Watch Out for Destructive Influences
We Christians are often gullible. I hate to say that, but it's true. Too often we allow our mercy to override our prudence. We lose the common sense of doing things wisely. I like the preacher who said, "I may be born again, but I wasn't born yesterday!" There’s nothing wrong with having worldly smarts along with the Bible’s wonderful, practical wisdom.
1. Exercise Caution with Friends
"We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our house with spoil." (Proverbs 1:13)
It’s important to note that the very first financial principle God gives in Proverbs is to be cautions. There are a lot of destructive influences in the world today. Notice the word we. It’s been well said that when a person with experience and one with money get together, the individual with experience gets the money, and the one with the money gets a new experience! Next, see the word shall. Shall is a guarantee of financial prosperity. When someone starts saying words like guaranteed investment or guaranteed cure, we must take things slowly. You and I both know there is no such thing as a guaranteed investment or cure. These swindlers go on to refer to a “precious substance” that will be gotten. Well, it’s not really precious compared to the wisdom of God. The things of this earth are certainly not of highest value. Interestingly enough, the substance is not even real. The things of the earth only last for a few hours, days, months, or years. But true value and eternal things last forever. When you really think about it, everything that person said was off base. We all like stuff; we like to fill our houses with substance. If one couch is good, three are better; if one TV is good, five are better. The Devil is out to rob us of much-needed resources for higher-priority items. I have had some crazy experiences over the years with people trying to separate me from my money. I wish I could say I always saw it coming. When my wife had breast cancer, some well-meaning people, and a few others, guaranteed healing. Of course, all you have to do is Google “cancer cures” on the Internet, and you will get millions of results. Many people out there absolutely guarantee healing from cancer. If that were really the case, there would be no cancer. I’m not saying some alternative remedies can’t be helpful; they can. In fact, most of the major medicines we use come from God-created substances. Aspirin, for example, comes from willow bark. However, medicine doesn’t always work all the time for all people. And we must be careful, especially at such a vulnerable time, not to buy into all the hype. Another are of destructive influence I have personally experienced is aggressive multilevel marketing. I know many wonderful, honest people who work from home in non-traditional ways, but this person turned out to be not so ethical. When I was in my twenties, a man came to my office and asked with mock concern, “What are your dreams?” I naively thought how nice it was for this person to care about my future. “Would you like to have some extra money for your family? Would you like freedom? Would you like to spend more time with your children?” he continued. My initial reaction was that, of course, I wanted these things. Who wouldn’t? I have since learned, however, these extreme marketers are trained to appeal to the things you are likely feeling in your current circumstances. Without divulging any specifics, he stated, “Let me come over to your house and share a business opportunity with you.” The opportunity, as he called it, turned out to be a business of signing up as many of my friends and family as possible to be business representatives who would, in turn, do the same. It was making merchandise of my relationships. No thanks! The Massachusetts Lottery Company ran the following advertisement. Plan “A”: start studying when you’re about seven, study really hard. Grow up to get a good job, get up at dawn every day to flatter your boss, crush the competition ruthlessly, climb over the backs of co-workers, be the last one to leave every night, squirrel away every cent, avoid having a nervous breakdown or premature heart attack, get a face lift, do this every day for 30 years (holidays and weekends included), and by the time you’re ready to retire, maybe you’ll have some money. Or, Plan “B”: play the lottery. Sadly, even the government at times joins other tricksters in acquiring our God-given resources. 2. Steer Clear of Seductive Relationships "Strangers shall be filled with thy wealth, and thy labors shall be in the house of a stranger." (Proverbs 5:10) One of the most painful types of financial problems results from impure relationships. Solomon would know. Scripture records that Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. In many cases, it is thought he married for money; that is, he entered into matrimony with the daughters of neighboring kinds for political and financial gains. But instead of growing his resources, he discovered it was often exactly the opposite. Pleasure for a moment can turn into pain for a lifetime. God made us to be stewards of His resources. He gave us the responsibility to protect our family. To give away hard-won resources because we’ve gotten involved in a marriage-breaking relationship is a huge, unnecessary loss. There are some who for years have had a messy financial life because they are still paying on the tragedy of loose morals. A good biblical example is found in Genesis 34. The covetous sons of Jacob developed a sinister plan of lust involving their sisters that not only destroyed their enemy but their wealth, too. We need the grace of God to steer clear of tempting relationships. God reminds us that one of the tragic results of letting down your moral walls is that your wealth will be in the house of a stranger (Proverbs 5:10). Here’s a story that will make you chuckle about relationships with the wrong person. An enraptured fellow wanted to get married – he had the ring in his hand – and he told his girlfriend, “Sweetheart, I love you so much. I want you to marry me! I don’t have a car or a yacht like Johnny Green. I don’t have a house that’s near the size he has. I certainly don’t have the amount of many he has, either, but I love you with all of my heart.” She looked into his eyes and said, “I love you, too. Could you tell me a little bit more about Johnny Green?” 3. Be Careful, Little Tongue, What You Say "My son, if thou be surety for a friend…" (Proverbs 6:1) The word surety, simply stated in our language today, means a future guarantee. Proverbs 6:2 states, “Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth.” Wow, what trouble we can get into with our mouths! How amazingly easy it is to simply say yes and then so quickly wish we hadn’t. Sometimes a friend comes to us and says he or she needs money. If the money is for food or rent, of course we want to reach out to help as we are able. A good thing to do might be to invite your friend to eat with you. God clearly tells us this is what Jesus would do. In this passage, however, we note there was a third party involved. This friend wanted a consigner for something other than food. God is cautioning us here about business relationships with friends. The thought here is that we should keep healthy financial boundaries with friends. One thing is certain: there should be no money partnerships with friends (or others, for that matter). If they need resources, give them what you think is prudent. Also, you wouldn’t want to turn a friendship into a creditor-debtor relationship. If a friend accuses you of being unloving because you don’t load him or her money, perhaps the best thing to say is, “Why don’t you let me pray about that for a day or two.” This gives us time to seek God for provision and wisdom, and it also gives the person who asked some time to rethink. 4. Stay Away from Idle People "He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding." (Proverbs 12:11) God states if we work hard, we will have plenty of bread, but perhaps not some high-priced sushi roll (I would personally take the bread over the sushi anyway). Idle people have an agenda. Their goal is to have as much fun and avoid as much work as they can. I think one of the tragedies of modern culture is that we have developed a work-shy generation. Some parents, I think desiring to give their children the freedom they never had, will actually prohibit their young adult (ages fourteen to twenty-three) from working. The best thing we can do – for our sons especially – is to work the fire out of them. When you have one person who is idle, there is going to be some distress there. If you have a group of people who are idle and hang out together, that spells serious trouble. 5. True Friendships Are Based on Giving and not Getting "The poor is hated even of his own neighbor but the rich hath many friends." (Proverbs 14:20) God tells us that people who have money will soon find others interested in them. Not because of who they are but, rather, because of what they have. People who love stuff idolize people who have lots of stuff. I believe we should put friends in quotes here. Not really friends but convenient friends, who just care about riches. If we want to be a true friend to somebody, we must not care about how much money he or she has. We are to be givers – not someone obsessed with getting. 6. The Party Life Will Catch Up to You "Be not among winebibbers…" (Proverbs 23:20) Solomon is warning his son about alcohol. In today’s culture, alcohol use is constantly growing. According to the November 2008 report by Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor for The Telegraph, alcohol consumption has doubled since the 1960’s. That doesn’t surprise me. Unbelievers are just trying to cover the emptiness. But what I wonder about are folks who make such a big case for Christians being able to drink alcohol. Why do they fight so hard for this? It seems to me it’s not the grape juice they’re interested in. Sounds to me they enjoy the buzz more than the grape juice! The issue here is about drinking to get a buzz. God pulls no punches when He states that wine abusers shall come to poverty. Whether it is the cost of the alcohol (at $1,000 a bottle trying to impress a girl) or a loss of financial discernment, alcohol is no friend to prosperity. Let me close this chapter by quoting Jason Cabler of Celebrating Financial Freedom. Jason tells us how to know if you are broke. You know you’re broke if…
…If you find yourself googling “recipes for roadkill”.
…If your tires are balder than your grandfather.
…If you’re reusing your coffee grounds.
…If you have no change left under the couch cushions.
…You were escorted out of the KFC because you were licking other people’s fingers.
…Your idea of feeding the poor is making yourself lunch.
…If you have seriously thought about selling the kids…or at least renting them out.