On Being Money Wise
Passage: Proverbs 10:1–10:5
Caveats and Introductory Remarks
There are a number of caveats and introductory remarks before we jump into the text.
Happy Father’s Day. This isn’t a Father’s Day sermon - so don’t read anything I’m saying that way. I know this day is a day of celebration for many but also for a lot of you it is a complicated and painful one. If that’s your story, I see you here this morning.
My pace in this sermon might be quick, so I have put a number of the notes that would be tricky to write down in your bulletin and I will post the whole sermon manuscript online by Tuesday if that helps.
Our section of Proverbs is one of comparing or contrasting pairs. These pairings are meant for memorization. The pairings are by nature simplifications and are not exhaustive for their particular subject matter, therefore, it is important to see them in light of the totality of the rest of Scripture. These are general, not exclusive or exhaustive categories.
When I say “money wise” here this morning I actually mean the sum total of stewardship - this means how you spend your time, your money, and all of the things you consume and use, especially your information diet. If you know me at all you know I make up terms a lot - this is one of my Mike-isms. When I say information diet in this sermon, I mean the sum total of all the social media, streaming, tv, web, podcasts, radio, news, articles, magazines, and any other source or medium of content.
Before diving into our specific text, indulge me in helping to set the stage with a few foundational principles that make our text come alive a little bit more. Each one of these could be there own sermon series but I’ve recorded them here in your bulletin for your quick future point of reference:
- God owns everything (Ps. 24:1; 50:10; Heb. 3:4; I Cor. 10:26…)
- God is good, in control, and provides (Jas. 1:17; Ps. 34:8; 107:1)
- As those who bear God’s image, we are created to steward creation, create culture, and be fruitful (Gen. 1:26-28)
- The redemptive work of Jesus is a work that brings wholeness as far as the curse is found and that includes our four primary relationships (Romans 8:20, 21; 2 Peter 3: 13; 1 John 3:1-3):
- God to man
- Man to man
- Man to structures
- Man to creation
- Money, time and consumption are spiritual and reveal what you worship (I Tim. 6:10)
- Good stewardship is often blessed but is also not a guarantee
- Good stewardship often lands us into the sweet spot of neither poverty nor riches
As Ericson led off in this series, the theme of this book is that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” From getting the God to man relationship right we can establish proper relationships in man to man, man to structures, and man to creation itself. Said differently, when we have the fear of the Lord as our cornerstone our relationships in the workplace, marketplace, home, neighborhood, society, and creation we become more ordered and whole. This is the Hebrew idea of shalom. Shalom is more than just peace - it includes peace, wholeness, order, truth, and justice all in one tidy word. Wholeness means everything is ordered the way it should be with respect to priorities, relationships, loves, and wants such that we image God the way He has intended.
Also, by means of background I had a retirement and estate planning practice and was CFO of a small technology company before working here for the last 8 years. It is from these experiences that I have grown personally and learned to care about how we manage these things.
Applying wisdom literature to our lives can be quite varied and we need to be more attentive to what God is saying to ourselves this morning than we are worrying about what it should mean for someone else.
The biggest thing I want you to remember this morning is that money, time, and consumption are spiritual and they each reveal what we worship.
In terms of the structure of this sermon, we are going to analyze the text and what it says and then we are going to spend the lionshare of our time applying it with unusual specificity (for me) to how we utilize our time, money, and information diet because money, time, and consumption are spiritual and they each reveal what we worship.
Our text, Proverbs 10:1-5 are proverbs of Solomon. As I mentioned in the introduction, from chapter 10 to 22 there are numerous sayings from Solomon and some can be clustered like these 5 we are looking at here this morning. Our text follows the same two line pattern of thesis and antithesis. In other words, the first line declares something and then the second line explores the opposite way as a form of contrast.
The contrasts we see in verses 1 to 5 are very straightforward:
- Wisdom vs. foolishness (vs. 1)
- Righteousness vs. wickedness (vs. 2)
- The righteous vs. the wicked (vs. 3)
- Diligence vs. laziness (vs. 4-5)
There was a part of me that thinks, “this passage preaches itself, all I need to do is go up and read it a few times until we all get it.” I’m only part way joking here. This text isn’t that complicated. Another way we could summarize is like this:
Verse 1 - wisdom brings joy and foolishness brings sorrow
Verse 2 - be ethical in your work and profit seeking
Verse 3 - God provides for the righteous
Verse 4 - laziness leads to poverty and diligence leads to surplus
Verse 5 - hard work brings honor and laziness brings shame
There are some interesting dynamics in play here that might be a little distant from us. Family reputation and intra-family reputation probably play a larger role in this culture and society than ours. There is a lot here in this text about honor and shame and the ways in which one person in the family impacts the reputation of the entire unit. Western individualism has cut us off from a lot of these things where we see people as being their own person and not quite as connected to their family of origin. It is beyond the scope of this sermon to evaluate the merits of an honor/shame dynamics versus Western individualism in this sermon but it is worth keeping in mind as we consider the intentions of this particular text.
Another challenge to preaching from the wisdom literature is that these sermons can trend towards legalism. A plain reading of this text would tell you that certain behaviors are good and other behaviors are bad. So, in some sense, I am exhorting you to do the good things and avoid the bad things. The difference, however, is where does the virtue come from?… I am grateful to Jim for laying the groundwork here in his sermon last week. The virtuous life is the one lived with wisdom. Jim spoke of the personification of lady wisdom last week and following this wisdom leads you to the need of Jesus’ work of salvation for His people. Wisdom also leads you to living a prudent and virtuous life after coming to know Jesus. Wisdom helps us discern right from wrong and gradations thereof. Wisdom helps us to believe when other parts of us do not want to. Wisdom helps us to take the longer view of things and live with eternal perspective. So, while the text gives us ethical imperatives, we know that the work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit help us to better apply these ideas.
Going back to the text, let us expand a bit more.
In verse 1 we see that wisdom brings joy and foolishness brings sorrow. Here are those honor and shame family dynamics I mentioned earlier in the text. Honor and shame remind us that we aren’t just individual humans and that our actions reflect upon and reverberate on other people. I don’t say this in a guilt inducing way but merely as an observation that reflects reality. A virtuous life reflects positively on those whom you are closely associated with - friends and family and such and the opposite is also true.
Can you think of a single sin that you’ve committed where you are glad today that you did it?
I genuinely tried hard to think about this and I couldn’t think of a single example.
Would you rather experience wisdom infused joy or sorrow created by folly?
Same thing - I still couldn’t think of a single example of when I chose the path of wisdom over folly.
In verse 2 we are called to be ethical in our work and profit seeking. We are constantly faced with opportunities to be unethical in our work. Here are a few quick examples of unethical behavior from the text:
- Laziness - this is stealing from your employer
- Exploitation of the weak - when you possess more power in a transaction and use that power to give an unfair arrangement with the weaker party - that is exploitation. It is hard to think of many monetary transactions between coequal parties - almost always one party has the upper hand, so part of being ethical, especially when we are the more powerful party in an economic interaction is not to exploit the weaker party.
- Dishonesty - this could be lies of any kind in the workplace and that could be interpersonal or that could be lying on your bookkeeping or other fraudulent activity
Stated positively, being ethical in the workplace means we treat people with all of the fruits of the spirit. We are honest in all our dealings. We pay fairly in all of our dealings even when afforded the opportunity to not have to. We make something right when we have been unfair to others financially or interpersonally and trust the implications, consequences, and provision to God.
In verse 3 we learn that God provides for the righteous. I haven’t always been faithful to God but He has always provided for me. My family has been through some hard things and some very lean times. My first ministry job after seminary was a nightmare. I was so beat up from that experience that we moved back down here to just get regular jobs and heal, but we moved back here with no jobs, no money, and no housing. OGC alumni Scott and Robin Devor were kind enough to let us live with them for a few months while we got back on our feet. God looked after us. He is good and He is in control. I know that can be hard to believe if life has given you trust issues but I promise you that He is good and He is in control. Making wise and virtuous choices even when it might seem to not be in your self-interest will never be regretted.
What's hard about this teaching is that "the righteous" are not merely those that do good works. Good works don't entitle you to God's faithfulness and sin doesn't disqualify you. It's not like God is holding back massive natural consequences to let loose on you as soon as you sin, and it's not like your honesty entitles you to exemption from consequences either. Christ's righteousness on my behalf means God will work all things together for my good. Whether that means shielding me from consequences or shaping me to be like Jesus through them.
Verse 4 teaches us that laziness leads to poverty and diligence leads to surplus
and verse 5 teaches us that hard work brings honor and laziness brings shame. We see in Scripture the ways in which we are connected to others and the implications thereof. There isn’t much of a way to put it much simpler than what the text says. Laziness will lead to poverty and shame and diligence leads to surplus and honor. It is important to note that each verse is not comprehensive or exhaustive in and of itself. There are many examples of people who have been extremely diligent and never had their big break and lazy people who possessed extravagant surplus. There are others who have been defrauded, disinherited, and disadvantaged and just have to deal with the reality of circumstances they didn’t create. Regardless if we come from a place of advantage or disadvantage it is still incumbent upon us to be diligent. Even if we lack a huge surplus in our diligence we possess the honor of being diligent and not bringing shame or scorn on Jesus or our friends and family. I should also say there are real dangers to workaholism leading to a failure to honor and steward our other responsibilities and relationships. There are also dangers to having an overly meritocratic just pull yourselves up by your bootstraps mentality. The way of wisdom avoids both the ditch and the median - sometimes the road is wide and clear and other times it is narrow and more difficult to discern.
TIME and MONEY
Now let’s apply these principles to how we think about the use of our time and money. I am doing these two categories together because time and money overlap quite a bit. We have all heard the adage that time is money. I don’t think the two are synonymous but we can certainly use our time to earn money actively or use time to earn money by investing passively. Here are a few principles that highlight core principles for me on stewarding time and money. Note that some of these things are straight from the Bible and some are just practical wisdom: :
- Delayed gratification is essential to the stewardship of resources
- Eternal rewards are always better than this worldly accumulation
- Oftentimes delayed gratification is what enables, fuels, and accelerates eternal rewards
- Comprehensive budgeting and tracking is essential to ensuring surplus
With respect to time...
- Wise calendaring is helpful to ensuring your commitments are followed through upon
- Don’t steal from your future self or others by not creating a lifelong financial gameplan
- Don’t steal from your most important commitments by over-calendaring lesser commitments
- Let your “yes be yes” and your “no be no” by counting the cost of your commitments and following through on what you say you are going to do
- Store up treasure in heaven by generosity of time, talent, and treasure
Now, those things are principles, I want to get even more nitty gritty and give you all some even more practical takeaways. If I were outside of the wisdom literature I would not usually get this specific but we are in the very practical and straightforward part of the wisdom literature. To make these specific applications I want to talk to a number of very particular groups of people here this morning because how we apply these general principles might look VERY different depending on age, stage of life, and other unique situations.
I want to talk first to those who are unemployed, underemployed, or hate your job. First, I am genuinely sorry and I have been there. If you find yourself in this situation, bring other friends in community into your frustration. Brainstorm together if there are ways to acquire new skills or certifications that would help you move laterally or vertically to change your situation. Audit your use of time to see if there are ways to squeeze in learning new things that could improve your circumstances. If you are unemployed or been underemployed for a long time and are paycheck to paycheck or worse - I want to tell you about a ministry here in the city called “Jobs Partnership.” This ministry provides interview training and other skills that are quite helpful for acquiring better work. Further, they also have a private job fair with some really good employers who have had a lot of success with graduates of their program. Pastor Jonathan is currently working on building our partnership with Jobs Partnership right now.
I want to take a moment here to just talk to all the students here and those who are just a few years into the workforce, so if you are aged 14 to 25 listen up. Please sit down now and develop a comprehensive financial plan all the way until your 90s. For that matter if you are over 30 and haven’t done that please do so. Find a way to live below your means. Find a way to get out of debt. Find a way ideally to live well below your means. Find a way to start investing asap. Find a way to get some mentorship and coaching in this area.
Speaking again here to students, financial freedom is freedom of speech. Financial freedom is freedom of integrity. You will face moments in your life that require the quiet confidence to do or say the right thing. I am not talking about moments to be loud, self-righteous, or a jerk. I am talking about a boss who asks or tells you to do something unethical. I am talking about having to sign something directly in conflict with plain teaching of the Bible. Having significant financial surplus because you delayed gratification, worked diligently, and stewarded well allows you to act with wisdom and virtue in those moments a little bit easier knowing that you’ve prepared in advance for such a moment as this, knowing that you could lose your job for doing the right thing.
Now, I want to speak to anyone who desires marriage or is married. From my pastoral experience the three largest sources of marital conflict are:
A marriage can survive ongoing issues in one of the three areas for a long time, two of the three issues for a brief period of time, but is really hard when all three are going at the same time. My advice to anyone in premarital counseling in the finance session is to do your absolute best to take the financial problems off the table by making, tracking, and keeping your budget.
My family still runs more or less on the same budget we made after we lived on Scott and Robin’s couch. Choose one significant thing or two smaller things that really minister to each household member on a significant level and make some financial investment there and then live frugal lives everywhere else. After about three years of doing this we didn’t have to track anything anymore because we trained ourselves to a pretty basic lifestyle and we got used to saying “no” to all expenses that weren’t our stated one or two high value line items. It is amazing what a long financial obedience in the same direction can be especially if you advance in your work and/or when you get pay raises you just invest more by default without even having to discuss it.
Having a surplus allows you to make more kingdom investments as well. This is deeply satisfying if you can zoom out to an eternal perspective. There is balance there of making sure that you’ve adequately planned for your own future but also ratcheting up your giving to other things that promote the Gospel of Jesus and human flourishing. All of that starts with diligent work, delayed gratification, and prudent planning. At the end of the day it ain’t rocket science. There are only three ways to steward financial resources better:
- Earn more
- Spend less
- Invest wiser
I commend to you all three.
At the end of the day, I just want to provide for my family and maximize what I’m able to do for others. I don’t want to shipwreck my faith with greed or anything else. I don’t want to bring shame on my friends and family by laziness or wickedness.
Now, I want to also apply these things to the concept of our information diet that I introduced earlier in the sermon. If you recall, your information diet is the sum total of all the social media, streaming, tv, web, podcasts, radio, news, articles, magazines, and any other source or medium of content.
I remember when I was a little kid growing up my momma always said to me and my brother, “Boys, garbage in, garbage out.”
Well that’s kinda what I want to say to you all here this morning. If you want to be like the righteous man in the text who is exercising wisdom, diligence, and stewardship then you have to mind what voices you allow to form and shape you. Church if you are filling your soul with garbage then the fruit of all of that is going to be garbage as well.
Here is another way to think about this that is stated in the positive. Pursue wisdom. She will feed your soul. She will make you healthy. She will give you length of days. Desiring and choosing wisdom is so important when we are bombarded with junk food all day long.
I’ve never seen so much stuff that we have to sort through than this season of my life. There are so many different mediums jockeying for our attention with so many different motives and angles it is dizzying and disorienting. The natural inclination in murky waters and foggy skies is to be prone to fear and seek shelter in what is comfortable. This natural inclination might not always be helpful. Like Jim unpacked in our confessional and missional sermon series, discernment involves looking at every piece of content seeking to comprehend it, seeing what is commendable in it, and then critiquing it. Comprehension means that you have understood someone else position to such an extent that you can state it to them in a manner where they reply, “yes, you have heard me correctly.” Commendation means that you have found where a particular position accords with God’s Word and general revelation and can genuinely appreciate those elements. Critique is where you see where those things are out of step with God’s Word and general revelation and therefore are erroneous, telling half truths, or just lying to you.
My soul is grieved when I go online and see Christians posting easily debunked conspiracy theories, uncharitable things or voices, or content seemingly created to induce fear. These things can be all over the map in terms of where they are coming from but I would be remiss if I didn’t remind us that secularism in the West comes from both political polarities. When I was in Italy I saw what a 90 year battle between the secular left and secular right did to the Italian people. The far right was ascendant in the 30s and 40s and the secular left was ascendant in the 50s to 70s and the fruit of it all was nearly unilateral disillusionment, disenchantment, cynicism, and utter resignation that nothing will ever change. Neither the secular left vision or secular right vision have a proper understanding of the issues. A good friend of mine is fond of saying that evangelicals have good categories for errors that come from their left and are ever vigilant there but many lack categories for error that comes from their right flank. Which is more likely here at OGC, for someone to be deceived and join antifa or for someone to be deceived and join the alt-right? Both are dangerously wrong and ironically actually look pretty similar - both are militant, violent, fundamentalist, and authoritarian. And when you squint they actually look kinda similar because they both share the same pagan secular roots.
All this to say, fear and defensiveness are always worth interrogating in prayer and discussed in wise and mature Christian community. The next time I am worked up about something or really recoiling or reacting to something, stop, take a deep breath, and start praying about it. After that I suggest you make a note of that and then text a wise and mature friend or a counselor and say, ‘hey, can we get together… I found myself getting really fearful or defensive when I was thinking about XXXXX and I would really like to explore that with you.’ If there is one thing I have noticed during this past year is people have gotten worked up or defensive about a lot of things. Those things are worth interrogating in prayer and community. This little quote from Keller always gets me:
“The sin that is most destructive in your life right now is the one you are most defensive about”
To do any of these things well you need to have knowledge of two things - this is just John Calvin by the way:
- Knowledge of God
- Knowledge of self
You need to know that God is good and in control and will provide for those who walk in step with His character. You need to know your own strengths and weaknesses so you can put yourselves in circumstances where you will thrive and minimize circumstances where you will struggle.
Remember again what I said in the beginning, the biggest thing I want you to remember this morning is that money, time, and consumption are spiritual and they each reveal what we worship.
Your calendar, your bank or credit card statements, and your information diet reveal who your real God or gods are. At some point you should ask a wise trusted friend for an independent audit of your information diet, time and money. Even more than this, if you want to grow in how you steward your time, money, and information diet you will need to go on a journey for how you respond to the ups and downs of life. Just like weight loss schemes don’t yield long term results, there is no substitute for the “diet and exercise” equivalent of an exploration of your own story.
Everybody self-medicates - it is just a matter of what you self-medicate with. I get it - life is hard and it is scary. Hopefully our burdens increasingly get laid at the feet of Jesus and aren’t just drowned in binge streaming, retail therapy, or emotional eating. I’m guilty of all of that but I want to increasingly embrace the inevitable tensions that life brings and honestly sit in all that and keep taking that to the Lord.
I can pretty much guarantee that everyone in this room is addicted to something. For most of you it is caffeine, for others its food, for others its maybe secretly alcohol, for others its sex or porn, for others its pain meds, and for others its deeper drugs. I want to give my sincere respect for anyone here who is leaning into the pain in your story that led you into addiction - the relationships that didn’t work. The parent who wasn’t there for you. The loss you just can’t see to recover from. The child who has wandered away. I see you this morning. Jesus feels your pain. He comes to you this morning with a gigantic hug and hope for the person wrestling quietly in your inner person. He is intimately acquainted with your pain. He cares.
When we understand why we self-medicate our sad, painful, frustrating, or traumatic circumstances it helps us connect the dots between our story and our habits. All of your habits are spiritual. Remember what we said in the beginning: money, time, and consumption are spiritual and they each reveal what we worship.
What voices or mediums in your information diet produce the opposite of the fruits of the Spirit? Is God convicting you to fast from any of these things right now?
If yes, I would encourage you to turn some things off and use that time to pray instead.
What burden do you need to lay at the foot of Jesus instead of self-medicating?
What broken relationship do you need to lay at the foot of Jesus instead of self-medicating?
What painful life event do you need to lay at the foot of Jesus instead of self-medicating?
I urge you this morning to pursue wisdom by trusting Jesus. This world is simply too painful and broken. Anything else is just papier mache.