************ Sermon on Proverbs 10:22 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 28, 2016
"Wealth and Poverty"
In Proverbs, God gives us wisdom for living under Jesus. God gives us wisdom to discern between good and evil (1 Ki 3:9). God gives us an understanding mind, a listening mind, as we make decisions in day-to-day life. Today, we want to look at the wisdom of Proverbs as it relates to wealth and poverty.
In Proverbs, we do not find the proud, simplistic conclusion that poverty is always caused by laziness. Nor do we find the proud, simplistic conclusion that riches are a sign of being righteous. Nor does Proverbs endorse the view of Bernie Sanders that the answer to poverty is to coddle the poor and foster dependency. Nor does Proverbs endorse the view that the rich have no responsibility towards the poor.
So, then, what wisdom does Proverbs give us when it comes to wealth and poverty?
Proverbs 10:22 (God's Blessing)
"The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it" (Prov 10:22).
"The blessing of the LORD brings wealth." Do you know what I see here? God is our business partner. If you have a money problem, your problem is first with the Lord; for whatever reason, He has chosen not to bless you. Your job, your employer, your business, your farm, your dairy, your truck does not provide for you; God does.
The news has been full of the 1%. These are the top 1% of the people on this planet who control 50% of its wealth. Most of them credit their wealth to inheritance, to wise investments, to hard work. Very few of them give the credit to God.
B "He adds no trouble to it." What does that mean? When you make money by the blessing of the Lord, you do not have to bend the rules. You can keep your promises. You do not have to overwork. You can make time for your family. You conscience can stay clear. You can make enough money to share with others. There is no trouble or sorrow or tragedy in any of this.
C "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth ..." Underlying this sentence is an assumption, teaching, about God. Namely, that wealth is God's to give away because He is the Creator. This fertile valley we live in was made by God. California's gold country was made by God. The teeming life of the ocean was made by God. The foothills covered in grass were made by God. The silver and gems hidden in the earth was made by God. As the psalmist puts it:
(Ps 24:1-2) The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (2) for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.It all belongs to God. So it is all God's to give away.
D "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth ..." The wealth of this earth is great and wonderful: gold, silver, gems, rubies, diamonds, cattle, land, vineyards. But even greater is the God Who made them. Which means we should want God more than wealth. Which means we should pursue the Giver rather than the gift. In fact, to look for happiness in anything other than God and Christ ends up being idolatry. As Proverb's theme verse puts it, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov 1:7). It all starts with the fear of the Lord -- a love for the God Who made you, a love for the Son Who saves you, a love for the Spirit Who sanctifies you.
If you don't know God and Christ, regardless of how much money and wealth you may have, your life is empty. If you don't know God and Christ, regardless of how little money and wealth you may have, your life is also empty. But if the Creator is yours, your emptiness has been made full. So whether you are rich or poor or somewhere in-between, seek God with all your heart and love Christ with all your strength.
II Proverbs 10:4; 12:11; 13:11 (Work)
(Prov 10:4) Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.
One of the question asked in Pastor's Class is, "How can we improve our own or our neighbor's material well-being?" Most of my students talk about charity and tithing and being generous. Which is fine and good but it doesn't really answer the question. So I follow up by asking, "What do you need to do in order to be generous and kind?" The answer is so simple and basic that it is obvious -- yet most people in our entitlement society miss it. To improve your own or your neighbor's material well-being you need to work. You need to work hard. You need to work consistently. The answer is not government handouts or charity or get-rich quick schemes.
God makes us for good, hard work. Our bodies and minds thrive when they work. Our emotions and psychology and outlook thrive when we strive towards a goal and reach it. And, when we have something to share with others as well, that makes us really happy.
Ever since 9/11 we have rediscovered an ancient truth -- that poverty is never far away. The "diligent" understand that. Things never automatically turn out well, even in good times. So we need to be diligent. What does that mean? According to Proverbs, one example of diligence is harvesting in the summer while the crops are ripe. The opposite is also true -- we need to avoid laziness. According to Proverbs, an example of laziness is a son who sleeps rather than works during harvest; such a son brings shame to his parents.
God blesses us through our hard work. If you are not going anywhere financially because you have not disciplined yourself and worked hard and made good use of your time and talents, you need to repent. God has not run out of blessings. God cannot run out of blessings. But He does expect us to work hard.
(Prov 12:11) He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.God expects us to work wisely. He doesn't want us to waste our time or talents or resources by following worthless pursuits. Have you ever met someone with all sorts of big dreams and big talk? And yet nothing ever seems to happen? Proverbs wants us to ask questions: Is my dream realistic? Is my dream productive? Or am I just chasing a fantasy?
"He who works his land will have abundant food." Plowing and planting and cultivating can seem like boring work. Doing the same thing day after day can become old. Proverbs tells us to do our work; we are to do our work as willingly and faithfully as the angels of heaven. That's the way to prosperity. That's the way we have enough to share with the needy.
(Prov 13:11) "Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow."Notice that phrase, "little by little." God doesn't provide through the lottery or through Vegas or through insurance lawsuits or through get-rich-quick schemes. God gets us ahead "little by little." That is, by our patient, intelligent, diligent efforts over a lifetime. Wisdom means getting ahead by handfuls, not by windfalls.
Why does God bless us "little by little." Because He is building us. He is building character. He is building wisdom. He is building for eternity. God does not care one particle of emotion about our dollars. But He does care about our character, our traits, our fruits.
III Proverbs 13:23; 6:9-11 (Causes of Poverty)
(Prov 13:23) A poor man's field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.
(Cf Prov 14:31; 22:22)
Poverty because of injustice or disaster or economic downturns is no disgrace. Proverbs has many verses dealing with this. Sometimes the poor are helpless pawns who have no say in the matter and no control about what is going on.
I am hesitant to bring this up after the homeless man set fire to our building last week. But not every homeless person is poor by choice. Two times in the last week I've talked to a couple who've parked behind our Education wing. Both times they were sleeping in the back of their fairly new SUV. They lost their apartment because of a job change, they both have work, but they have nowhere to live until they can get-together the first and last month's rent.
(Prov 6:9-11) How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? (10) A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- (11) and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.
(Cf Prov 20:4; 24:30-34)
Poverty because of injustice or disaster or economic downturns is no disgrace but poverty because of laziness is inexcusable.
The modern welfare system often rewards people who are lazy. The modern welfare system is really big on helping the poor and really small on personal responsibility. The Bible says, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Th 3:10). We make exceptions for mothers and children and the disabled, but able-bodied people who refuse to work when there are jobs available are a disgrace.
IV Proverbs 11:26; 28:25; 11:18; 20:23
In a series of verses, Proverbs warns us about the misuse of wealth.
(Prov 11:26) People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell.
The misuse here is control. Someone selfishly hoards grain to drive up the price. Grain was no luxury in the ancient world. It was a basic element of the diet. So holding back grain was a way to manipulate people at the point of real and daily need. It was a way to take unfair advantage of a situation.
Marquis de Lafayette was a French general and politician who joined the American Revolution and became a friend of George Washington. An influential man in the U.S. and France, Lafayette was also a man of compassion. The harvest of 1782 was a poor one, but the manager of his estate had filled his barns with wheat. "The bad harvest has raised the price of wheat," said his manager. "This is the time to sell."
Lafayette thought about the hungry peasants in the villages and replied, "No, this is the time to give."
The Marquis was like the Lord Jesus. The Marquis could have taken advantage of the situation but he didn't. Instead of thinking of himself, he put others first. Isn't this why we praise and love the Lord Jesus? He sacrificed Himself for our sakes and for our good.
(Prov 28:25) A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.
The misuse here is conflict. The word translated as "greedy" literally means "broad, wide, spread out." I think of the mouth of a whale or a shark spread wide open to scoop up everything in its path. In people, it refers to an uncontrolled, grasping, covetous, never-satisfied appetite for material things. A greedy person is unsatisfied with what he has. In his selfishness, he grabs what belongs to others and triggers conflict. dissension, and strife. The book of James speaks to this:
(James 4:2) You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.
Contrast this kind of person with Jesus. Jesus did not come to take but to give.
(Prov 11:18) The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.
The misuse here is confusion. The wages of the wicked are so deceptive. He thinks money and things will bring happiness. But it doesn't. And it can't. This is one of Satan's lies meant to confuse us because happiness is to be found in Jesus.
(Prov 20:23) The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him.
The misuse here is corruption. "Differing weights" and "dishonest scales" are any kind of dishonesty, any kind of cheating or cutting corners or false advertising. The Lord "detests" this. Very strong language. When we look through the Bible we see that the Lord "detests" homosexual sin, idol gods, child sacrifice, the worship of the sun and moon and stars. All of this is an abomination to the Lord. In other words, you might be sexually pure, you might be in worship every Sunday, but if you cheat people out of their money, what you do is detestable to the Lord.
V Proverbs 30:7-9 (a prayer about poverty and riches)
(Prov 30:7-9) "Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: (8) Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. (9) Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
This is the only prayer in the entire book of Proverbs. Maybe it surprises you. In pre-marital counseling one of the things we talk about is goals for the marriage. How about this for a goal: never go broke, never get rich? This might seem crazy to the world, maybe even to some here, but this really is wisdom.
Wisdom tells us that poverty is dangerous. Wisdom tells us riches are dangerous. Wisdom tells us to live in dependence on God and do as much good with our money as we can.
Proverbs gives us all sorts of wisdom to handle wealth and poverty as saved people. But now let us turn from Gospel-living to the Gospel itself:
(2 Cor 8:9) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Our Savior was rich in heaven. But He gave it up and came down into our poverty, so that we might become rich in Him forever. That is His wisdom. That is true wisdom. It isn't the riches of this earth we want; rather, it is to be rich in Christ, His grace, His peace, His love.
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