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 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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Honor or Riches

Reading the Word

Proverbs 11:16–17 (ESV)
16 A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches.
17 A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

Understanding and Applying the Word

At first glance these verses may seem strange. It may seem verse 16 contradicts verse 17. This is the beauty of proverbs. They make us stop and think. We have to consider carefully each word if we are going to understand their message.

In the first verse, we are told that being gracious brings honor while violence brings riches. It may seem that both the gracious and the violent are receiving good things until we read the next verse. In verse 17, we are told that being kind is beneficial, but being cruel will come back to hurt you. How do we make sense of this?

Honor is far better than riches. The gracious person receives honor, which is the respect and love of others, whereas the violent gain only material wealth. They do not receive honor. The one who is kind helps himself because others will like him and help him if need arises. The cruel man hurts himself because no one will come to his aid. He will be on his own. It is far better to live our lives in grace than in pursuit of riches because honor is far more valuable than material wealth.

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The Danger of Riches

The Rich Young Man Went Away Sorrowful

The Rich Young Man Went Away Sorrowful (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 18:18–30 (ESV)

18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again, we read Jesus’ teaching on money and possessions. This time, a ruler (i.e. a wealthy person with power) went to Jesus to ask what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus told him that he needed to keep the commandments as recorded in the Old Testament law. Jesus specifically mentioned the commandments not to murder, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness, as well as the command to honor father and mother. The young ruler replied that he had done all of those things.

After the rich ruler’s response, Jesus told him there was one thing that he lacked. He needed to sell all of his things and distribute his wealth to the poor. This last statement touched on the last of the commandments traditionally found in the Ten Commandments. It is the commandment concerning coveting. This ruler obviously had a problem with coveting material wealth as he was unable to part with his things. In exposing this sinful problem, it also exposed a problem with the ruler’s relationship with God. Money, wealth, and possessions were far too important to this man. They had taken a place in his life and passions that should be reserved for God alone. Wealth had become an idol. The rich ruler was guilty not only of the last commandment, but also the first four that deal with a proper relationship with God.

Wealth and possessions can easily entangle us. We must be careful not to allow them to become our focus or source of security and happiness. The Lord must be all of those things. He is far better than anything we could ever possess and there is nothing that we could ever give up that will compare to knowing and belonging to the One who gave his life that we might be his.

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A Story About a Lover of Money

Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door

The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man’s Door (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 16:19–31 (ESV)

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Often mistaken as a historical account, this parable is commonly referred to as The Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus is still addressing the Pharisees who Luke calls “lovers of money.” Luke’s Gospel speaks a great deal about the proper place of money and possessions and warns about covetousness. Jesus calls us to use our wealth for the glory of God and to further the kingdom rather than hoarding it for our own selfish desires.

The parable describes a poor man named Lazarus and an unnamed rich man. Lazarus, who was also covered in sores, was a beggar who desired to eat some of the food that would fall from the rich man’s plate. When the two died, Lazarus is ushered to the side of Abraham with the people of God. The rich man, on the other hand, went to Hades and was in constant torment every day. This would have been quite shocking since wealth was seen as the blessing of God and poverty, God’s curse. Jesus’ hearers would have expected opposite fates for the rich man and Lazarus.

In Hades, the rich man called out for relief, but none was granted. Instead, he was told that he had enjoyed all of his good things in life. Rather than obey the Scriptures by loving others such as Lazarus and putting the things of God first, the rich man had lived selfishly with no regard for God or others. As a result, God’s judgment had fallen upon him and it was fixed.

Jesus spoke a great deal about our attitude towards wealth because our attitude towards money and possessions is a key indicator of our relationship with the Lord. When our relationship with the Lord is healthy, money is understood as a tool that is necessary for life in this world and as an opportunity for us to glorify God. We can use our wealth to further the kingdom of God in the world by helping the poor, giving to our church, or supporting missionaries on the field, etc. However, if we cling too tightly to our money and think of it only as our own, we reveal that we have an idol. All we have is the Lord’s and how we use it tells us a great deal about ourselves.

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Do You Serve God or Money?

photography of one us dollar banknotes

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Luke 16:10–13 (ESV)

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

It has been said, “Show me a person’s checkbook and I will tell you what is really important to that person.” I find this to be a true statement. Where a person spends his money reflects what is truly important. It is also true that a person who mishandles a small amount of money and possessions will mishandle a larger amount. A person does not magically become a better and wiser steward when given more.

Jesus’ primary point in these verses is summarized in the last verse. One cannot serve two masters. A person cannot serve God and money. Jesus’ point is not to say that money is evil in and of itself. Money has its proper place. It is a tool that we use in our world. We need it for basic survival. We can also use money for great good by helping others or using it to help spread the gospel message. However, it can become a great idol when we think of money as the source of happiness and fulfillment. When we think this way, not only are our affections misplaced, but we will spend all of our time trying to gain more of it. It will consume our thoughts and actions. When this happens, it has become our master.

We are called to worship God and God alone. We are to have no idols. So, for the believer, God must be the focus of our affections and actions. All that we do is for him, including how we use our money and possessions. We must use it for his glory and to fulfill his will. How we use our money is an opportunity to worship our Lord and to show who we truly belong to. In the end, we will give an account for how we have used the things that God has given to us. Will we prove that we are trustworthy stewards of the things of God?

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It’s Not About Possessions

shopping bags

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Jesus Christ throughout 2019.

Reading the Word

Luke 12:13–15 (ESV)

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

The Danger of Prosperity

woman in maroon long sleeved top holding smartphone with shopping bags at daytime

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Psalm 73:4–9 (ESV)

4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. 7 Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 8 They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. 9 They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Psalm 73:4-9 resumes by speaking about the seeming prosperity of the wicked. They are healthy and well-fed. They live care-free lives. They are proud and arrogant as they speak against others and even against heaven.

These verses describe the danger of prosperity. Great riches and possessions can cause us to become self-sufficient. There is no need to rely on God day-to-day. This is why Jesus said that it is harder for a rich person to go to heaven than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). This is also the point of the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21).

May God give us all that we need, but not so much that we feel we no longer need him. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “Let not the gifts Thy love bestows estrange our hearts from Thee.”

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The Poverty of Riches

pexels-photo-164527.jpeg

Reading the Word

Psalm 49:13–20 (ESV)

13 This is the path of those who have foolish confidence; yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. 15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah16 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. 17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. 18 For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself— 19 his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light. 20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

Understanding and Applying the Word

There are things money cannot buy. Perhaps you are familiar with the song “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Money may bring people close to us for different reasons, but it cannot make someone love us. So too, money is of no value when a person dies. Nothing that a person is able to obtain in this life will follow to the grave. Not our possessions. Not our accomplishments.

So, what will we do to prepare for death? The foolish person will find confidence in possessions and self. The wise will trust in God who is able to save from the power of death. That is exactly why God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. He came to die in our place. He died and rose again to defeat death for us. When we trust in him, rather than ourselves, we find forgiveness and eternal life. Do not place your trust in your wealth, your possessions, or even your accomplishments. None of those things will matter in the end. Trust in God and he will save.

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