious about caring for the poor, we’ll always have enough resources to help them. I can tell you scores of stories of miraculous provision when the poor were being served.
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1
How we get our money is much more important than actually obtaining more money. I know so many people who have traded away their integrity and reputations in the pursuit of wealth. I have heard excuses like, “This is just business” or “Only the strong will survive.” It seems, many can justify any bad behavior if it makes them another dollar.
We must always do the right thing, for the right reason, even if it costs us a profit. Our integrity is more important than any financial gain because we’re first called to be ambassadors of the Good News, carriers of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the greatest temptations we will ever face as followers of Jesus. We must get this right.
I’ve learned to ask some questions before any financial deal:
1. Is this fair to everyone, not just me?
2. Will this help or hinder my witness?
3. Will this deal open doors or burn bridges?
4. Can I tell my kids and grandkids about the details and not be ashamed?