The future comes with incredible regularity. A day gives way to another day, a week gives way to another week, a month gives way to another month, and a year gives way to another year. What we do in the past impacts our choices in the future. If we don’t live a healthy lifestyle, it can impact how we live in the future. If we don’t invest in key relationships, at some point we may experience a relational break down. If we don’t keep things in line financially, it can limit our choices when we look ahead.
The good financial choices we make today give us options for the future. Proverbs 31:10-21 is often used as a reference to a woman with good character. But looking at the text overall you will see that a woman of character is wise with money and “has no fear for her household” because she has been financially wise:
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
Money is not a popular subject for most, but money is one of the most addressed topics in the Bible. If you have ever worried about having enough for your future, overspent your budget, had a hard time giving, been unable to meet the need of another, or worried about the economy, then you are not alone. There are many principles to consider when it comes to finances, but I have found five specific values within Proverbs that are worth considering.
Earn It Honestly
Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice. Proverbs 16:8
The simple teaching here is to earn your money honestly. There are even more verses about earning money with integrity and honesty:
- Proverbs 11:1 The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.
- Proverbs 13:11 Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.
- Proverbs 28:6 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.
Basically, it is better to be poor and doing things right than to be wealthy and doing things dishonestly. Have you ever received incorrect change in your favor and hesitated to make it right? Proverbs warns that if you are willing to be dishonest in small things, it shows your honesty is more about how you are seen in this world. We have choices all the time with being honest about money. Dishonesty comes through more than blatant theft. It can be seen by taking things home from the office, being fraudulent with our taxes, conducting dishonest deals, lacking disclosure, or shorting an employer in hours or effort.
Spend It Wisely
Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. Proverbs 24:27
This Proverb advises us to spend money on an asset first, before spending it on something that doesn’t offer a return to you. We are bombarded with messages to spend in order to be happy. This often leads to spending beyond our means. Proverbs cautions us to take care of the essentials before spending on something that’s just nice to have. In our consumeristic society, we spend for different reasons – as a compulsion, out of emotion, when we’re bored, or to establish status. John Maxwell describes it this way: “A budget is people telling their money where to go, rather than wondering where it went.”
Save It Consistently
…the wise stir up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down. Proverbs 21:20
Wise people are savers. Some studies show that 70% of Americans live pay check to pay check. Pastor John Ortberg talks about two kinds of people when it comes to money – nerds and hippies. Nerds are those who always make sure they have everything in line and everything balances. Hippies are those who only want to spend. And nerds usually marry hippies. In reality, it’s necessary to find a balance between the extremes. If you only worry about saving, you won’t live in the present and you won’t enjoy the life that you have today. But if you live so fully in the present that you don’t save, you won’t be prepared for what you face in the future.
Borrow It Sparingly
The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7
There are two kinds of debt – good debt and bad debt. Good debt is something that you borrow for something that appreciates in value. Borrowing for something like an education, an asset, a business opportunity, or a house is good debt. Bad debt is something that you borrow for something that depreciates in value. Borrowing for vacation, clothes, food, or an automobile is bad debt. The challenge of debt subjects us to pressure in life. Debt results in earning pressure in order to earn more money to service our debt. This leaves us without joy. Debt erodes our buying power. Debt can lead to the temptation to cut corners or become manipulative. Bad debt is driven by a desire for more and an unwillingness to be content with what we have. Laurence Shames put it like this in his book The Hunger for More: “The things that we have, however wonderful, tend to pale in comparison to those things we might still get.”
Give It Generously
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops… Proverbs 3:9
A farmer in that day would give the first 10% of his crops to the Temple in order to honor God before keeping anything for himself. In our world today, that equates to giving the first portions, not the leftovers to honor God. God can do more with the 90% that we have left when we give him the first 10%. Proverbs 11:24 describes it like this: “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” When we give, God works and resupplies back to us. When we give generously, we experience joy and it often comes back to us. Giving addresses our consumeristic desire for more in the face because we give before considering what we get.
Proverbs 19:17 echoes that principle: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” When you take resources and help others who don’t have as much, God says that it’s like lending to God and He will satisfy that debt. It’s not giving to get. It’s God describing Himself as the ultimate creditor. You can’t out give God.
Proverbs 11:4 gives us even more than these five principles: “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” There is coming a day that the pile of what you have accumulated won’t matter at all. It will have no value on the day that you stand before God in judgment. Righteousness is something that no one has. The only righteousness you have is through what Christ has done on your behalf. All of your money is ultimately going away, so make sure you handle your future in this world. But make sure you also handle your future beyond this world. One day your money won’t buy you anything.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:26, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Money is just a tool in this life. All that you gain will not help you when you stand before God. Your only right-standing will come with what you have done with Jesus Christ.