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In the first article of this series, we examined God’s original intentions for mankind concerning wealth as well as the biblical accounts of some “fathers of our faith” who were fabulously wealthy and what God had to say — or equally importantly, not say — about them and their money. The last person we covered was Solomon, the man primarily responsible for penning the Book of Proverbs as well as the Book of Ecclesiastes. In this article, we will tackle these two OT books plus the Book of Psalms and take a brief dip into the Book of Joshua.
Proverbs is an amazing book because it is a book of applied wisdom. It covers everything from the importance of wisdom itself to applications of wisdom in areas ranging from child-rearing to marriage to work ethic to the power of our words, but — most of all — finances.
Even if you discounted or even completely threw out everything else I have to say in every article in this series while wholeheartedly embracing and practicing what Proverbs has to say about money, you will prosper financially! One of the most important ways of doing this is finding everything that Proverbs says “leads to poverty” and then not doing them!
Humorous? Yes, but absolutely true!
So let’s see what Proverbs has to say about what leads to wealth and what leads to poverty. Moving from the front of the book towards the back, we read the following:
My son, if you become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you are snared by the words of your mouth; you are taken by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; for you have come into the hand of your friend: go and humble yourself; plead with your friend. Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler. — Proverbs 6:1-5
How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep — so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man. — Proverbs 6:9-11
I (wisdom) traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, that I may fill their treasuries. — Proverbs 8:20-21
He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. — Proverbs 10:4
The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty. — Proverbs 10:15
The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it. — Proverbs 10:22
He who is surety for a stranger will suffer, but one who hates being surety is secure. — Proverbs 11:5
There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. — Proverbs 11:24-25
He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage. — Proverbs 11:28
He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, but he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding. — Proverbs 12:11
The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich. —Proverbs 13:4
The ransom of a man’s life is his riches, but the poor does not hear rebuke. — Proverbs 13:8
Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase. — Proverbs 13:11
Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, but he who regards a rebuke will be honored. — Proverbs 13:18
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. — Proverbs 13:22
In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty. — Proverbs 14:23
He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given. — Proverbs 19:17
The lazy man will not plow because of winter; he will beg during harvest and have nothing. — Proverbs 20:4
Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread. — Proverbs 20:13
The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty. — Proverbs 21:5
Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard. — Proverbs 21:13
He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich. — Proverbs 21:17
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant (slave) to the lender. — Proverbs 22:7
He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor. — Proverbs 22:9
He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty. — Proverbs 22:16
Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; if you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you? — Proverbs 22:26-27
Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men. — Proverbs 22:29
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. — Proverbs 23:21
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man. — Proverbs 24:33-34
He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. — Proverbs 28:13
He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough! — Proverbs 28:19
A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him. — Proverbs 28:22
He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses. — Proverbs 28:27
Whoever loves wisdom makes his father rejoice, but a companion of harlots wastes his wealth. —Proverbs 29:3
So we can condense all this into three categories: 1) moral mistakes; 2) financial mistakes, and; 3) a bad work ethic.
- Money obtained through wickedness
- Troubling your family
- Refusing correction
- Covering your sins
- Not hearing the poor
- Loving pleasure or wine
- Vain companions
One time I was ministering all this to about 20 jail inmates at the Pima County Jail in Tucson, Arizona. When we came to the topic of vice as something that “leads to poverty,” I simply asked them how much various vices cost. At that time, a pack of cigarettes was about $10/pack including tax, so a pack-a-day smoking habit cost about $300/month. One guy used to drink a fifth of vodka per day at about $20/bottle: $600/month! And that wasn’t even touching the costs of their addictions to illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth, all of which ran into the thousands of dollars per month, hence their incarceration for various offenses that were directly related to drug use, drug distribution, and/or indirectly such as burglary and armed robbery to support their addictions. It’s no wonder that their families were living on welfare and food stamps in housing projects and tenements!
Vice is EXPENSIVE!
One other salient point is the recurring theme of giving to the poor. We have promises from the One True God to both prosper us because of our giving to the poor as well as poverty coming to those who ignore the needs of the poor. Interestingly, it seems that God blesses even the heathen who give to the poor! Selah!
- Trusting in riches
- Not being generous
- Money without labor
- Unwise use of credit
- Giving to the rich
- Get rich quick schemes
- No planning
Another recurring theme we see in Proverbs is that of not becoming surety for others (cosigning a loan in modern parlance).
Poor work ethic
- Sleeping too much
- No diligence
- Talking too much
- Chasing fantasies
I would have to say that the most important financial theme in Proverbs is that of being diligent in our work while avoiding laziness and sloth. God doesn’t bless slackers!
This book, also authored by King Solomon, takes us on a different tack, exploring a life apart from being in right relationship with The Almighty in the pursuit of all things earthly. In it, Solomon describes how he sought satisfaction in life though work, pleasure, sex, and money, just to name four. Which now leads us to workaholism and the pursuit of riches for its own sake.
Workaholism is an addiction to our vocation, whether than be our work-a-day job, the business we founded and/or operate, or the ministry to which we are called. Whenever we start deriving our identity from anything or anyone other than Jesus, we have entered into the sin of idolatry because only God can righteously define who we are (our significance and worth), as well as our purpose and destiny in life.
Reasons abound as to why people become workaholics. An impoverished childhood, parents who expressed doubts about our intelligence or ability to succeed, the pride which comes through accomplishment, and the power which comes through success and financial clout are all reasons why people fall for this particular idol. I’ve covered addictions and recovery from them in my two-part series on the topic, so I won’t rehash the topic of addictions and recovery from them here.
We have all heard clichés concerning unhappy rich people and how money doesn’t buy happiness. While I have often joked that I would love to have a shot at being that melancholy dude driving a Ferrari, the reason this has become such a cliché is because it is absolutely true. And, Solomon, the richest man in history as we have already covered in the first article of this series, appears to be the first to say so in writing and he speaks from his personal experience. He had anything and everything that wealth and power could obtain and he found it empty of meaning.
The clear message of Ecclesiastes is that a life without the One True God at the center of it, ruling over it, is “vanity and chasing of the wind.”
(Yeah, I know we’re back-tracking, but this is how the chips fell! 🙂 )
Psalms says a lot concerning finances. Again, we’ll start towards the beginning and work our way through the book:
The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. — Psalm 10:2
“For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.” — Psalm 12:5
The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever! — Psalm 22:26
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. — Psalm 34:6
The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. — Psalm 34:10
All my bones shall say, “Lord, who is like You, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?” — Psalm 35:10
A little that a righteous man has Is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. — Psalm 37:16-19
The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives. — Psalm 37:21
I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed. — Psalm 37:25-26
Wait on the LORD, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it. — Psalm 37:34
Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. — Psalm 41:1
Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him — Psalm 49:6-7
Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him. — Psalm 49:16-17
The righteous also shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, “Here is the man who did not make God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.” — Psalm 52:6-7
Do not trust in oppression, nor vainly hope in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them. — Psalm 62:10
You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for so You have prepared it. You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth. You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance. — Psalm 65:9-11
For He will deliver the needy when he cries, the poor also, and him who has no helper. He will spare the poor and needy, and will save the souls of the needy. He will redeem their life from oppression and violence; and precious shall be their blood in His sight. — Psalm 72:12-14
Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion…He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor. — Psalm 112:1-5,9
He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with princes – with the princes of His people. — Psalm 113:7-8
I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. — Psalm 134:15
I know that the LORD will maintain The cause of the afflicted, And justice for the poor.— Psalm 140:12
We can see some definite themes running throughout Psalms.
The first is the foolishness of trusting in worldly wealth. We’ll explore that issue in greater depth as this series continues.
The second is that God is the Champion of the poor and oppressed. This should definitely inform our decisions concerning our business dealings, governmental policies, and who we vote for.
Oppressors look out! Your abuse of the poor is a stench in the nostrils of the Almighty and He will avenge them in this life or the next. And it ain’ta gonna be good for you, either!
And then we see promises of abundance for the righteous, those who fear the Lord and choose to obey His dictates.
Nowhere in any of the verses within this book are riches considered evil in and of themselves, only the unrighteous pursuit of them at the expense of others.
Which leads us to the one Psalm that I will quote and explore in its entirety, the very first one. In it, we have a massive set of promises to the righteous and evildoers both.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. — Psalm 1
So, according to this passage, what qualifies a person to be blessed by God?
- He doesn’t listen to the ungodly or heed their opinions.
- He doesn’t associate or identify himself with sin or those who pursue it.
- He doesn’t associate or identify himself with those who mock and scorn the Almighty or other people.
- He delights in God’s Word and constantly meditates on it.
And what blessings will be bestowed upon those who meet these qualifications?
- He shall bear much fruit.
- He shall be resistant to lack and will not be subject to disgrace or contempt.
- Whatever he pursues will prosper.
Let’s take a look at some of the Hebrew words used here to ensure we are interpreting this passage correctly.
- meditate (hagah)
- to speak, to mutter
- wither (nabel)
- to be senseless, foolish, contemptible
- prosper (tsalach)
- to make prosperous, bring to successful issue, cause to prosper; to show or experience prosperity
And now we’ll explore what the dictionary says about that final word:
- succeed in material terms; be financially successful; flourish physically; grow strong and healthy; make successful
So what we can clearly and accurately conclude from this psalm is that financial prosperity follows those who eschew evil and evildoers and meditate on God’s Word. And the kind of meditation involved here is not that found in the eastern religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, but of speaking the Word of God aloud to ourselves.
There is another verse that conceptually ties into this one, a verse found within God’s personal commission of Joshua as Moses’ successor. To establish context, God has spent the previous 7 verses encouraging Joshua be strong, courageous and not be afraid, promising that he will be successful and prosperous in everything he does as God’s anointed leader of Israel. In verse 8, we find an extension of the concepts found in Psalm 1:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Interestingly, the words meditate and prosperous here are the same Hebrew words hagah and tsalach, respectively, we just covered in our discussion of Psalm 1. Let’s add a couple of new definitions to our list:
- observe (shamar)
- observe, keep, give heed to, celebrate, watch over
- to have insight, to be prudent, to have comprehension, to act circumspectly, to act prudently, to act wisely
So what’s the bottom line here?
It’s this: if we speak God’s Word aloud to ourselves with the goal of applying His Word to our lives in obedience, we will have insight and comprehension, we will act wisely, prudently, and circumspectly, and we will be prosperous.
Confessing God’s Word Aloud
More than a few non-charismatic pastors and teachers have blown off the concept of confessing God’s Word aloud as nonsense and have dismissed it as cultish “mind-science,” but the fact of the matter is it has been scientifically proven that, though we can filter out what we heard from others or what we read, we cannot help but believe every word we personally say, regardless of its truth or falsehood. This explains why some people who have repeated a lie long enough actually start believing it to be the truth, even though it is demonstratively false and they knew it was false when they started telling it.
When we confess the Scriptures aloud, we cannot help but believe our own voices. Since our voices are speaking the Truth, we cannot help but believe the Truth. Over time, that Truth becomes our “reality.” This is what is meant by the term “being transformed by the renewing of our minds” in Romans 12:2 and “pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
Meditating on God’s Word is one of the most effective tools God has given us to accomplish that and He prewired our brains from the foundations of the earth so that His promises would work as He commanded. WOW!
There are those who would read this and derisively dismiss it, saying, “that’s just charismatic doctrine” or “that’s just the health & wealth gospel,”, but Joshua 1:8 and its practical application was actually taught to me by The Navigators — a non-charismatic organization — well over a year before I was baptized in the Holy Spirit.
My brothers and sisters, this isn’t “charismatic doctrine” or “the health & wealth gospel,” it’s the Bible, God’s Word, taken in context using the original languages. You are free to choose to accept and practice it -or- not accept it and ignore it. Why? Because you are a free moral agent created in the likeness and image of God not to mention this is a peripheral doctrine that has no impact on your eternal destiny or standing before the One True God. In other words, whether you ever agree with me or not, your place in heaven is assured if you have named Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
What you are NOT free to do is dismiss it as false doctrine because it’s right there in black and white on the page!
That’s about it for this installment. We’ll explore God’s dealings with the children of Israel during the Exodus in our next one.
Thanks for reading!