Tag Archives: money

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. 


“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.”