Prov. 11:1; 20:17; 8:18-21; 10:4; 13:11; 10:22
Ok, yesterday we learned how to become poor. Actually, this isn't quite accurate. If you’ve traveled the world at all, or if you’ve studied human history, then you should realize this: The default position for humanity is poverty. As Jane Jacobs put it, "To seek 'causes' of poverty is to enter an intellectual dead end because poverty has no causes. Only prosperity has causes." We were brought into this world naked, and we have to work to move out of that state. Most people who've ever lived had to do so in a constant struggle to stay alive. If they had enough to eat during the day, if they had basic clothing and shelter to protect them from the elements, and if they were able to fight off predators, then that was success. But as you’ll recall, we’re made in God’s image. We weren’t supposed to merely survive like animals; we’re supposed to improve our situation. We’re meant to take what the Lord has created and improve upon it. He created the trees, and we cut them down to make houses. He created the flowers, and we use them for a variety of purposes. Of course, we can’t create anything out of nothing like he can, but we’re designed to reflect our Creator and glorify him by imitating him in a small way. And one word that we use to describe this improvement process is called “wealth.”
So what’s Solomon’s pathway to getting wealthier? You won’t find any “get rich quick” schemes in his book. That makes sense, since he’s already said that that type of foolishness (“chasing fantasies”) only leads to poverty. No, if you want real wealth, which is as secure as we can get in this world, here’s what he says you need to do:
• Be scrupulously honest in your business dealings. Both 11:1 and 20:17 warn us against cutting corners in order to make a buck. If you’ve heard about the “dishonest scales” before, then I apologize. But for those unfamiliar with the reference, merchants selling a product in the market would typically have two different types of weights to use when measuring for a transaction. If they were selling products, they'd use the light weights. If they were buying, they'd use the heavy weights. All of this was so that they could cheat other people, and the Lord "detests" it. Money gained by dishonest means might taste “sweet” at first, but it certainly doesn’t end up that way.
• Cultivate wisdom. That’s Wisdom--anthropomorphized as a woman--speaking in 8:18-21. Yes, it starts with our relationship with the Lord, but as we start to understand his word more, that’ll lead to understanding people better.
• Not to beat a dead horse, but you’ve got to work hard. If you’re the last one punching in and the first punching out at the end of the day, then that’s not the path to prosperity.
• Save. I know, for a lot of people, that’s a four-letter word. And I know that there are some (sincere) Christians who believe that you display a lack of trust in God when you save up for retirement and for emergencies. But the same Lord who told us not to trust in wealth for our security also advises us to “[gather] money little by little [and make] it grow.” Don’t invest in a fool’s trap like the lottery. Find some good investments and save up over time.
• And finally, trust in your Heavenly Father to prosper you as he sees fit. Some of his children he decides to give only what they need; there are some believers who are called to live in poverty. Others are called into a life of relative prosperity. But whether he decides to feed you on Ramen noodles or to make you as rich as Bill Gates, you can be sure of one thing. Whatever wealth he blesses you with, it won’t come with any “painful toil.” No guilt because you stole it from someone else. No looking over your shoulder for an enemy out for revenge. And no worries attached to it: If you lose it all in one day like Job did, then you can respond like Job did.
And that’s Solomon’s formula for success. No deep dark secrets. No financial wizardry that’ll make you rich overnight. But if you adopt these principles, then you’ll be better off than if you don’t. I’ve said it before, to myself as much as to anyone else: No one ever did things God’s way who regretted it in the end. And that you can take to the bank.
Father God, I know that you want what’s best for me, and you have my best interests at heart. No matter how you choose to bless me, you do all things well. Please help me to be a good steward of what you’ve loaned me, because one day I’ll have to give it all up and give an accounting to you.