Solomon on Money
by Ed Barnes
THIS IS OUR THIRD AND FINAL article on the subject of money. We have been consulting the sage advice given in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. In our first article we learned from the wisdom of Solomon concerning our THINKING about money, and the practice of BORROWING and LENDING money. Last time we looked at some problems we have in the area of SPENDING money as well as the necessity of SAVING money. Today we will conclude our study by consulting Godís wisdom with regard to GIVING, ENTERPRISING (i.e. business practices), LOVING and MANAGING money.
Giving as we should involves the two-fold responsibility of duty toward God and benevolence toward others. The Book of Proverbs addresses both areas. In Proverbs 3:9 the wise man instructs, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of your crops. . ."
The Old Testament often speaks of tithing. The practice of giving a tenth of one's income or property as an offering to God was an ancient practice found among many nations of the ancient world. The practice extends into Hebrew history before the time of the Mosaic Law. The first recorded instance occurs in Genesis 14:17-20 with Abraham giving to Melchizedek a tithe of all the goods he had obtained in battle. The law of Moses prescribed tithing in some detail (Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:21-32; Deut 26:12-150). The principle of giving of one's best was an important part of the Old Testament law concerning tithing. Proverbs 3:9 makes mention of the "firstfruits" of your crops, not the leftovers.
Giving to others was also commanded in the Old Law. Leviticus 19:9,10 instructs the Israelites to leave grain in their fields during harvest that the poor might gather the gleanings. Proverbs 14;21 says,
". . blessed is he who is kind to the needy." Also in 3:27: "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act," and in 22:9: "A generous man . . . shares his food with the poor."
A third principle of giving taught in Proverbs is that God will bless those who are benevolent. Proverbs 19:17 states: "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done." Many other proverbs state the same truth that the making of money and the owning of property and material goods is not just for our own enjoyment. We must learn the virtue of sharing with God and others (see also Eph 4:28).
The Lord has a lot to say to the business man (or woman) in the Book of Proverbs. For example, If you are in business with the public you're dealings must be honest. "Differing weights and differing measures - the Lord detests them both" (20:10). Again, "A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare" (21:6).
One must also be kind in business. "He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth . . . comes to poverty" (22:16). There is much oppression of the poor in our society. State lottery's, gambling casinos and the like are a plague on the poor. Many in impoverished neighborhoods look to the lottery as their retirement program. Credit card companies, banks, and many high ticket product (autos, homes, etc) manufacturers lure the public into time payments which they cannot afford but foolishly take advantage of, causing many to go into debt and eventual bankruptcy. Yes, there are a lot of unscrupulous business practices that a Christian should have no part in, many of which are an accepted part of otherwise well established and legitimate businesses.
The Book of Proverbs also has something to say to the greedy individual who is obsessed with making money to the neglect of other, more important matters. Proverbs 15:16 states, "Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil." Also, "Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint" (23:4).
The Book of Proverbs speaks of many things that we should love, or at least be greatly concerned with -- money is not one of them. Righteousness is to be sought after: "Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death" (11:4). "Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf" (11:28). Honest concern about the welfare of others rather than how much money is at stake in any given situation is also a matter addressed by the wise man: "Do not eat the food of a stingy man, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost. 'Eat and drink' he says to you, but his heart is not with you'" (23:6-7). The principle of moderation in material things is an important virtue: ". . . Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread" (30:8). Finally, "a good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold" (22:1)
The last point in our discussion concerning Solomon's advise on the wise use of money is that we must all be wise managers of what God has given to us. We spoke earlier about the financial institutions in our land taking advantage of people's ignorance of the how the money game is played. Now is it time to issue a warning that it is our personal responsibility to learn the facts and take precautions to avoid being taken advantage of. Note the instructions of Proverbs 5:7-10 as wisdom address us: "Listen then, my sons, listen to me; lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth, and your toil enrich another man's house." Diligence is recommended in this area: "The sluggard craves and gets nothing but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied" (13:4).
All of these divinely given instructions will lead us to responsible money handling habits and to the financial security that God gives as a blessing to those who follow his will in this area.