Sunday, 16 November 2008

Be wise with money...

The last few weeks and months have been full of reports of people and institutions not being wise with money.

What wisdom does Scripture give us?

Well - two passages in proverbs have really spoken to me recently.

From Proverbs 3: "9 Honour the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine."

This is an often misquoted passage by those trying to sell the prosperity gospel. Yes I do mean "sell", because it is almost always accompanied by an appeal for funds. Therefore the promise of blessing is being touted as the return service for the sale. I fundamentally disagree with the way this passage can be used, so let me explain why is struck me as being useful.

This is biblical wisdom, and has so much to tell us about how to be wise with money.

1) Honour God first and foremost - that includes the pay check
2) Give to God first - that means two things. Firstly - priority of God over all else. Secondly - in order to give to God first you have to know what you have and so budgeting becomes part of the process.
3) It implies work - the crops don't arrive by accident. Wealth is the product of hard work, not a short cut cosmic blessing solution.
4) It does not imply status symbols or wasting money - it implies you will have enough of what you need, and more. This is not an excuse for excess, but rather saying you will have what you need. If you remember God He won't forget you. Then you will have enough for you and enough to share or to save. This is not ticking the box that allows you to buy a Ferrari with a clear conscience - this is what you need for now, what others need for now, or what you or others may need for the future. The blessing is for what we need, not for what we want.

Proverbs 23 says:

4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
have the wisdom to show restraint.

5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

I know many people who are wearing themselves out to get rich. I know many people who don't show restraint. It is wise to live simply and to hold things lightly, to show restraint. This is not talking about hard work to feed and house and clothe yourself and your family, this is to get rich. There is a huge difference in having our needs met, in having our needs met and overflowing, and in trying to get rich. Some of the wealthiest people I know live as those whose needs are daily met and thank God for it. Some of the poorest people I know wear themselves out to get rich.

This is the point where ambition and aspiration overcome calling and rob us of joy and peace. This is the point where status symbols and purchasing decisions move well beyond our needs and what the item does for us and into what owning the item says about us.

Verse 5 must be one of the most important verses in post credit crunch Britain. Not only is it wisdom, but it is prophetic, and it is prophetic that has proved true. The problem with giving ourselves for riches is twofold. Firstly we wear ourselves out to get them and secondly when we get them we can lose them. That is not just "You can't take it with you when you die" wisdom, but actually - that pension, that house, those investments - what happens if they go up in a puff smoke? What next? Where does our security lie? Many millions of pounds of money has flown off like an eagle into the sky.

So as I look at this wisdom and seek to take it on board I can see several themes.

Honour God - not riches
Work hard to have what you need - don't wear yourself out to get rich
We can rely on God - we can't rely on riches

God can and will bless some of us with wealth, for what we need, for what others need, for His work on earth. He comes first because it comes from Him, not because there is an outside chance we may get a bit more. What we do get is for what we need, which in this culture requires restraint. Whatever we have may not last, so we should not hold onto it too strongly.

I love the way scripture is littered with clear, wise counsel for life.

1 comment:

Jongudmund said...

good stuff. my pension pot grew by £100 last tax year, despite my employer putting over £1700 into it.

So I don't feel so bad for ignoring that pension advisor who told me I ought to be putting as much into it as I possibly could when I had my review three years ago.