I Pity the Fool: Wealth

Proverbs was written as a curriculum for adolescents – and the goal was to help these adolescents grow into wise adults.

We’ve mentioned every week that wisdom is the ability to see things for how they really are and then to make wise decisions in light of that reality.  It’s different than smarts, or abilities or sophistication or morality.  Wisdom is required as we make daily decisions that determine our destiny.

It is a collection of the saying of Solomon – who was the once the wisest human being who ever walked on the face of the earth, until Jesus showed up and boldly declared that he was wiser than Solomon.  And that the one who is truly wise is the one who hears Jesus teaching and puts them into practice.

That was how Jesus concluded his famous Sermon on the Mount, which you can read in the Book of Matthew, chapters 5,6,7.  In that sermon Jesus paints a picture for us of the kind of human beings that he intends to turn us into.  He says he can take our lot and make us the light of the world.

Now – in that famous sermon of Jesus’ he identifies three major issues that, if not addressed, are sure to impede our transformation into the light of the world kinds of people.   Jesus points out three things that are sure to hinder our spiritual growth if we aren’t aware of them and careful.  Do you know what they are?

Jesus warns us of three transformation blockers:

1.  People pleasing.  Matthew 6:1  “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.  We will save this topic for another day – but Jesus warns that being overly concerned about what other people think about me will inevitably make it more difficult for me to be changed into God’s vision for me.

2.  Worry:  25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?

Worry is the result when a genuine concern gets out of control in our thinking.  There’s plenty of things to be concerned about in life, but worry wants us to imagine that whatever that concern is, it’s bigger than God.  Worry has a tendency to remove God from the picture.

So if people pleasing replaces God, and worry makes God invisible, then the third thing makes God irrelevant – and that’s money.  And third thing that will impede our spiritual journey?  The issue we are going to investigate today:  Money: 

Matthew 6:19  19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

So today we are going to look at what proverbs says about money.  Because it says a lot.  How the wise handle their wealth.

1.  Proverbs teaches that The wise work hard.

Proverbs 10: 4 Lazy people are soon poor;
hard workers get rich.

This is a good time to remind us that proverbs are principles not promises.  There are people who work hard and cannot escape poverty.  But generally – the principle is that hard work is important and will result in wealth.

One of the Ten Commandments is that we should honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.  And in our world – we often hear it preached that we should take a day off!  For heaven’s sake, stop working.

But there’s another angle on that commandment.  That commandment seems to indicate that we should be working six days.  Now in our culture we’ve said five days in plenty – but the point is, that God expects us that – if we are able – we should work.

2.  Don’t work too hard.

Proverbs 23 NLT

Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.
Be wise enough to know when to quit.

Work hard – but – don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Work hard, but not too hard.  Keep your life in balance.  You are more than your work.  You are more than the amount of money you have in your bank account.  If you base your identity on the amount of money you have – then you are in trouble.  Why?  The next verse tells us why…

In the blink of an eye wealth disappears,
for it will sprout wings
and fly away like an eagle
.

Come back to me Benjamin.  I wish my birds were named Benjamin.  My birds are named Abraham and George.  Whatever their names – off they go –

We must not make money the ultimate thing in our life.  Going back to Jesus’ teaching – if we make money the bedrock upon which we are building our lives – we are fools.  Because money can burn.  And be stolen.  And be wasted. It flies away.

And the wise know that money can never actually satisfy.  Ecclesiastes 5:10

10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!

We must not make anything that can be burned or walk away from us – the ultimate thing in our life.   Which leads us to the third teaching about the wise and their money.

3.  The wise are generous. 

Proverbs 11:25  The generous will prosper;
those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

The reason Jesus warns us about money is because he knows that money has a way of dislodging God as the most important thing in our heart.  Money insulates us from our need for God.  It makes him irrelevant.

And how would we know if money has become the most important thing to us?  Simple:  We cannot give it away.

See – Money wants to be our master.  That’s why Jesus tells us that no one cans serve two masters.  If God isn’t our master, than often, money starts bossing us around.  Don’t let money be your master.

Money didn’t die on the cross for you.  Money didn’t rise from the tomb – money doesn’t promise to never leave you and never forsake you.  Only Jesus does these things.

My precious!  But The wise know that money is temporal – but – that through generosity – money can be transformed into something that is eternal.   

There is an interesting section in Proverbs and with this I’ll wrap up our talk…  it comes from

Proverbs 3:9-11

Honor the Lord with your wealth
and with the best part of everything you produce.
10 Then he will fill your barns with grain,
and your vats will overflow with good wine.

11 My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t be upset when he corrects you.

These verses indicate that there are two great tests of faith that often – if not always – will come our way.  Two times of great spiritual danger – and – the flip-side – these same two times offer us an opportunity for great spiritual growth.  It all depends on how we react to these situations.

What are these two great tests?  How do we respond when everything is going our way?  And the second- how do we respond when nothing is going our way.

How do we respond when we have plenty?  Will we honor the Lord with that?  And secondly – How do we respond when we have nothing. Will we reject the Lord unless things go our way?

Both of these times – times of plenty and times of hardship – are tests of our faith.  They will either crowd us toward God or away from him.

What we do with our money – matters.  It is both an indicator of the condition of our soul – and it’s also an instrument that makes our soul healthier.

I’m so proud of you Journey Church, for the – I took a look this week at what we’ve been able to give away because of your generosity – over the past ten years – Journey has given more than $1million away to the work in Mali and Togo, feeding orphans in Haiti, as well as helping people in our own church and community.   For that I am rightfully proud of you and so very very thankful.

What a joy to serve in a church that understands the great privilege God has presented to us – to change that which is perishable – into something imperishable.

What does the light of the world look like?  It looks a lot like a group of people who sacrificially give in order to build a hospital in a country they will likely never visit, to save lives they will likely never meet, in order that those who have not yet heard of Jesus can hear about him, choose to follow him, and in turn be transformed into different kinds of human beings who become the salt and light of the world.  Like you.