What shall we do with money?
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:10
The book of Proverbs has a story to tell. Through parables and sayings we have heard that wisdom is good and the only way to truly live, while folly is bad and leads to destruction. Chapters 1 to 9 painted a worldview where wisdom from God is to be dearly sort after and that wickedness and foolishness must be spotted and rejected. Proverbs 3:5-6 is famous for good reason:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will make straight your paths.
In this study and the next, we will look at what the book of Proverbs says about a particular issue. It will be good to remember that we are to trust God and not put our own instincts in charge. We looked at the topic of wealth in our previous study book. That study focused on how to think about money, how to earn it and where our hearts ought to be. This week we will focus on how we spend our money.
Sayings and Proverbs that relate to this topic
Honor the Lord with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
Comments: To honour the Lord with the firstfruits is to give it away! Numbers 28:26 says concisely that the first of the harvest is to be offered to the LORD in thanksgiving (see also Exod 23:16; Lev 2:12; Deut 18:4). It is accompanied with sacrifices and is part of the Levitical law but it communicates that thanksgiving is to be given first for the land producing crop. Although the Levitical law has lost its primary power this side of the cross, it is still important for giving wisdom. Notice that giving is a primary ingredient for ongoing profit (Prov 3:10).
Summary: Always give thanks to God.
The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
Comments: Taken separately, these two statements are just true on their own merit: the rich have the power to pay for poorer people to do stuff and if you owe someone money, then you are indebted to them until it is paid off and therefore not independent. But taken together, it is better to be able to independently paying for things than to need rich people’s ‘help’. Better to buy a $4K car with your own money than to drive a $25K car you needed help to pay for.
Summary: It is wise to avoid debt.
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will reward them for what they have done.
Comments: Contrast this with Proverbs 22:7 and we have wisdom for the rich is to see lending money as a positive thing. When we have the power and opportunity to help someone else then we do this. The Lord uses the generosity of people to do his work. Our money ought to be in service to the Lord. Notice that when money is lent to the poor, the Proverb describes the payback as coming from the Lord. It suggests that we ought to give without expecting to see that money returned from the poor person. See Proverbs 14:31.
Summary: See your money as a tool for God’s work. Be generous rather than an investor at people’s expense.
The stingy are eager to get rich
and are unaware that poverty awaits them.
Comments: Stingy would be the opposite of generous. Our instinct is to keep everything in order to have as much as possible but God’s wisdom says that generosity will get you far. What we have will be taken from us whether we like it or not and will we have treasure in heaven? The stingy are not willing to give to the poor because that equates to having less for themselves. But a heart that is for God will release its grip on money.
Summary: Release your grip on money and trust God for your future.
Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.
Comments: This proverb requires context. The love of pleasure is a euphemism for loving the things of this world rather than simply wanting to be happy. Loving wine and olive oil is to indulge in luxury. Other Proverbs speak of the downward spiral of those who love wine (23:20-21). Compare this proverb with the one that sees the value of money (13:11) and the one that says put in a day’s work (12:11).
Summary: An expensive life is expensive. Live within your means and make you means meaningful.
A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children,
but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.
Comments: Take the first statement first. It is good and wise to look after your children. There is a godly responsibility for a person to think beyond themselves and take care of their family. 1 Timothy 5:8 is strong on this subject. The lesson is not that the grandchildren ought to expect a handout since this is a lesson for the parents. It is for the adult to show responsibility. The second statement, in its context, teaches that wealth stored up in a stingy manner and kept for self will be passed on to someone eventually. The inheritance will not go to who you may have wanted it to go but to those who God will bless. It seems that Solomon is using hyperbole to show what is good and what is bad and the overall lesson here is that money kept beyond your lifetime ought only happen for the direct and explicit purpose of handing to those you are responsible for.
Summary: Store money for other’s sake, not for your own.
Dishonest money dwindles away,
but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.
Comments: Money that comes quickly and without effort is given little value and is lost with unwise spending. Money that is collected over time with patience and diligence is also money that is not spent rapidly. The time taken to grow the money teaches the earner that money shouldn’t be thrown away. Refer to the Proverb on wine and olive oil (Proverbs 21:17).
Summary: Money ought to have meaning. Earned properly and spent respectfully.
Money is a passing tool for this life. Spent only on self, stored for abundance, throne away on indulgent things, this is poor form and ungodly. Spent with thankfulness to God, first to show thanks to God, second on the family, thirdly on the poor, this is rich in wisdom.
- Give thanks to God with your money. This is different to giving thank for your money. To give your money away for the work of the LORD is to show that you recognise where the blessing of money comes from (Proverbs 3:9-10. How do you love the LORD with your money? Would you consider your giving an act of faith or an act of guilt or works?
- Giving money to the poor is a very clear instruction from the bible. With organisations in place to take money to the poor for us, how can we obey the principle of loving the poor? Discuss some issues and good godly practices for giving to the poor. Be careful that we seek to obey rather than seek to justify ourselves.
- Generating money for the next generation is a wise thing but could also become an excuse for storing up unnecessary wealth. How do we police this for ourselves and how can we pass on godly wisdom on spending to our children?
Prayer of the Week
Lord, take our money and our lives and let us be only, ever, all for thee. Amen.