Selected Proverbs: April 6—Wisdom in finances
Mar 30, 2014
By MARK A. RATHEL

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
Years ago, I conducted a study of finances in Proverbs. I began by listing every reference to finances I could find within God’s Wisdom book. My list of financial passages from Proverbs filled up four long legal pad sheets. The implications of Proverbs financial teachings are radical. 

Finances are spiritual. Finances are an extension of the person, a reflection of character. As one Old Testament scholar beautifully summarized the teachings of Proverbs regarding finances, “Proverbs is a ‘how to be book,’ not a ‘how to’ book.” Although he did not preach from Proverbs directly, John Wesley, the great evangelist, preached a sermon on money. His main points summarize well the financial teachings in Proverbs: Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.

What principles does Proverbs set forth about personal finances?

First, Proverbs encourages believers to develop the proper attitude toward wealth (Prov. 16:16; 21:1-2; 23-4-5; 28:20: 30:7-9). First, value wisdom more than wealth. Have you counted the appeals to develop riches during a time of watching TV? State lotteries and “health and wealth” preachers both appeal to our desire for wealth. Wealth, wisdom, and spiritual maturity are not incompatible. The Bible never condemns wealth. Proverbs affirms that wisdom without wealth is better than wealth without wisdom. Spiritual values trump material possessions (16:16). 

Second, reputation has more value than wealth (22:1). The action of naming a child is important, yet each person chooses a name by means of the reputation earned. My parents name me, but I choose my name daily though establishing my reputation. Third, while Proverbs encourages hard work, Solomon also warned against becoming a “workaholic” for the sake of riches (23:4). Fourth, Proverbs warns that wealth may cause a person to become independent of God (30:7-9). 

Second, Proverbs advocates integrity in finances (Prov. 13:11; 15:27; 20:17; 21:6; 22:16; 28:6, 8, 24). The passages listed in the lesson emphasize integrity in personal finances. Proverbs prohibits fraud (13:11), dishonesty (15:27), lying (21:6), and taking advantage of the unfortunate (22:16). These prohibitions apply to personal finances as well as business ethics. Proverbs emphasizes the importance of integrity in business by means of the image of an “honest scale.” Ancient business used two sets of scales in business transactions. Merchants sold “light” but bought “heavy” to increase profits. Unfair commerce is an abomination to the Lord. I joke with college students that the greatest violators of God’s requirement for “honest scales” in America today are the cereal companies. I purchase a little bit of cereal in a giant box.

Proverbs also connects paying debts with financial integrity. Solomon advised against securing a loan for other people (6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26-27; 27:13; 28:8). First, debt is enslavement. “The borrower is a slave to the lender” (22.7). Excessive debt may mean losing property if one is unable to pay (22.7).

Third, Proverbs encourages believers to honor God by means of financial resources (Prov. 3:9-10). Proverbs 3 describes attitudes of worship conducive to faithful giving, namely “trust” (v. 5) and “fear of the Lord” (v. 7).  Giving to God highlights three important worship elements. First, giving honors God. The Hebrew term “honor” means to give someone prominence and public esteem. “Trust” (v. 5) is an inner attitude of worship; giving is an outward manifestation of worship. Second, giving to God is an expression of gratitude. Solomon challenged believers to bring the first (the best) rather than the last. The practice of offering the first of the harvest expressed gratitude for God’s blessings (Deut. 26:9-11). Giving recognizes God as the source of material blessing. Third, giving is sacrificial; therefore, the level of giving should be sacrificial. Fourth, God the source of blessings promises to meet financial needs.

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