|Volume 19 Number 6 June 2017||
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)
Did you know that the tax code for our country, put into book form, is about seven times larger than the average printed version of the Bible? It was an odd little factoid that was pointed out to me by a radio news show host as I made my way in the predawn hours of morning toward a local hospital to have prayer with a dear friend before surgery. The host went on to say, “You would think that such an abundance of material would make for greater clarity. I guess God knew what he was doing, far better than our legislators.” I certainly concur, but do wonder if that news host understands that the Bible has much to say about money management and taxes. Let’s note just a few.
The love of money leads to all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:9-11). How often do we see this? To simply have money is not a sin, but to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of money is certainly wrong. It can lead to anger, malice, wrath, wars, murder and a host of other sins when used inappropriately or perceived as being more important that it truly is.
Prosperity comes from planning and hard work (Proverbs 21:5). The “free lunch” always has a catch. Wealth that is unearned is unappreciated and taken for granted. Work has always been God’s plan for man. Even in the Garden of Eden man was given work. Living is without hope when it lacks purpose. Work provides a large portion of that purpose. Furthermore, it is through work that we gain understanding and wisdom, which cannot simply be gleaned from a book.
Money and wealth is not worthy of our worry and anxiety (Matthew 6:31-33). Man worries about many things, 90% of which are not worthy or simply not real. To stress over the accumulation of some small pieces of paper featuring the busts of dead presidents demonstrates a lack of faith in God who rules in the kingdoms of men, no matter how wealthy or poor.
Contentment with little is far better than great wealth with trouble (Hebrews 13:5). Great wealth has a tendency to bring great trouble and many worries. The prodigal son found this out the hard way as his wealth was lost to wanton living and fair-weather friends.
The best investment one can make is in spiritual treasures (Malachi 3:9-12; Matthew 6:19-21). All earthly investments will simply be left to others when one dies, but you can build a heavenly treasure as an inheritance for eternity.
The Bible also deals with the pitfalls of being a borrower or a lender, right uses for money, paying taxes, making an idol of money, conduct of those who are rich or poor, our attitudes in giving to the Lord, treatment of the poor and more. Money plays prominently in Bible teachings, most likely because it is so easily abused and tempts many. In clear, understandable terms, the Bible gives basic concepts by which to live at peace with work and wealth, putting them in their proper place, along with our perspective about them.
Someone has said, “The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have and being able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach.” Benjamin Franklin said, “Contentment makes poor men rich; discontentment rich men poor.” Inspiration urges, “…Be content with such things as ye have…” These statements are easy to read, but how do we translate this advice into action? Try these suggestions.
First, do not overestimate material possessions! Things of this world are very deceptive and uncertain (1 Timothy 6:17). Many conclude that material abundance is the abundant life. That is a false conclusion. Jesus said, “…A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). Our affluent age is prime proof of this truth. Perhaps no similar amount of space in the world can claim more combined wealth than Beverly Hills, California. Has prosperity provided contentment for its residents? It has been said that Beverly Hills claims 193 psychiatrists. That is one for every 200 citizens! Remember, do not get “carried away” with material possessions.
Second, do not fret over what you do not have! In 1 Kings 21, Ahab pouted and threw himself across his bed, turned his face to the wall and acted like a spoiled child! What was wrong? He wanted a certain vineyard belonging to Naboth. He wanted something he did not have. Many are content with their property until they focus envious eyes on a choice possession of another. A teenager is happy with his well-conditioned, used car until the neighbor’s teenager drives by in a new “Firebird.” An adult is satisfied with his three bedroom house until an acquaintance informs him that he has just purchased a six bedroom house! Some cannot go window-shopping without returning home miserable. Why? They see so many things they cannot have. So, they allow their disposition to be ruled by self-pity and discontentment.
Third, do not overlook what you do have! Contrast what you are to what you might have been, but for the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Stop looking at things you do not have long enough to focus on the things that you do have! What do we have in the United States? We have 50% of the world’s wealth, 63% of the world’s manufactured goods, 29% of the world’s railroads, 58% of the world’s automobiles, 44% of the world’s trucks, 56% of the world’s telephones, 43% of the world’s radios, 35% of the world’s electrical output, 26% of the world’s steel, 29% of the world’s petroleum and 22% of the world’s coal? That is pretty good considering we are such discontented people.
Beloved, do you have a regular job, reasonable health, a loving family, plenty to eat and sufficient clothing? The majority of earth’s citizens cannot claim such an impressive inventory! Ponder these points until you can say with the apostle Paul, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).