Category Archives: Money and Finances

Financial Acumen

Proverbs 17:18 

“A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.”
“It’s poor judgment to guarantee another person’s debt or put up security for a friend.” (NLT)

What should you do when a good friend asks you to guarantee his or her debt, or put up security for a home or a loan? Your answer may depend to some extent on your own financial circumstances, but the fact that such advice appears in the book of Proverbs, suggests that wisdom should be involved.

I found myself in this position several years ago. Friends had fallen on hard times, largely because of a lack of wisdom in financial matters. Money from the sale of a house got spent, and eventually they ended up in rented accommodation. My wife and I helped them out as much as we could, but soon realized that he in particular needed to make some changes in approach and attitude to their financial affairs.

Then one day he arrived on the doorstep, and over a cup of coffee asked if I could stand as guarantor for another property he wanted to rent. With a heavy heart I told him I could not, even though he repeatedly told me that there was no risk to me as he would be able to pay the rent. I had no confidence that he could, and I knew that it was wrong to place my family at risk. Eventually, my friend acknowledged that he had to bring his expenditure in line with his income and downsized. We remained friends, although they live in another part of the country now.

If I had stood as guarantor and my friend had defaulted I would have been required to pay his rent. This would have made it difficult for me to meet my own outgoings. I wish I had known about this verse in Proverbs at the time. I remember the bad feeling inside when I refused to help my friend, but it was absolutely the right decision. How much wisdom do we miss out on by failing to study God’s word, and by forgetting to listen for His gentle whisper. 

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV)

Tibetan Bookstore

Proverbs 17:16

Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” (KJV)
Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?” (NIV)

Our world is constantly pursuing wisdom.

Just look in bookstores, on Amazon.com, and in many ads on TV and at bus stops.

There are numerous self-help books, videos, and seminars. New Age gurus push their spiritual teachings in each of these venues.

Dietitians sell their knowledge.

Parenting experts share their learning.

Pastors sell their understanding.

Financial experts sell their know-how.

Some people buy all of the expensive gear to climb the mountains of Tibet to buy a relic from Tibetan monks.

And yet we keep buying more.

Why?

Because we keep failing. We do not live up to the standards that are set. We do not see results quickly enough. We do not understand why it never works.

That is what this verse is speaking about today.

Our world wants wisdom, but we never want to take the time to understand it.

If we do seek to understand wisdom, we often take whatever is quickest, easiest, or most appealing to our wants, desires, or circumstances.

The catch is that we fail to turn to God with complete honesty.

If they can not be completely honest with God, if they admit He exists, then they do not truly wish to understand wisdom … no matter how much they are willing to pay.

What about you?

Creator God, guide us in all wisdom, and help us to understand. Help us realize that true wisdom is found in Your Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.


Bribery and Corruption

Proverbs 17:8 

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
A bribe is like a lucky charm; whoever gives one will prosper! (NLT)

Other translations of this verse use the word bribe instead of gift. Strong’s translates the word as a donation, bribe, gift, present or reward. Matthew Henry’s take on this proverb is that: ‘Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts!’ What influence indeed?

There is a further warning about gifts/bribes in the book of Exodus when the law was being given to the nation of Israel:

And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:8 KJV)

My first experience of bribery occurred in the 1970s when there was port congestion in the Persian Gulf, and many ships and their crews waited months at anchor for a pilot and a berth in port to discharge or load cargo. I spent three weeks there at anchor in 1975. Each day a small boat would come out to us (and all the other ships) and a man in uniform would demand to see our Captain. Each day the request was the same, “200 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky, Captain, and you get your pilot tomorrow.” No doubt many captains were tempted to provide such a bribe, uncertain of whether the uniformed official had the power to provide a pilot. Our Captain refused to meet such requests. He had other plans. But similar challenges were often faced in other foreign ports when various officials expected to be paid to make things happen. Like the man in the uniform in the Persian Gulf, their hearts had become focused on what they could get in material terms.

I think Matthew Henry got the meaning of this verse absolutely correct. If money and the like are what warm your heart, then eventually you may do anything for the sake of money or gifts. What influence should the gifts of God have on our lives? How are we investing these gifts, and how are they changing our values? Jesus taught that it was more important to seek the Kingdom of Heaven than anything else:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46 NIV)

Making Fun of the Poor

Proverbs 17:5

“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”

Me? Poor?

I live in one of the richest countries on the planet, so who am I to talk about being poor? Compared to some people, I am rich as a king. Even though I may not have the best of everything, or even the third or fourth best, I am still better off than people who have to live in cardboard boxes under a bridge.

Even thought I may not be rich, there are plenty of people worse off than me. However, I do know a little about what it’s like to be mocked. My sister and I were made fun of because my parents couldn’t always afford to buy their children new clothes. When we lived in a house that had no electricity or running water, and one could see the sky through the walls, we were mocked. I know how that feels.

For that matter, I know how it feels to drive a school bus full of public high school football players to a game at a private school where the tuition for one student exceeds $40,ooo a year, not to mention room and board. Not only do the football players get sneered at, but bus drivers like me get treated as “common help.”

Me? Like God?

The lesson that Solomon wants us to learn is that when we mock or make fun of those who poorer than us, we make ourselves out to be better than God. “What? How’s that possible?” you ask.

What if God treated us the way we sometimes treat others? Seriously, is the richest man in the world, even if he owned the whole world, as rich as the Maker of the Universe? The richest of the rich in this world are living in inestimable poverty before the King of Heaven. Aren’t we glad He doesn’t make fun of us?

Thankfully we have a loving Lord who humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), that we, the poorest of all, could become fellow-heirs with Christ (Eph. 3:6). If He doesn’t feel it proper to mock lowly sinners such as I, then who am I to mock one less fortunate than me?

Wishing Bad

But what if you have never been one to make fun of the poor, or the rich? Does that get you off the hook? Maybe. That is, unless you’ve ever been one to talk of the rich with words like, “I hope they go broke,” or, “I’d love to see them crash that fancy car!”

I asked my daughter, “How do rich people make fun of poor people?” She said, “I don’t know…all I ever hear is all the poor people griping and whining about the rich.” Hmmm.

What did Solomon say? “He that is glad at calamities will not go unpunished.” Maybe we all would be a little better off if we learned to be content.


The Wise Servant

Proverbs 17:2

“A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.” 

The Wise Butler

I wish I could remember the details of it, but years ago I saw a movie that that was like this verse. Of course, the fact that a movie from Hollywood reminds me of a story in Scripture shouldn’t amaze me; many of the plots in movies are stolen from the Bible.

Nevertheless, I remember seeing something about a butler who had to manage a wild, rebellious, reputation-ruining heir. I just can’t remember if the butler wound up with everything, or not.

The Wise Servant

In this proverb we read of a servant who was smart enough to look out for the family’s interests, even if the son only cared about acting the fool. The servant wisely took charge over the unruly son, maybe even saying, “Your daddy put me in charge, so yes, I am the boss of you!

It was not uncommon in those days for a servant to be very close to the members of the family he served. It was not uncommon, even, for a servant to have part in the family’s inheritance  especially if the servant was considered a family member. So, it stands to reason that the wise servant, caring for the family that employed him, might have seen the profit of keeping his master’s son out of trouble.

Sometimes, it was even the case that a servant got everything, but his master got nothing. We read about that happening to Ziba, the former servant of Saul (2 Samuel 16:1-4).

The Shameful Son

There is another way to look at this, however. Even though the son was related by blood to the master, he was still subordinate to the servant. Whether it had to be that way, we don’t know. But the way this verse reads, the son might have been old enough to have been out from under the control of a tutor. He may have been old enough to have been the one to give the orders. Yet, because of his behavior, the servant was placed over him.

Let this be a lesson to us. Even though we may be children of the King, when we act up and begin to bring shame to His name, someone not even in the family may be used to discipline us. And, if it goes far enough, the blessing once due us may even go to someone else.

 


Honking Escalade

Proverbs 16:19

“Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

Rich and Poor

Not all poor people are humble. Not all rich people are proud. We should never jump to conclusions and assume that just because a man is poor he is humble, or prideful if he is rich.

That being said, today’s proverb addresses the heart of man, and that heart is usually more proud when he is rich, humble when he is poor. For instance, the people who blew their horn at my wife and I, as we sat at a stop sign and couldn’t go anywhere, were in a big Cadillac Escalade. They honked at us, but we didn’t honk at the little old lady in front of us who couldn’t decide where to go. (That actually happened just a few moments before writing this)

Riches and Poverty

This proverb also addresses the misconception that wealth is better than poverty. Sure, to have more money and possessions can be a great blessing, but it can also be a curse far worse than being destitute.

This verse also addresses the misguided belief that “the one with the most” wins. Many only have “the most” because they have taken advantage of those who have little.

The NIV translates this verse, “Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.” It might not always be the poor and rich we’re talking about, but the oppressed and the oppressors. Either way, the one who is worse off in God’s eyes is the one who sits with those who have become wealthy by taking from others, and is proud of it.

Be Content

Let us consider Proverbs 16:19 as we observe the words of the Apostle Paul…

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13 ESV

Ultimately, it’s better to have nothing and a humble heart, than have everything and be at odds with our God.

(I hope the horn on that Escalade breaks and starts blowing when they’re behind a State Trooper)

 

 


The Cost of Bribes

Proverbs 15:27

“He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.” 

“A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live.” – NIV

Same Script

Have you ever noticed how most crime dramas on television are the same, at least in the writing department? When we read in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is “no new thing under the sun,” it especially applies to television and movie plots.

One reason that it is hard to come up with anything new is because men keep doing the same things over and over again. The stories are all so similar in pattern because the template is ingrained in man’s fallen nature. He keeps falling for the same old tricks every time, like fish that never question a swimming worm.

One common story line involves a man who needs money, takes a bribe, gets caught, then brings his family to ruin. It varies, of course, but whether it’s a politician who takes a bribe in order to keep his career afloat, or a discouraged policeman who deals confiscated drugs in order to take care of his sick children, the end is always the same – trouble.

Doing What’s Right

It is not always easy to turn down easy money. Sometimes the offer can seem pretty tempting. Several years ago my wife and I were asked to hire undocumented workers in order to keep down the costs of a cleaning contract. We were told over and over, “They work hard for little money…everyone does it…no one will find out.” We could have saved thousands of dollars in labor costs.

Doing what is right, however, is more important than money. Greed is the downfall of many. What would have happened my wife’s company had been visited by federal agents? How many lies would she have been responsible for when she filed payroll taxes? What would have happened to our family of one of us had been sent to jail?

Even when times are at their worst, doing wrong, taking a bribe, doing it for the money, is never good for one’s home. Somebody down the line will pay for poor choices made.