Category Archives: Money and Finances

Greasing the Skids

Proverbs 18:16

“A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.”

Wise Investing

You have seen it done in the movies, and maybe in real life. A man walks in to a nice restaurant and finds that no tables are available, but when he pulls out a $50 bill all of a sudden a place is found. That is more like bribery, not what Solomon is talking about here.

What Solomon is telling us in this verse is that gifts can be a wise investment – investments that can offer great returns in the form of privilege and audience. And it’s not about bribery but common decency, respect, manners, and wisdom.

Playing Smart

There is nothing wrong or un-biblical about playing smart. In many ways life is a game, and the ones who play by the rules are more likely to come out ahead in the end. It doesn’t always work out, but acting with intentional respect can have a road-paving effect on one’s life and career.

Essentially, if you want to be included in certain circles or have audiences before “great men,” being selfish, stingy, and arrogant is not a good first step in the right direction. One can “grease the skids” with a little gift and a nice card. Even a kind deed done on one’s behalf is a gift that may prove beneficial in the future. Consider the following story…

Mordecai’s Good Deed

“During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.” – Esther 2:21-22 NIV

Later…

“That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. “What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked. “Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.” – Esther 6:1-3 NIV

Mordecai’s gift of honesty and bravery was rewarded when the time was right. Room was made for him as he was brought before great men.

Key to Giving

But there is one very important thing to remember: when you do give gifts, don’t expect anything in return. A bribe is not a gift. A true gift is not a bribe.


Flimsy Green Walls

Proverbs 18:11

“The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.”
“The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety” (NLT).

Money

Money is a strange thing. One day it can be worth a lot of, well, money. Then, at the turn of clock, it can become worthless. So many have seen fortunes disappear at the sound of a closing bell.

6 Confederate States of America currency notes...

6 Confederate States of America currency notes three $10 notes 3 $20 notes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Others have seen their wealth deteriorate along with a decline in political stability. Many years ago the southern states (The Confederacy) that broke away from the Union made their own money. After 1865 it all became worthless. There used to be a saying, “Save your Confederate money, boys! The South will rise again!” Oh, well.

The thing that really makes money valuable is what backs it or insures its value. Not too long ago the Dollar was backed by gold; now it backed “by the full faith and credit of the United States government” (Yeah, right). So, in reality, the rich that feel secure in their wealth are only as secure as the government that backs it.

Flimsy Walls

Solomon was the wealthiest man in the world, yet he knew that putting one’s hope in money is foolishness of the highest degree. He calls the wealthy who consider their riches a defense “conceited.”

If wealth is one’s idea of a defense or a wall of protection, then they are flimsy walls, indeed! Ask anyone who was around Wall Street in 1929. The sound of crashing walls was deafening.

A Strong Defense

Thank God for His unfailing protection! “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

Money is a wall of security with no inherent strength. It’s might changes with the “full faith and credit” of sinful institutions. Those who trust in it for safety are fools.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2).

Praise the LORD!


Perverted Justice

Proverbs 17:23

“A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.”
“The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.” -NIV

What “They” Do

Bribes are bad, especially when truth and justice is perverted. That is the main point of this proverb. The wicked man takes a bribe in order to keep justice from going forward.

We’ve seen the movies, read the books, and may have even experienced the results in real life. We are all familiar with what the bad guys typically do. They take money to keep from testifying at a trial. They are given a little off the top to collect a little more from a debtor. They are paid to tell a lie in order to get another bad guy acquitted of a crime. That’s what bad guys do.

Image result for termite damage"I once knew of a pest control company that was bribed to give clearance letters. Builders who wanted to save a few hundred dollars would give fifty to the owner of the company, and in turn he would give the builder a letter stating the new property had been pre-treated for termites. Justice was perverted because the new houses were sold with no protection from termites, and when they did come, the homeowner was usually convinced to pay a large sum to the same pest control company for a termite treatment.

These were bad guys, and that’s what they do.

What “We” Do

What many fail to recognize is the wickedness in their own hearts. It is so easy to judge others, but it is very hard to judge ourselves.

Have you ever given someone money for doing a small job, but then asked the person to not report the money on his tax return? Have you ever said, “If we do this ‘under the table,’ you won’t have to report it, and we’ll both be better off“? If you did, the law was skirted, and justice was perverted. Now who’s the bad guy?

Lord, help us to do what is right at all times, even when doing what is right cost us a little more. Help us to desire justice, not pervert it. 


Gates of Destruction

Proverbs 17:19

“He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.” 
“Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.” – NIV

Always Arguing

I know people who will argue over anything – and I mean anything. If you say the sky is a pretty shade of blue, they will argue that it isn’t really blue. If you say you like a particular movie, book, or food, they will give you every reason your choices are flawed.

People like that are tiring and have few friends, and they bring it on themselves. They complain that no one likes them, that everyone hates them, and that no one wants to listen to their opinions, but they are the ones responsible for driving everyone away.

This is the type of person being spoken of in this verse. It is the type of person who loves to argue. It is also the person who loves sin.

Loving Sin

It may come as a shock to some, but many who claim to be righteous are really lovers of sin. I know a particular person who willfully admits his failures and flaws, but continues to do the very things that are wrong. He says, “I know I have a problem with (blank), but I know I’ll never change, so I’ll just have to keep asking for forgiveness.

The real problem is that he loves the sin, and therefore refuses to truly repent and “turn from his wicked ways.” His particular sin is his claim to fame, therefore he gets all the more attention. Without it, he wouldn’t be noticed as much.

Inviting Destruction

The second part of this proverb reminds me of what happens to people who choose to park their exotic luxury cars in more than one parking place. They say they do it to keep people from dinging their doors. In reality, they are doing nothing more than inviting a sledge hammer to the fender. I have seen plenty of nice cars that have been “keyed” by irritated “poor” people.

The prideful man is depicted in this verse as building a tall, elaborate gate to protect his belongings. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that his audaciousness is only an invitation to robbers.

The same can be said about Christians who go around bragging about their own spirituality. What fools! Don’t they know that it won’t be long before humility  comes crashing through the gate?

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18

 


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)