Vol. 12 No. 5 May 2010
V.P. Black wrote four very unusual Bible study books. They are not unusual as though they teach something that either is not in the Bible or that they teach about something that is in the Bible but teach it incorrectly. As a matter of fact, these four titles teach about a subject that may be addressed more than any other subject in the Bible. So, what’s the problem? The problem is that even Christians find the subject repulsive, and therefore, they avoid it like the plague. Just the introduction of any one of these class books in some congregational settings makes some Christians literally red-in-the-face angry, while others of similar ilk boycott the Bible classes. Though these sorts of persons may think that their tempered rage is directed toward the class teacher or other responsible congregational persons, is not their misplaced ire truly directed at the Godhead who authored the Scriptures pertaining to material wealth? Brother Black wrote Lord, Teach Us to Give; My God and My Money; Giving VS. Getting; and Rust As a Witness. Usually, wherever these Bible study books were given a fair use in a church, that congregation, having learned better what the Bible instructs about material wealth—how we get it and what we are supposed to do with it, evidenced a marked surge in its congregational contributions and subsequent application of those funds to the Lord’s work.
Whereas the Bible—God’s infallible Word—needs to address any subject only once for it to be God-designated obligatory instruction, the Bible speaks to many topics numerous times. Surely, this Divine redundancy is owing to the fact that humanity has superior problems with a number of God’s rules. Material wealth must be one of these areas wherein Divine repetition massages mankind’s reluctant compliance. For instance, “[a]bout one half of the Lord’s parables dealt with money. Someone has said that one-tenth of the book of Matthew is on the subject of giving” (Black, My God and My Money 17). Brother Black further noted:
In the Book of Matthew the subject of giving is mentioned thirty-three times. In the Book of Mark giving is discussed twenty times. In the Book of Luke giving is discussed fifty-three times. In the Book of John giving is discussed seventeen times. There is not a book in the New Testament where giving is not discussed repeatedly. Even the four books that have just one chapter, giving is discussed. These books are Philemon, 2 and 3 John and Jude. The Bible says more about giving than any other subject. (Black, Rust as a Witness 9 emphasis added)
Well, what are some of the more pronounced or obvious biblical passages that generally treat the subject of material wealth? Both testaments of the Bible pound into the human mind the same message of the correct versus the wrong impact of material wealth upon the child of God. The devil knows about the human weakness respecting material wealth, and he misjudged the Old Testament Bible character of Job, thinking he was one so affected by wealth. Yet, despite the sudden removal of all his wealth and all of his children, Job maintained his integrity before Almighty God (Job 1).
A proper perspective of wealth appears in passage after passage throughout the God’s Holy Word. “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked” (Psalm 37:16). “Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith” (Proverbs 15:16). “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!” (Proverbs 16:16). “Better a handful with quietness Than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
The God-given wisdom of Solomon on this subject resounds loudly in this excerpt from Ecclesiastes.
He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity. When goods increase, They increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners Except to see them with their eyes? The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, Whether he eats little or much; But the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep. There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: Riches kept for their owner to his hurt. But those riches perish through misfortune; When he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labor Which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a severe evil—Just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored for the wind? (Ecclesiastes 5:10-16 emphasis added).
Likewise, the apostle Paul used some of the same language and gave it a renewed, New Testament application.
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
We hasten to add that material wealth is neither morally good nor immoral. However, attitude and conduct respecting acquisition, retention and dispersing of material wealth has a direct bearing on one’s spiritual health—the salvation of the soul.
That being said, I wonder what the overflowing of America with self-storage facilities says about the common attitude in this country about material wealth? Cities, towns, villages, rural communities and wide-spots-in-the-road all have their mini warehouses where behind a garage door one can secret his excess possessions. Yes, I know that these facilities are neither morally right nor immoral, and further, there are many foreseeable reasons for which one may need extra, temporary storage space (e.g., being in transit, property renovation, inheritance of personal property, etc.). Yet, the country is pimpled with these sites, indicating a countrywide mindset toward material prosperity that runs counter to what God has caused inspired writers to pen in both testaments of the Bible.
One narrative of Jesus Christ especially comes close to treating the attitude of people generally about their storage units. Again, it is not necessarily wrong to be wealthy, but with wealth comes several responsibilities, including how we get it, what we do with it and attitude toward wealth (whether we have it or just covet it). Consequently, the following paragraph does not criticize wealth, but emphasizes the misplaced emphasis of consuming that wealth on oneself—and neither thanking God nor acknowledging Him respecting that prosperity.
And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:15-21 emphasis added)
Our Lord continued to address His followers about anxiousness toward material wealth in Luke 12:22-34).
Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? …Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. …Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It is the personal observation of others and me, upon traveling to what many refer to as third world or developing countries, that the lack of material prosperity, comparable to what most enjoy in America, is no hindrance to happiness. The happiest people I have ever met have little or few of what most of my countrymen consider necessities. Though material wealth is neither good nor bad, often material wealth even clouds the spiritual sight of the children of God. “…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Proverbs 30:8-9).
Black, V.P. Giving vs. Getting. 3rd printing. Chickasaw: V.P. Black, 1976.
- - -. Lord, Teach Us to Give. Chickasaw: V.P. Black, 1971.
- - -. My God and My Money. 42nd printing. Belmont: KeMa Publishers, 1969.
- - -. Rust as a Witness. 112th printing. Chickasaw: V.P. Black, 1968.