Wise Investments

Proverbs 13:11

“Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labor shall increase.” (KJV)
“Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.” (NLT)

Get Rich Quick

A very good friend of mine has often considered ‘get rich quick’ schemes. On several occasions he has arrived on my doorstep with details of some scheme he has received in the post, or seen advertised in the press or in a magazine. Fortunately the temptation to participate in such schemes has never gone beyond discussing the details with me. Whenever I see one of these schemes I cringe inside because I know that they will not provide the returns my friend expects.

Get Rich Even Quicker

The advent of email and the Internet bought get rich schemes beyond the need to mail information. The so-called Nigerian 419 scams require an advance fee and the provision of bank details with the promise of an enormous payout. It seems incredible that anybody would believe the contents of such emails, yet there are those who pay fees to the fraudsters, and provide their bank details, only to find that their accounts have been emptied and they are poorer not richer for the experience.

Where Are You Investing?

The experience for most of us is that nothing is free. If you want to accumulate wealth then in general you need to work hard. But many of us work hard without ever becoming what we would consider to be wealthy. There are more ways than one to quantify wealth and we need to question where and how we are investing. If we labor hard at our work with the sole aim of increasing our worldly wealth our spiritual investments are likely to suffer. Jesus provided the following investment advice:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)


My Pride Says I’m Right

Proverbs 13:10

“Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised [is] wisdom.”

I know I’m right

Have you ever listened to a parent talking with a teenager? It can be fun, to say the least.

You see, a teenager has “seen it all” and “knows about everything” now that they have lived on this earth as long as they have. A teenager “understands what the world is all about” and is “always in perfect control” of his or her life.

But you know, a parent has been through “everything” that a teenager is going through, “knows all about everything” going on, and how to solve every situation.

A parent “has to control” the family and everything that affects them; a teen thinks he can handle things himself.

Both sides know and can.

Not Listening

The problem that always comes in is that, sorry, teenager, you have not been around as long as your parents, and they have been through a lot more than you may ever know.

The problem that always comes in is that, sorry, parent, teens actually do go through different circumstances and know more than you may realize.

In other words, the reason so many fights break out between parents and teens is that both know everything going on and think they can control it. This usually includes not hearing what the other is saying, because each side is so sure that the other does not understand as much as they think.

And usually they are both right.

And usually they are both wrong.

Wisdom

Just like in any relationship – from parents and children to friends to spouses to complete strangers – contention arises because we fail to listen.

The wise choice is … wait for it … TO LISTEN!

Much contention, fights, and hatred could be avoided if we would just listen to each other, hear each side. Then, find your common ground and dialogue.

If you can not do it, get another person to help, but be willing to hear that person tell you that you are wrong (Matthew 18:15-17). Pride will tell you to fight it.

If you listen to pride, go back to the beginning of this little devotional.

Lord, teach us humility, even though it may hurt to get to it. Give us a heart to listen and hear and to admit when we are wrong. Give us the wisdom to listen to others and know when it is okay to speak (James 1:19)


Rejoicing Light

Proverbs 13:9

“The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.” 

What a Storm!

Hurricane Sandy (AP Photo/Weather Underground)

“Superstorm” Sandy was a monster storm that stretched over the entire eastern coast of North America, bringing hurricane winds, torrential rain, 13 ft. storm surges, and even two feet of snow in some places. Over 60 million people suffered its effects, the worst being in the north where states suffered tens of billions of dollars worth of damage. Some people called it a “Frankenstorm.”

There for a while, from Florida to Maine, the sun was hidden by clouds. Rain fell by the gallon as coastal towns were drowned with swelling tides. But amazingly, no matter how hard it rained, no matter how high the waves, it didn’t put out the sun. Go figure.

Light Source

The difference between the righteous and the wicked is their source of light. As with the sun, the Light of the righteous is far beyond the reach of nature. No storm, no matter how big, can quench its flame. It may be hidden from view at times, but it is always there, and always will be.

The wicked, on the other hand, light their own lamp. In other words, the source of their “light” comes from within, below the storm, subject to both torrent and tempest. It will go out, eventually.

“Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD And rely upon his God. Look, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled–This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.” – Isaiah 50:10-11 NKJV

 Still There was Light

Years and years ago, back when I lived in Kentucky, God allowed a “Frankenstorm” to hit the coasts of my life. The storm was so big and lasted so long, literally nothing of my own making remained standing. FEMA couldn’t even help me.

At one point it was so bad; it was so dark, that I literally raised my fist to heaven, cursed my God, and begged Him to do what I was too afraid to do. I told Him I hated Him and wanted nothing more to do with Him. It was a bad, bad storm.

Yet….(isn’t that a great word?)…Yet, even in the middle of the darkness, there was a Flame that could not be quenched. Even as I cursed my Heavenly Father, inside I could hear a still, small Voice whispering, “I understand…I know…It’s OK…I’m here…Let it out…I still love you…I’m not going anywhere.”

If you could see me crying right now…it’s hard to see the computer screen.

The light of the righteous rejoiceth…


“Everybody’s Got Problems”

Proverbs 13:8

“The ransom of a man’s life [are] his riches: but the poor heareth not rebuke.”

A Wise Dad

One of the things I loved about my father was his ability to find the lighter side to any subject. He had the uncanny ability to find the faintest silver lining around the biggest, darkest cloud. That might explain why growing up poor wasn’t so bad.

Here are a few good examples of how my dad would look at things…

  • When he saw a horribly ugly dog, he said, “Well, he’s got white teeth.”
  • When he (and I) got hurt at work, he would say, “You haven’t worked until you shed some blood.
  • When we had to move into a house that had no running water, electricity or telephone, and the sky could be seen between the boards on the walls, he would say something like, “Hey! It’s almost like camping out!”

And when it came to being poor, my dad knew how to keep things in perspective. He would remind us that being rich wasn’t all fun and games, but worry and stress, too. “The more money you have, the more you have to watch your back,” he would say. “But when you ain’t got noth’n, you ain’t got noth’n to steal.

A Wise Proverb

Today’s proverb is trying to tell us that wealth may not be a bad thing, but it does have some inherent risks. The more wealth you have, the more likely someone will want to take it. And, the more money one has, the more he has to spend to stay alive.

On the other hand, as the second part of the verse points out, those who have less are less likely to listen to an extortioner or be kidnapped for ransom. He is more likely to say, “Sorry, but you can’t get blood from a turnip.”

The ESV translates it this way, “The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat.”

Be Content

If there is anything else my dad would say, it would be this: “Be content with what you have, cause everybody’s got their own problems.” Don’t be so upset if you’re not wealthy; life for the rich may be a bed of roses, but with roses come a lot of thorns. That’s why the poor can sleep easier.

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” – Philippians 4:11 KJV

“If you’ve got it, be thankful. If you ain’t got it, be glad.” 


Proverbial Pretenders

Proverbs 13:7

“There is that maketh himself rich, yet [hath] nothing: [there is] that maketh himself poor, yet [hath] great riches.”

Pretenders

When you read this verse the first time, what did you think it meant? The first time I read it I thought it was talking about people who were rich, but had nothing of real value. I thought it was praising those who gave away everything to have riches in heaven. But that is not what this proverb is about. The word “maketh” has to do with appearances.

“One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.” – Proverbs 13:7 ESV

This proverb warns us about pretenders who appear to be something they are not. Some live extravagantly, yet have nothing. Others try to make everyone think they are penniless, yet they are loaded.

The Sad

Several years ago I had a relative who lived in one of the biggest houses in town, always drove a new car, wore the nicest clothes, and was responsible for the best gifts under the Christmas tree. Yet, when this person died, the truth came out: few things, if any, were not mortgaged, and credit card bills totaled in the hundreds of thousands. Nothing was what it seemed.

Not long ago there was a man named Walter Samaszko Jr. who was found in his Carson City, Nevada home a month after he actually died. Known as a recluse, he was the opposite of my relative. He didn’t try to impress; looking rich was the last thing Mr. Samaszko, 69, wanted to do. Yet, even though he left only $200 in the bank, hidden in his home were $7 million worth of gold bars. He could have used the gold to pay for a doctor.

The Sinister

This proverb is a warning to all of us who would make judgments based solely on outward appearances. It is a warning, not only because it is unwise to judge a person by his looks, but because we need to be wary of scammers and con-artists.

Some people are experts at taking advantage of others. This truth is comically portrayed in the 1988 movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, staring Steve Martin and Michael Caine. In this movie two con-artists, acting like men down on their luck, steal fortunes from compassionate, wealthy women. They “maketh” themselves poor (or rich, depending on the circumstance), yet take everything they want.

But real life is not funny. I have seen gypsies worth millions begging on the streets of eastern Europe. I have helped “needy” families with food and funds from our church’s stores, only to find out that the “needy” were only greedy. I have heard healthy men and women who refuse to work brag about “working the system” in order to obtain assistance meant for the poor and disabled.

Be warned, and don’t be like them.


Navigate Wisely

Proverbs 13:6

“Righteousness keepeth [him that is] upright in the way: but wickedness overthroweth the sinner.”

Choices

On the night of 13 January 2012 the captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia chose to deviate from the agreed course for his ship to bring the ship close to the island of Isola del Giglio. He should have known better. The ship hit a reef. The hull was breached and the ship began to take on water, eventually listing to starboard and running completely aground. If the captain had chosen instead to remain on the right course the ship would have remained upright and lives would not have been lost.

Life presents us with many choices. From an early age we learn that some choices are better than others. Some choices make life easier, some make life more difficult. Some choices bring us praise, while other choices bring us trouble. The captain of the Costa Concordia may have thought that giving his passengers a treat by sailing close to shore would bring him praise. Instead it brought him trouble, and continues to do so.

Righteousness or Wickedness?

Righteousness is a word that is commonly associated with religion. It is defined by Merriam-Webster as ‘acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin.’ Deliberately seeking to be righteous in the way that we think, speak and live out our lives provides a level of protection against bad choices, defined in Proverbs 13:6 as ‘wickedness.’ The attraction of sin is sometimes overpowering and we need to be able to defend ourselves against the bad choices that mislead us and misdirect us. Make the wrong choice and it will eventually, if not immediately, cause us harm.

Which Way?

The Hebrew word for way used in this verse may be translated as a road, or a course as in the case of a ship. We are all on a journey. We are free to choose which road or course we follow, but to maintain the right course requires effort and commitment. For a ship’s officer it is necessary to make regular course adjustments to counter the effects of currents and wind. Course alterations may be required to avoid dangerous reefs and shallow water. It is essential to make frequent checks on the ship’s position to ensure that it is still on course.

A good navigator is always alert to dangers and will not sail too close to them. A good navigator aims to bring the ship safely home to harbor, not end up aground on some foreign reef.

Photo/news story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jan/15/costa-concordia-disaster-transport-titanic

 


I Was Despicable

Proverbs 13:5

“A righteous [man] hateth lying: but a wicked [man] is loathsome, and cometh to shame.”

Loathsome Lies and Shame

I have shared before that as a child and teenager I had a habit of stretching the truth, spreading rumors, and flat-out lying. I was rather despicable.

In truth, I told these stories and fabrications to satisfy my own needs.

My need to feel important. (People actually listened to me!)

My need to feel accepted. (People listening felt like people liking me!)

My need to control my life. (That big lie we all believe at some point in our lives.)

Many times, I got caught in my deception. I felt shame and guilt. It led to hating people more and more.

Hating … in a good way

I also have shared before that  because of my deceitful tongue, I learned the importance of being open with people.

I started out hating people, because I felt that no one understood me and no one wanted to be with me.

I learned to hate those things that pushed people farther away. I learned how much God hates sin, and I wanted to hate what He hates.

Several chapters ago, we discussed some things God hates: specifically “lying lips”.

We should hate lies. We should love honesty and openness. Otherwise, we will find ourselves coming to shame and being hated.

Good Father, thank You for Your truth and confronting us in our lies. Thank You for Your forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Forgive those who continue in lies. Help us learn to hate anything that goes against Your truth.


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