Instead of pursuing money, pursue God. As we have seen, money is a valuable resource and there are principles in Proverbs that help us steward what God has given. Yet, knowing and fearing God is far more precious than great riches (15:16). While money can benefit us during our lives on earth, there is so much more to live for.
Money. We all deal with it, but few know what to think about it. Our culture and even our friends and family can give us conflicting messages: money is power; money is a curse; money corrupts; money means you’ve made it.
Unfortunately, many Christians feel just as conflicted. Some fear wealth, feeling that the way to godliness is cutting oneself off from worldly concerns, especially financial ones. Some fear wealth is only an illusion; only the immaterial matters. Others, taking a cue from prosperity preachers, feel that riches much be a sign of favor and blessing from God. And if they aren’t rich, either they don’t have enough faith or God is cruelly withholding what is good. Many find themselves caught between these two extremes.
How are Christians to view money? Does God care how we use our financial resources, and if so, what should we do?
The book of Proverbs gives us a treasure trove of insights into how Christians should view and use wealth. Here are ten essential lessons:
1. Money has some value.
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. (Prov. 10:15)
Proverbs takes an incredibly practical, realistic view of wealth. It hardly needs to be said that money is a powerful tool. Wealth is a “strong city” (10:15) that protects the rich. Money gives favor and “many friends” (14:20, 19:4). While money used well can be a blessing, it can also be used corruptly. The rich abuse wealth to rule over the poor (22:7) and pervert justice through bribery (17:8, 17:23). Although wealth is valuable, it is limited. While the rich may perceive it to be “a high wall” (18:11), some may not realize that “those who trust in riches will fall” (11:28).
2. If you want money, you must work for it.
Money doesn’t come easily. While many dream of winning the lottery or receiving a large inheritance, that is the exception, not the rule. Economics teaches us the principle of scarcity: there are limited resources, and so everything comes at a cost. Growing money requires faithful, diligent, patient work. Proverbs teaches that “the hand of the diligent makes rich” (10:4) and “in all toil there is profit” (14:23). It requires patience to gather wealth slowly, “little by little” (13:11). On the other hand, those who are lazy (6:10-11, 12:24) and eager to get rich (28:20) cheat themselves. The one who procrastinates “is a brother to him who destroys” (18:9), with his own desires killing him (21:25).
3. Don’t fall for a “get-rich-quick” scheme; ill-gotten gain always comes back to bite.
Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors. (Prov. 1:19)
Bribery, theft, dishonest business practices, fraud, lies—the media provides example after example of dishonest means to get ahead. And it isn’t just “out there”; most of us face the danger of being defrauded or temptation to cut corners at work. And yet, wealth gained in such a way will become a curse. It does “not profit” (10:2), “will dwindle” (13:11), “brings troubles” (15:27), is a “fleeting vapor and a snare of death” (21:6) and leads to poverty (28:22). Our righteous God “will by no means clear the guilty” (Exod. 34:7), including those guilty of financial crimes.
4. Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. (Prov. 4:26)
Planning ahead for your finances cannot be overstated. The wise save to take care of needs down the road (21:20). Diligent, thoughtful planning leads to “abundance” (21:5). Planning involves being realistic about your financial situation. Idle talk (14:23) and wishful thinking (28:19) lead only to poverty and want. The wise plan ahead to avoid dangers into which the simple keep going (22:3). Since “riches do not last forever,” careful thought and attention are required to provide for yourself and your family (27:23-27).