This week's Bible Study - July 17, 2016
View Money Properly
Proverbs 23:4-5; 30:5-9
Quotes of the Week:
Money cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot heal ruptured relationships, or build meaning into a life that has none.
Richard M. DeVos
This next series of lessons are primarily taken from the book of Proverbs and the primary context is on money. Is money a problem? I think we would have to agree that money could be the root of many evils. When people have too much money, they often become very protective and can start to feel invincible. When people believe they have too little, some have a tendency to become very desperate. Obviously, money or the lack thereof can lead to a lot of problems. Many people end up thinking that if they had more money, they would have less problems. However, if one's problem is overspending, more money doesn't normally provide the solution, because for many people, more money means more spending. There are a lot of people who have a more reasonable view of money, and are not so focused on getting more and more, but are finding ways to use what they have.
When we think of money and different issues potentially caused by it, we can easily see similar issues that are caused by wrong views of almost anything. Having a wrong view of anything will cause problems. Think of fire. Fire is good to keep a person warm and for cooking. Fire is good in the fireplace. But if one has the wrong view of fire, they can cause a whole host of problems that lead to burning things down. It is important that we have the right view of money. Wrong views can lead to very selfish behaviors, anger, or apathy. Relationships are often strained when there are differing views of how money should be used. Having the right view can help lead to contentment.
In this lesson, we will briefly examine a few verses dealing with the way we view money. Is there really anyone who would say that they would not want more money? Any of us can see reasons for the usage of more money. Some of the reasons may be noble and good for society, while other reasons may be very selfish. In the hope of getting more money, some people will stoop to do anything. The desire for money overrides any other thing in their lives and they start treating people very unfairly, in order to make more money. We can think of extreme views that others may have, but we need to examine our own lives and ask ourselves where we stand. What do you think about money?
The book of Proverbs is very wise. I've heard people suggest that if you are looking to start a program reading the Bible daily, you can start with Proverbs and read the corresponding chapter for the date. For example, on the 23rd of the month, read the 23rd chapter. Many of the verses are very insightful, although there isn't a lot of continuity within most of the chapters.
Proverbs 23, verse 4 tells us to not overwork to be rich. Because of our own understanding, we should cease. You may have heard of workaholics or you may be one yourself. I've found some people that simply like to work and in working, they believe that they have found purpose for their lives. Obviously, for a Christian, if you believe your primary purpose is your job, you're missing something. There are others who spend an exorbitant amount of time at work, knowing that they will get paid overtime at a greater rate so they may think that if they put in the time, their financial struggles will be over. This can lead to more and more overtime and potential loss of other, more important parts of their lives. There are others still, who put in the extra time, when they need to do it, in order to keep up with their job and this seems reasonable.
Note that the verse does not to say cease working, but cease overworking. We should do so, based on our own understanding. The key is to determine where one's focus lies. Does this mean that we should not work to get something that we might want? I don't believe that is the intent, unless you find yourself always wanting more and more and more. It can be possible to save and save for a rainy day, and depending on how you have saved, you may find that your savings can easily fly away. Stock market issues, downturns in the economy, the loss of a job, an illness that was never planned (who plans illnesses anyway?)
Verse 5 says that riches certainly make themselves wings and they fly away like an eagle toward heaven. I know many people who did the right things with their money, yet saw it all fly away. You may recall the people of Enron several years ago. If the focus of your life is on money and what you don't have, you will live a life of many regrets. The bottom line is that it is good to work and it is good to save, but put your faith in God for His provision, and don't find yourself relying on your own nest egg.
These verses may seem out of place, but they get once again to where we put our trust. We have "In God We Trust" on our money, but for many people, that is as close as they get to really trusting on God. Certainly, having money can help you pay your bills and allow you to help others in need. But, when you are faced with catastrophe in life, it isn't money that can pull you out. There is so much more that God gives us that money can never suffice. You can have peace in the midst of calamity with God. As Berkley and I have been dealing with everything associated with my ALS diagnosis, we could easily unwind and 'wig out'. I have to admit that, at times, we have. We certainly don't understand why God has allowed this insidious disease in my life, but we find ourselves going back, time and time again, and thanking Him for His provision. I can say that if I had every dollar I needed to pay for everything that I need going through this, I would have no peace. Having God in the midst of this can bring peace.
Verse 6 tells us to not add to His words, lest He rebuke us, and we are found a liar. When we seek God, for who He is and come into His presence, we find truth. However, there are those who try and make God to be something that He is not, and to say that He has said what He has not said. We need to seek God for who He is, and not for who we or others want Him to be. As we think about our money and finances again, we must realize that all we have has come from Him. He provides and we will run into problems when we tend to start thinking that we are in control.
Solomon was the author of most, if not all of the Proverbs. He was wise and he was wealthy. In the book of Ecclesiastes, you can read that he tried all sorts of things (everything under the sun, in fact) to find happiness. However, in the end, Solomon realized that the whole of life was to seek God.
Two things are mentioned here and they are both important. First, falsehood and lies should be removed from us. How much does untruth, or maybe not the whole truth, impact our lives? How many years have people wasted in relationships because they believed something that they were told that later they found out to be untrue? Many families are in turmoil, due to the unwillingness of people to seek truth. Often, people want to believe what they want to believe, because they think it might be easier than seeking truth. We need to realize that none of us is perfect and we need to be willing to admit our errors and ask for forgiveness. When you get to the end of your life, do you really want to hear that you have based parts of your life on lies. Truth is important.
The passage then says "give me neither poverty nor riches - feed me with the food allotted to me." It is interesting that he asks to not be given poverty. I believe we can all relate to that. We would hope that God provides what is needed so that we are not in poverty. But, when he asks to not be given riches, would you ask that of God? I can see how we might think it bad to ask God for riches, but what about asking God to not have riches?
When people hit the extremes, their lives often become much more inward focused. Those in poverty may find a way to excuse their own actions as they steal from others to meet their needs. However, this is something that God has said that we should not do. On the other end, when people believe they have everything they need, they often distance themselves from God, because they seem to have things covered and have no need for God.
Perhaps nothing earthshaking came to you in this lesson, but I hope that you have at least questioned your own thoughts a bit. When you think of what you have saved, how do you view it? If you were honest with yourself, might you say that if you had a certain number in savings, you'd breathe easier? Watch out when you or I begins to think that we can cover our needs and only use God as a backup.
We are called to be in relationship with God and to lean on Him. For some, money becomes an impediment to fully leaning on God. For some, it is pride. For others, it is something else. There are indeed many good things in life. Money can be one of those things, but when you find that money owns you, you've lost focus. Continue to work and continue to make money to provide for your basic needs, but realize that all you have is a gift from the great Giver. Don't appreciate the gift so much that you dismiss the Giver.