Tag Archives: money

Mexican Haggling

Proverbs 20:14

“It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.” (KJV).
“The buyer haggles over the price, saying, “It’s worthless,” then brags about getting a bargain!” (NLT).

Haggling in Mexico:

In 2005, my mom blessed my wife Liza and me by sending us on a trip to Mexico to celebrate our ten year anniversary. While we were there, we enjoyed relaxing on the beach, reading and resting. There was one thing that Liza wanted to do while we were there: shopping.

I’m not a fan of shopping on the best of days. When Liza and I go to the mall, I will walk around with her for a little while, but inevitably, I will reach my limit and have to go find a food court so I can go sit down with a coffee to hopefully read a good book. But one of the things I wasn’t looking forward to was the obligatory haggling that would ensue on our shopping excursion.

Here’s an example of haggling from an old Monty Python movie…

One time a street vendor approached Liza and tried to sell her some bracelets for $60 each. Now, the bracelets weren’t worth anywhere near that, but my wife didn’t know how to haggle – even though it was welcomed and expected in Mexico. She had paid thirty dollars for a cowboy hat earlier that day (it was hot and she needed it) and we later saw it selling for $10-20 in other shops we entered. I told the vendor that the bracelets were more money than we were willing to pay, and so he offered to sell us three of them for $20 in total. So I bought them for Liza.

The Boasting Buyer:

How does the above story – and the concept of haggling or bartering – apply to today’s Scripture? Solomon is talking about a man who goes to a shop or the market to buy goods and he undervalues them, and says that they are no good, but after purchasing the items for a lower price, he goes away and boasts about his purchase. Does this mean that we shouldn’t haggle or barter for items? Not necessarily.

The issue that Solomon is dealing with here is the dishonest means that some would use to get a good deal. Matthew Henry says, “See how apt men are to be pleased with their gettings and proud of their tricks; whereas a fraud and a lie are what a man ought to be ashamed of, though he have gained ever so much by them.” John Gill also says the Scripture describes a buyer who feels like he has outwitted the seller “and so glories in his frauds and tricks, and rejoices in his boasting, and all such rejoicing is evil.”

So what is the universal principle behind this Bible verse that we can apply to our lives? God wants us to be honest and generous in all of our financial dealings, whether we are buying or selling. No dishonesty. No cheating. No stealing.


Rich Slaves

Proverbs 19:10

“Delight is not seemly for a fool; much less for a servant to have rule over princes.”
“It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury— how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!”(NIV)

Foolish Delights

Recently, Anthony wrote about those who win the lottery. They seem to be happy, and they find a sudden influx of friends and family to help them with their money!

It really depends on who you talk to or believe, but most reports show that the majority of major prize lottery winners are bankrupt inside of a few years.

The biggest reason, of course, is that they were foolish with their money when they had none, and that that habit does not change when they get much.

The same happens when spiritual leaders follow bad theology. They tried handling matters in their own lives, and they figured they could handle matters of God, as well. This is where too many churches and denominations can get off track. This is also where we get cults.

Of Slaves and Princes

Another danger of the poor suddenly becoming rich is that they may use their newfound influence to get back at established wealth. They might try to show off, to prove themselves (which can help lead to their bankruptcy).

This also can be a danger with religious leaders. When some parishioners get upset with how churches are being run, they may get ordained and/or start a new church. Again, this is where too many churches and denominations can get off track, and where we get cults.

How this can be good news comes through how God redeems everything.

John 8:34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (NIV)

We are all slaves to sin … until Jesus came along to make us righteous:

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (NIV)

As the redeemed of Christ, we become co-heirs in Christ and will rule over this world (Romans 8, Revelation 20).

It is only worse for slaves to rule over princes if the princes are of this world and slaves to sin.

Prince of Peace rich in grace, help us be wise with what You have entrusted to us, and if we must be slaves may it be to Your righteousness. Rule in our hearts and minds. Rule over our lives.


Blessed Are the Rich …

Proverbs 19:4

“Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour.”

New Warnings

In light of some of Jesus’ words, this verse makes little sense.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 19:23

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3

The verse today seems to say “Blessed are the rich, and how hard it is for the poor!”

And it is.

Different Thinking

This proverb is stating something that is obvious to almost everyone.

When someone has money, it is pretty easy for them to make friends. They appear more trustworthy, and they can give the best gifts.

Wealth seems to give people confidence, so they will not worry about the small things in life. There is a tendency to handle finances well (Think of the book written by a wealthy man, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”), and this builds good credit and more wealth.

When someone has little money, they may still make friends, but they may not always be considered trustworthy (whether or not this is justified).

Being poor tends to draw away from confidence, because they need to worry about the small things in life (they seem much bigger). They may not handle their finances well, and, as evidenced in the past five years, they will be literally separated from their neighbors through foreclosure and/or eviction.

Thinking Differently

Regardless of our financial circumstances, may we change our mindset to things above.

When we are poor in love, mercy, and grace toward each other, it proves we are poor in love for God. We will find ourselves ultimately separated from God (who called Christians “friends” in John 15:15).

When we are rich in love, mercy, and grace toward each other, it proves we are rich in love for God. We enter into a fellowship with God and a family of millions throughout history.

Father, give us financial wisdom, but more importantly increase our wealth in love, mercy, and grace. May our friends be eternal in You.


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!


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.


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.


What Is Better than Wealth?

Proverbs 15:16

“Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.”

Would You Rather

Have you ever played “Would You Rather?”? It’s sort of a conversation-starting kind of game, if it’s a game at all. There are no winners or losers.

One person asks an either/or question like, “Would your rather eat a roach, or aspirate a snotty baby’s nose by mouth?” The answer would have to be one or the other, not an “I would never do either!” You have to choose.

In the case of the above question, either answer is a loser…unless you’re one of those mother’s who do that kind of thing to your snotty baby…or unless you eat bugs. Most people would just lose the contents of their stomachs.

Better/Than

What we see in this proverb not an either/or question, but a better/than comparison. Unlike the “would you rather” question, this one has a clear winner and loser.

What is “better”? Little. Just the scrapings. Hardly anything.

What is “than”? Great riches. A storehouse full of provision. More money than anyone else. But notice, there’s nothing “bad” or “wrong” with great riches; it’s just not better.

Better than what?

Great riches are not better than scraping by if great riches are all you have. It’s better to have hardly anything and have the fear of the Lord, a righteous heart, a forgiven soul, a peace that passes all understanding, than great wealth and all the worry and anxiety it can bring.

Winning Secret

Oh, but remember how in the first game of “Would You Rather?” there are no real winners? That’s not the case at all with choosing to have a little and the fear of the Lord!

Here’s a little secret: If you choose a little and the Lord, the eternal riches far exceed anything one could amass on earth. Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

As the old hymn says, “I’d rather have Jesus.”


True Treasure

Proverbs 15:6

In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.”

Where is my money?

I can hear many people asking after reading this verse, “If the house of the righteous is full of treasure, and I am a devout Christian, where is all of my money? It sure seems wicked people have all the money!”

If this is you, you are not the first to complain about evil people seeming so well-off. We read in Psalm 73:3, “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Many godly people have wondered at this.

Claim It in Faith

There is another s0-called gospel message out there, often called the “prosperity gospel” or “Name-It-and-Claim-It,” teaches just that: if you name your desire in faith that God will deliver, you will receive that very thing.

Under this message, with enough faith you can be happy, healthy, and wealthy. Proponents of this message firmly believe in the combined promise of Proverbs 13:22b, “the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just“, and John 16:23, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.

Trust me that these verses are taken entirely out of context.

True Treasure

Here is the real context: while some righteous people will be wealthy and/or healthy, most will only earn their treasure as good standing with God in Heaven by obeying His commands and living in His love.

Read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19-24:

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

The wicked lose out on the favor of God. Our true treasure is Jesus Christ.

Lord, grow Your love in our hearts that we may serve You and love You. Grant us Your grace and patience, that instead of pursuing money and things we would seek Your favor. You are the true treasure.


Clean Troughs

Proverbs 14:4

Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.

A long line of tightwads

      I have a disclaimer, everybody:  I come from a long line of tightwads.  When my parents became engaged, a mutual friend quipped that their engagement was an excellent match:  “Jim & Maryanne gettin’ married?  That’s good. They can pinch pennies together.”

In 1982, my parents took me and my two older brothers to visit the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you visited the Fair in mid-July of that year, you probably remember us.  We were the teenage boys carrying wilted cheese sandwiches in satchels dangling from our belts (in 92 degree heat and 98% humidity) to avoid the high cost of fairground fare for lunch.

That is to say, I “get it honest”.

I was 20 years old before I bought my first car, a 1973 Plymouth Scamp for which I paid $850. It came complete with a shredded and flapping vinyl top and fenders so rusted out from the salt on the winter highways of Southwest Virginia that I dared not drive the car through a car wash for fear of leaving too many parts behind.  When driving in the rain, water would pour in under the dashboard, soaking shoes, socks, and pants legs. I’m not exaggerating!

Early in our marriage, I can remember having discussions with my new wife concerning the threshold of excessive toilet paper usage.  (Just use your imagination.)  As I type these words, I examine my current attire:  a striped, button-down, long-sleeve shirt which came to me second hand from America’s Thrift Store, a worn pair of khaki pants purchased on sale in a discount clothing store three years ago for around $20, and socks and underwear that are, let’s just say, of mature age.  Only my shoes are of a brand name which you might possibly recognize, a brand and style I am medically required to purchase to give support to my very flat feet.

So today’s proverb is really for me and for others of the dying breed of folk who are allergic to the spending of money.

Expensive critters

Let’s face it:  Oxen are expensive critters to keep around.  It has been scientifically proven that they have to be fed a certain amount to survive.  Oxen require a ready supply of drinking water.  Oxen need routine preventative and maintenance veterinary care.  They need strong fences to contain them.  They need barns for shelter in severe weather.

Thus if you have no oxen in the stall, the trough is “clean”, or perhaps a better rendering would be, “the granary is empty”.  You don’t have to fill the barn with hay, or purchase corn for the crib, if you have no oxen to feed.  It’s much cheaper to own no oxen.

Wise capital investment

However, seen as a capital investment, oxen can bring the wise farmer great financial reward.  Of course the proverb harkens from a pre-industrial age, but the point is obvious.  Oxen drag the plow to cut the sod so that crops can be sown.  Oxen pull the carts and wagons when bringing in the harvest from the fields, and then they haul the harvest to market.  Indeed, “much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

Investment is risky business.  By its very definition, invested money may be totally lost.  Otherwise healthy-looking oxen drop dead of heart attacks on occasion, I suppose.  But wise, intentional investments create the possibility for wonderful profits.  To interpret the biblical proverb with a proverb from our popular culture, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Two gospel passages

In light of Proverbs 14:4, two New Testament texts come to mind.  The first is the Lord’s parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20).  Without recounting the parable’s details, I conclude that the Lord’s primary point is to emphasize the miraculous increase of the seed that fell on good ground (verses 8 & 20).  When it comes to our stewardship of the gospel, invest heavily!  Throw caution to the wind!  Proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom everywhere, and although three-fourths of the time it won’t amount to much, we can count on an astonishing, miraculous, God-given increase when the seed of God’s Word does hit the “pay dirt”.  There are so many Christian congregations which have the clean troughs of playing it safe in the ministry.  Our proverb would say, “Go big for the gospel of Jesus Christ!”

The second text is found in Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents.  Space does not permit me to retell the passage, but the connection with our proverb is clear enough:  Invest for the master!  Don’t be a scrooge and hide heaven’s riches in a hole in the ground.  Take a chance!  Do something big and bold and risky for the Master!

Father God, make us to be wise and bold investors of all which you have entrusted to us, blessings both temporal and spiritual.  Forgive us when we fail, not for our sake, but for the sake of your own dear Son.  Through Christ our Lord: Amen.