Condensed from Chapter 2 of "Financial Wisdom:"
Financial Wisdom Principle #2: Choose Wisdom
It would be nice if we didn’t have to make decisions about money. Life would sure be easier if we didn’t always have to worry about making ends meet. But God often uses our finances as a way of helping us discover real faith. One wonderful attribute of our God is that He is a loving and caring Father God, who does not leave us without a road map. He’s not a detached deity, who tells us to get to a destination but leaves it to us to figure out how to get there. He gives us wise and clear directions in the Bible. The Bible is the book of wisdom.
What is wisdom? It’s been defined in so many different ways. One author said wisdom is accumulated experience. That’s why people sometimes say those with a gray head have lots of wisdom. Another author stated that wisdom is simply being enlightened. A Pastor said wisdom is using knowledge with common sense (I like that). One defined wisdom as truth couples with action. Wisdom is all of these things…and more!
The Holy Spirit spoke through Solomon, who was called the wisest man who ever lived. The book of Proverbs was written not at the beginning but at the end of Solomon’s life, after he went through a variety of experiences. The Holy Spirit allowed these experiences to be laid open for all humans of all generations to examine. He talks a lot about money. In fact, at least 150 verses in the book of Proverbs are about finances. Though Solomon had lots of money, he also had lots of questions and decisions to make about that money. Regardless of whether you feel like you have it all together financially, we can all use some sound advice. It has been said that money talks. American country music singer Joe Stampley said that if money talks, all mine says is, “Bye-bye.”
1. Choose the High Priorities
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures… (Proverbs 2:4)
If we count getting wisdom as high a priority as silver, God will bless us with true prosperity. We are to search for wisdom as we would for hidden treasure. The wisdom of God is truly better than any treasure.
So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom… (Proverbs 2:2)
This means we should welcome truth, to receive it – literally “to lean.” I guess the question is which way are you leaning? Our financial health is about direction; God blesses direction. Sometimes we feel like we have to completely untangle the mess we have gotten ourselves into before God can bless us. But the truth is that God blesses wise direction even before we get to our desired locations.
Proverbs 3:14 states, “The merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver.” Some of us love thrift store shopping, and others may like to go to swap meet. I don’t guess there’s anything quite so exciting then to find something for only a few dollars that’s worth a lot more. But as exciting as that is, we should be looking for a good deal on wisdom. Notice how that God-inspired “intellectual property” is compared to actual money. I was listening to one of the leaders of Apple Corp. explain why they charge for the information they have. He called it “intellectual property.” It wasn’t free to come up with all those facts; it’s a real commodity. We might think they should give it away. But if you really think about it, it cost Apple a pretty penny to come up with the information. Wisdom is real merchandise and very valuable. Someone may ask how much you need on a certain investment. We might have to say not much money but a lot of wisdom!
Years ago, in my early twenties, I made a “time-plan” purchase. We purchased a mobile home. The salesman we bought it from had a sign hanging in his office that read, “Kentucky Colonel.” Intrigued, I asked him what the sign meant. He smugly said the award was given only to special people who had displayed exceptional honesty in their dealings. I took that in hook, line, and sinker. A few months later, when hidden costs started coming out of the woodwork, I realized just how naïve I had been. I learned a lot of wisdom!
2. Choose Effort
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)
Life is full of stressful inconveniences. Most of us run from these, but there are unpleasant tasks that are necessary. I call them good stress. There is bad stress and then there is good stress. Good stress is the junk we must go through to accomplish something good.
Raising children is an example. It is possible to have a very clean house and less problems but then you miss the strength of having a family and people around you. Clean stables mean no workers; that’s what the oxen were – hard workers. And, of course, no workers means no harvest, and no harvest means you will miss out on the resources God wants you to have.
Let me give you an example. If a husband and wife choose for her not to work outside the home, they have actually made one of the greatest steps toward financial freedom. Not surprisingly, however, most people would think that if you are going to make it in this world, you need two incomes from careers. Certainly there is nothing sinful about having a double (a triple, etc., for that matter) income. But a mother working full time outside of the home can bring difficult issues.
The lack of Christian education for children would be one example of an issue to deal with. Many families have discovered that homeschooling allows them the time to invest truth into their children. They can build wisdom into their sons and daughters at times that are both planned and unplanned. One of my teenage daughters asked to be excused from the dinner table earlier than usual. Something didn’t seem normal to me. After a few minutes, I walked into her bedroom. She was lying on her bed, reading her Bible. I sat down next to her and asked if something was wrong (she is quick to open up on her emotions). She shared a concern about friendships. We prayed together, and I left. That moment was possible because I was there. A parent who is available is a powerful tool for truth. God states that if you have to choose between a clean but empty stall and a messy but for one, choose the oxen!
Another great example of how a stay-at-home mom helps the family finances is that she can cook nutritious meals. Many people have a hard time affording health insurance. I bought a membership at a local health club. As I worked out, I could sense I was getting healthier by the moment. Even though the monthly fee was an extra cost, I concluded it was a lot cheaper than full-service health insurance! The same concept is true with the mother who is at home, can cook nutritious meals, and save money that might have been wasted on fast food.
Let’s see what Proverbs 12:14 says: “A Man shall be satisfied with good buy the food of his mouth in the recompense [compensation, another financial term] of a man’s hand shall be rendered unto him.” God says there is always compensation… There is always a payday. What we do with our hands and bodies is compensated. Parents may say the “tough” but needful choice was that they had to put their children in daycare. But I urge readers to consider that the final payday on that decision may end up costing you much more than if a mother had avoided a career outside the home. Obviously, there are special circumstances, such as that of a single mom or disabled husband, where there is a need for a mother to have a full-time career outside the home.
3. Choose Love
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. (Proverbs 15:17)
Imagine you are biting into a big rib-eye steak… So good and juicy! God states it would be better to just have a plate of herbs (like the kind of salad my wife likes) and love then a steak without peace in the home. This verse warms us about the high price of extravagance – the simple fact of paying more than you have to and the resulting emptiness it brings. God doesn’t oppose quality…just wastefulness.
To pay more for something of equal quality just to gain status because it’s a name brand is not worth it. Financial decisions often review our priorities. I heard of a rich man who had priority issues and wanted to take all his money with him when he died. He told his wife to collect all his money into a sack and hang it from the attic rafters. He said, “When my spirit is caught up into heaven, I will grab that sack on the way up and take it with me!” Well, when he finally died, his wife ran up to the attic, but that sack was still hanging where she had placed it. She said, “I knew I should’ve put the sack in the basement.” Ouch!
Speaking about extravagance, there was a young man who had an accident in his beautiful car. When the police arrived, the officer overheard the young man mumbling near his car. The policeman walked closer to the young man and heard him clearly saying, “Oh my BMW, my BMW!” The policeman said, “are you nuts? Look at your arm. It’s all mangled!” The young man looked down at his arm and then cried, “Oh my Rolex!” Somethings are of greater value than nice stuff…like good health!
The Bible was written thousands of years ago, yet its principles are ageless. In the early 2000‘s here in America, there were a lot of “stalled oxen” purchased. These “oxen” were actually expensive six- and seven-bedroom houses for just a mom, dad, two kids, and a dog. There were also large, gas-guzzling SUV’s. One of the most common mistakes many Americans make is to spend more than they can afford on a home or vehicle. Christian financial authors Ron Blue, the late Larry Burkett, and Dave Ramsey all agree most Christians spend more than they should on their cars. I don’t know what is so luring about overpriced cars, but Satan has a real stronghold in this area for most of us.
I see programs and books that state, “You can be rich!” The question I wonder is when and what qualifies a person to be classified as “rich”? Is it when you can have everything you want? That’s impossible, because no one can ever get everything he or she wants at any given time. Over the years, the Lord has developed for me a definition of what a rich person is. A rich person is one who wants everything he or she has! On the other hand, a poor person wants everything he or she doesn’t have. I knew a man who considered himself rich when he opened the refrigerator and saw it was full. He really didn’t have much other than that. But he also didn’t have debt. He always tithed and live simply. For others, a full refrigerator is something they take for granted. They only feel rich when they have a certain amount of money in the bank.
God does not condemn those who may have more than the next person. But when money comes between my family and my faith, something is seriously wrong. Money actually equals time. When I buy something, it takes time. If that time always takes me away from my family, there needs to be some new priorities. We might come home with a new car but hear the children say, “I’d rather have an old car but more time with you.” Stalled oxen are not worth it when there is no love.
4. Choose Balance
There is that maketh himself rich: yet hath nothing. (Proverbs 13:7)
What is God talking about in this verse? This Scripture doesn’t seem to make sense at first glance. We make ourselves rich but have nothing? Are there really people who make themselves poor?
Choosing to be poor can actually be the wise choice at times. The warning here is about staying balanced. This truth is about not living above our means. Some people appear to be very rich, but if all their debts were paid, they’d be just like everyone else – or even less well off! This verse speaks of voluntarily making ourselves poor for a greater cause. It can be interpreted in two ways. First, giving your money away and investing in the kingdom of God. In this scenario, you’ve made yourself poor physically, but you have become spiritually rich. The second interpretation might be an acknowledgment that there are some people who live like old Scrooge and rob their family of what could be used for its benefit. That’s what I mean by balance.
This brings up a question about standard of living. What should our standard of living be? If the Lord decides to bless us with extra, amen! Some of the richest people who have ever lived were also wonderful Christians. Solomon was perhaps the richest man who ever lived. There were also Job, Abraham, and David. They all had high standards of living. God is not against someone being rich. But I think it’s important to understand that when God increases our resources, it’s not His automatic green-light to tell us to start spending. That is missing the point. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using our dollars on vacations, homes, and cars. After all, God is the one who created all of the land and materials to enjoy! But I believe God has bigger plans for us then simply getting a nicer bed, better car, or going on a bigger vacation.
5. Choose Right
Better is a little with righteousness then grade revenues without right. (Proverbs 16:8)
Godly priorities are so important to our financial life. Better is little. Am I better off having less money? Sometimes actually yes! God doesn’t say that’s the way it has to be. He simply says if you have to choose, it’s better to have a little with a clear conscience than great revenues without doing right. It is better to do right, to love God, to serve God, to put our eyes on the Lord, and to have a very small estate. It’s better for our family. It’s better for our health. It’s better for the kingdom of God.
When God speaks of choosing righteousness it might mean having to give up something. For example, many families have discovered that Christian education is the right thing for their family. Christian education, however, can be costly, even if it’s home education. Choosing a righteousness education, therefore, may actually cost us. Another example might be choosing not to have mom work full-time outside the home as discussed previously. We might be forced to do with less for a season.
Some people, as we all know, get income the wrong way. But we who are children of God must never compromise a scriptural truth or principal to make a buck. If I compromise the righteousness of God’s Word to make a dollar, I have made the wrong choice. Choose right – always – and let God take care of the resources! Why is this so important? Let me give you one thought. We face some situations where the only thing that can help is God. In that moment, I want to know I’m right with God. I want to know I can get a hold of God. If I have voluntarily placed myself in a needy position by doing the right thing, I can feel confident in coming to God and saying, “Lord, vindicate me, deliver me, help me in my time of need. Come to my aid.” I can cry out! But if I’ve made unwise decisions and chosen the dollar over the glory of God, I don’t feel like I can come to God.
Solomon tells us that our finances are always going to be changing, no matter who we are. Nobody ever has all they want. But God will eventually come to your aid – just choose the right thing and watch God work!
6. Choose the Simple Life
Better it is to be of a humble spirit; [just a simple, quiet life with those that may not have all the names and the power or the influence] with the lonely then to divide the spoiled with the proud. (Proverbs 16:19)
This is one principal the world around us will absolutely never understand. This world is trying to get all it can. God says the humble life is the desirable life, because God is attracted to humility. We become an attractive person to God when we live a humble life. Did you know a humble life is actually attractive to everybody? The most beautifying makeup a woman can put on is a humble and grateful spirit. It’s something money could certainly never buy! It’s such a beautiful thing.
There’s a story about a Swiss clockmaker who understood the value of the simple life. A certain group of people had gone in to see his beautiful craftsmanship, but they noticed it was taking him forever to make the clocks. They suggested that if he did this or that he would make more money and faster. The Swiss man looked at them and said, “I don’t make money; I make clocks!” It makes a whole lot of a difference when we know what we are going after. Of course, we need money to make ends meet for our family, and there’s nothing wrong with that. God put that in us. But the healthy choice is to live humbly.
I close this chapter with a quote from an unknown source on Proverbia. “Here’s what money will buy: money will buy a bed but not sleep, books but not brains, food but not an appetite, a house but not a home, medicine but not health, amusement but not happiness, finery but not beauty, a crucifix but not a savior.” Let’s get our priorities right!
In the next chapter, we talk about discerning what true success is. Solomon was concerned about being a successful man, but how can we know what true success is?
Condensed from Chapter 2 of "Financial Wisdom Study Guide:"
Education is one of the key institutions in any country and rightfully so. Getting a good education is often the foundation for a successful career, and transacting business in the world. However, educating the mind without changing the heart will not produce any long-term benefit. Jesus warned, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Anybody who has ever taken a trip knows that in order to get to a destination it is important to follow the signs. Ignoring directions is a good way to end up at the wrong destination. So much of the Christian life is determined by direction. We may make a wrong turn here and there but as long as we get back on the path and continue to the right destination, we are sure to have genuine success. The best direction for financial life is to follow genuine wisdom, which only comes from God.
From page 15
“I see programs and books that state, ‘You can be rich!’ The question I wonder is when and what qualifies a person to be classified as ‘rich’? Is it when you can have everything you want? That’s impossible, because no one can ever get everything he or she wants at any given time. Over the years, the Lord has developed for me a definition of what a rich person is. A rich person is one who wants everything he or she has! On the other hand, a poor person wants everything he or she doesn’t have. I knew a man who considered himself rich when he opened the refrigerator and saw it was full. He really didn’t have much other than that, but he also didn’t have debt and he always tithed and lived simply. For others, a full refrigerator is something they take for granted. They only feel rich when they have a certain amount of money in the bank”
From page 16
“This brings up a question about standard of living. What should our standard of living be? If the Lord decides to bless us with extra, amen! Some of the richest people who ever lived were also wonderful Christians. Solomon was perhaps the richest man who ever lived; and there were also Job, Abraham, and David. They all had high standards of living within their culture. God is not against someone being rich. But I think it’s important to understand that when God increases our resources, it’s not His automatic green light to tell us to start spending. That is missing the point. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using our dollars on vacations, homes, and cars. After all, God is the one who created all of the lands and materials to enjoy! But I believe God has bigger plans for us than simply getting a nicer bed, better car, or going on a bigger vacation.”
1. Read Proverbs 2:2, 3 and 4 out loud. What positive role models have you had in seeking wisdom more than seeking stuff?
2. Read Proverbs 14:4. There is a difference between “bad” stress and “good” stress (necessary obligations). What might be some examples of bad stress in your financial life? What are some examples of good stress that are found on the path of doing the right thing?
3. Proverbs 16:17 reminds us of the importance of genuine love. List ways you can feel as though you are rich even though you may not have a lot of earthly goods.
4. Read Proverbs 13:7. Explain how Christ was a good example of this verse.