hen business magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money it would take to satisfy a person, he said, “Just a little bit more.” Those words from decades ago still ring true.
Remember when you thought a new car or a bigger house would make you happy? Most likely the purchase gave you a euphoric feeling for a few days, but the newness soon wore off . . . and you were back to facing the same realities of life you faced before. The new possession had changed neither your circumstances nor your attitude. It was just a “fleeting pleasure” (Eccl. 2:1 TV).
While some refuse to write in their Bible, I am an underliner. If a verse of Scripture speaks to me, I underline it so I will remember it later. Recently, I took time to look through all the verses I had underlined in the Book of Proverbs. I was amazed that this book was written for a Twitter generation—most of its proverbs are stated in 140 characters or less.
I was further struck by how many of the proverbs deal with money and possessions. Let’s look at a few of them.
Trust in the Lord
Too often in our finances we want to trust in our own knowledge, or the knowledge of some hotshot stockbroker. However, Proverbs 16:20 says, “Blessed is he who trusts in the Lord” (NASB). We should rely on the Lord more than we rely on The Wall Street Journal in making financial decisions.
Have you ever sincerely asked the Lord to guide your financial decisions, or do you just go to Him whining and complaining when you have no money? He wants to “direct your [financial] paths” from beginning to the end (3:6).*
Give to God First
Anytime the pastor announces he is going to preach a message about tithing —especially from Malachi 3:8-10- attendance drops, for who wants to be preached to about “robbing” God? Yet, Proverbs 3:9 is just as direct about giving back to God: “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.”
By honoring God with the first 10 percent of your income, “your barns will be filled with plenty” (v. 10). You may not have a barn, but wouldn’t you like to see your bank account filled and running over?
There is no better financial advice than to plan ahead. A budget helps you accomplish this. Even the word budget makes some people break out in hives. So instead of budget, let’s call it a “spending plan.” It tells you how much you have and then lays out how that money is to be spent.
Proverbs 6:6 tells us to “go to the ant. . . . Consider her ways and be wise.” The ant plans ahead for the barren winter days, when there is not going to be any food available, by storing up food in the summer and stockpiling during harvest time (v. 8). If we do not plan ahead, poverty will come upon us “like a prowler” (v. 11). This is a strong warning to the “sluggard” (v. 6).
Leave an Inheritance
Unlike the bumper sticker I saw on an RV—“I am spending my children’s inheritance”—Proverbs 13:22 teaches, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”
An inheritance can be passed on to future generations in many ways. While most think of an inheritance in terms of financial resources, many of us have received a greater inheritance—a godly heritage.
Are you prepared to leave an inheritance to your children, as well as to your children’s children? While financial assets are wonderful to pass on to children and grandchildren, oftentimes that heir may feel more loved if they get a simple item they know belonged to their parent or grandparent. One of my most cherished possessions is a pocketknife that belonged to my grandfather. That small knife symbolizes my great inheritance.
Have a Generous Spirit
Have you noticed that generous people are happy? Second Corinthians 9:7 points out, “God loves a cheerful giver.” In a church bulletin these words once appeared: “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. He also accepteth from a grouch.”
Proverbs 22:9 says those who are generous will be blessed. Generosity comes in many forms and fashions. Do you consider yourself generous? Do you struggle just to pay your tithes? Does it make your heart rejoice to be able to give of your money and time to those less fortunate than you?
Generosity can occur through your regular giving but also through your planned giving as a part of your estate. Have you considered giving a tenth of your estate to your local church at your death? If you pay your tithes on your income now, why not consider tithing on your estate at your death? Think of the blessing that gift could be to your local church. Be generous in your life and in your death.
Follow God’s Wisdom
While there are an abundance of verses in the Book of Proverbs on riches and wealth, I see at least three things that surpass financial well-being:
• Fear of the Lord: “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble” (15:16).
• A good name: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold” (22:1).
• Finding a spouse: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (18:22). Without doing harm to the Scripture, I think we can say this verse applies to finding a good husband.
There are many things money cannot buy. Money can buy a bed but not sleep . . . books but not brains . . . food but not an appetite . . . finery but not beauty . . . a house but not a home . . . medicine but not health . . . pleasures but not peace . . . luxuries but not culture . . . amusement but not joy . . . a church building but not heaven . . . a gold cross but not a Savior.
While we all want to be financially secure during our working years and in retirement, we must remember we have a higher calling: “The way of life winds upward for the wise” (15:24).
A fulfilled life, regardless of our bank account, can only be found in following Jesus Christ.
* Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.
Arthur (Art) D. Rhodes is president and chief executive officer of the Church of God Benefits Board, Inc. and Church Loan Fund, Inc., in Cleveland, Tennessee. [email protected]