Proverbs for Your Pennies

The Bible has a lot to say about money and a variety of other issues related to it. Some people estimate there are, in fact, more than 2,000 verses about money and related topics in the Bible. This Sunday we are exploring Jesus’ challenging words in Matthew 6 v.19-24.

Now, you might assume this wealth of material is a good thing. And you’d be right; we need all the help we can get to properly understand and manage our finances in a way that honours God. But there is also a dark side to this deluge of data. Because the Bible says so much about money the temptation is to develop an imbalanced theology of money; to focus on one particular aspect of its teaching to the neglect of another.

For example, you might draw together Malachi 3 and its promise about throwing open the storehouse of heaven with Jesus’ statements about receiving whatever you ask in faith and conclude that God wants us to be rich. Or you might look to Amos’ denunciation of the wealthy and some of Jesus’ parables and conclude, actually, money is bad and so are those who have it.

So, how do you navigate the tightrope of biblical teaching on money without falling off either way? Well, the book of Proverbs is a good place to start. Proverbs not only has plenty to say about our possessions, it also has a varied vision of money and how it should be handled. And, even better, it is given to us in short, pithy sayings!

To help us get a grasp on what Proverbs has to say, I’d like to share ten principles from Kevin DeYoung on money and possessions from Proverbs:

  1. There are extremes of wealth and poverty that provide unique temptations to those who live in them (Prov. 30:7-9).
  2. Don’t worry about keeping up with the Jones’ (Prov. 12:9; 13:7).
  3. The rich and poor are more alike than they think (Prov. 22:2; 29:13).
  4. You can’t out give God (Prov. 3:9-10; 11:24; 22:9).
  5. Poverty is not pretty (Prov. 10:15; 14:20; 19:4).
  6. Money cannot give you ultimate security (Prov. 11:7; 11:28; 13:8).
  7. The Lord hates those who get rich by injustice (Prov. 21:6; 22:16, 22-23).
  8. The Lord loves those who are generous to the poor (Prov. 14:21, 31; 19:7; 28:21)
  9. Hard work and good decision-making usually lead to increased prosperity (Prov. 6:6-11; 10:4; 13:11; 14:24; 21:17, 20; 22:4, 13; 27:23-27; 28:20).
  10. Money isn’t everything. It does not satisfy (Prov. 23:4-5). It is inferior to wisdom (Prov. 8:10-11, 18-19; 24:3-4). It is inferior to righteousness (10:2; 11:4; 13:25; 16:8; 19:22; 20:17; 28:6). It is inferior to the fear of the Lord (Prov. 15:16). It is inferior to humility (Prov. 16:19). It is inferior to good relationships (Prov. 15:17; 17:1).

DeYoung insightfully concludes: “Money can’t give you any of the things you ultimately need. It can’t make you holy. It can’t save you from your sins. Wealth is a sign of blessing, but it’s also one of your biggest temptations because it entices you to boast in yourself. It promises to be your self-worth and promises to make you self-sufficient. It invites you to boast in something or someone other than the Lord. So through and through money is an issue of faith. Believe that doing things God’s way is the best way for you. Believe that if you give your money away, he can give it back. Believe that money can be good. But don’t you dare believe it is everything. Money is a gift from God, but the gifts you really need can only be found in God.” Amen.