Wearing Yourself Out for Riches

Reading the Word

Proverbs 23:4–5 (NRSV)
4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist.
5 When your eyes light upon it, it is gone; for suddenly it takes wings to itself, flying like an eagle toward heaven.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Be careful what you focus your priorities on. Many will spend their entire lives accumulating wealth. This may seem like the correct thing to do. We need wealth to survive and we do not want to struggle financially later in life, so we spend our younger years working and accumulating as much as possible. There needs to be a balance.

As today’s reading tells us, riches have a way of suddenly disappearing. We can spend all of our time accumulating only to see it all vanish before our eyes. What use then was all of that spent time? All it takes is one accident or one illness or one scam artist or bad investments or some other thing to happen and our wealth is gone. Yes, we need to live wisely and prepare for the future, but riches cannot be the thing we wear ourselves out for. Instead, we need to follow Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:19-21:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We need to invest in people and relationships and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those are the things worth wearing ourselves out for. So save and invest your finances wisely, but do not make the accumulation of riches the primary focus of your life. It can all disappear in the blink of an eye.


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The Lord Is Maker of Them All

Reading the Word

The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all.(Proverbs 22:2, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

The opening chapter of Genesis tells us that God made everything that exists. The pinnacle of that creation was mankind, who God created in his own image. As image-bearers, mankind is inherently valuable, regardless of race, sex, social standing, or any other distinguishing characteristic. The Lord is Maker of them all.

This verse is an important one to remember. We must never think that economic status, or any other thing, makes a person of greater value than another. Every person has value and dignity because they were created by God. Therefore, we should not look down at others because they are not like us, but recognize them for who they are as image bearers.


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The Rich and the Poor

Reading the Word

Proverbs 19:4 (ESV)

4 Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.

Proverbs 19:6–7 (ESV)

6 Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.

7 All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them.

Understanding and Applying the Word

I am back from vacation. It was a nice week away. I hope you enjoyed reading some of the old posts that were shared throughout the week. Today, we are back in Proverbs and talking about wealth. This is a topic we can all relate to. We all use money and possessions, but there can be a large gap between those who have much and those who have very little. As these verses tell us, our wealth can also influence our personal relationships.

The poor person struggles to maintain friends. The wealthy has many companions. This may seem to cast a favorable light on the wealthy and a negative one on the poor, but that is not the point. The point of these verses is to show us that not all companions are true. Some are only there because they can get something out of the other. Once the benefit is taken away, they are gone. What kind of friend are you? Are you the kind who is only interested in what you can get out of a relationship? Or are you the kind of friend who loves the other person for who they are, even if it means there is nothing they can offer in return except their words?


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Security

Reading the Word

A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.(Proverbs 18:11, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

What makes you feel secure? In the days the Old Testament was written, kings would set up a heavily fortified city as their capital. This would protect against invaders or those who sought to harm the king. The more heavily fortified the city, the more the king and his people would feel secure.

In a similar way, Proverbs tells us that the rich often find their security in their wealth. They feel that whatever it is that they need, they can obtain it, whether it might be health, protection against physical harm, or any other danger that may arise. However, Proverbs tells us that this security is only in the imagination. It is not true security. In the end, no matter how much money or possessions we have, it cannot protect us. There is only one true place where we can find the security we desire. That place is mentioned in the previous verse:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.(Proverbs 18:10, ESV)


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Love Is Better

Reading the Word

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.(Proverbs 15:17, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

We live in a material world. Wealth and possessions and stuff is seen as the ultimate goal and the things that bring happiness and contentment. However, this is simply not true. As this proverbs points out, love is more important than stuff. You are better off with a meager existence (living on vegetables) that includes love than a rich one (living on the best cuts of meat) where love is lacking.

Do not fall for the lie that says that having a few more things will make you happy. Things are unfulfilling. It is love that brings happiness and contentment. We need to love others and know we are loved. Take the time to invest in relationships with others. Those investments will bring true happiness.


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Are you a writer who might be interested in writing for Shaped by the Word? I am looking for other contributors who would like to write for this page. Contact me by email (csuviking96 at yahoo dot com). Thanks!

A Poor Widow’s Offering

person holding pink piggy coin bank

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Reading the Word

Mark 12:41–44 (ESV)

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Parallel Text: Luke 21:1-4

Understanding and Applying the Word

In today’s passage we read of a woman who gave “two small copper coins, which make a penny.” The coins that are mentioned are lepta. A lepton was a Jewish coin worth about 1/128th of a day’s wage. So, two coins would have only been worth about 1/64th of a daily wage. The two coins were of a very small value. They were insignificant by worldly standards.

Jesus commented on the woman’s offering and remarked that the woman had given more than the rich people who put in large sums. Why did he say this? Because the rich gave out of their excess. It was easy for them to give the amounts they did. They would never miss it! However, the woman was poor and gave all that she had to live on. Her gift was truly sacrificial and revealed what was truly valuable to her.

It is a well-known saying: “Show me what a person spends his money on and I will tell you what is truly important to him.” What would our financial records reveal about us. Do we put God and his kingdom first, or are we only ready and willing to give out of our excess? How we use our money, possessions, and time truly reveals what is most important to us.

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