Archive for the ‘wealth’ Category

15:6 Revenues vs. Treasures

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, happy couple.

In the house of the righteous is much treasure, but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble. Proverbs 15:6.

When worldly church-goers hear the word “treasure,” they immediately assume the gold and silver kind are meant; but the person who knows Christ understands that something else is intended—treasures of love, joy, justice, wisdom, and peace. Christian homes, armies, societies and nations are distinguished by such treasures. Often physical treasures follow, too, because people who live well-regulated and honest lives tend to husband natural resources wisely and increase them.

For an example of a home filled with spiritual treasure, one can look to Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. The beauty of their affections and their godly oversight of their children were recorded by contemporaries. Evangelist George Whitefield was so impressed with the love he saw between the pair that he promptly determined to marry himself. His ill-advised union was not so happy.

One of the chief treasures of the Christian is contentment. The revenues that the wicked extract (often by unjust methods) do not bring them much happiness, not least because they constantly crave more and are never satisfied.

Christians enjoy spiritual treasures others can only crave. This is possible because of Jesus, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3) and who “became poor so that we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).” The deposit he has left us is the Holy Spirit, who resides in us, whom Paul likens to those clay pots in which the people of the Middle East stored documents and gems they wished to preserve.

21:6 Gain of Lies

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Enron complex.

Getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.—Proverbs 21:6

The collapse of Enron Corporation revealed a great scandal. Through systematic fraud, it had presented a prosperous front before its bankruptcy in 2001. CEO Kenneth Lay died of a heart attack while awaiting sentencing.

Fraudulent schemes such as Enron’s are all too common. Some, in fact, are quite politically correct, such as the vast fraud at Fannie and Freddie which, under guise of concern for the poor, helped bring about the housing collapse of 2008. Carbon credits, a current favorite, is promoted by certain environmentalists supposedly to reduce carbon emissions, but actually to transfer wealth, especially to its high profile political promoters.

All such schemes are driven by greed. Inevitably little people get hurt by them. And what, in the end, do the chiselers at the top reap from their plunder? At most they will enjoy their gains a hundred years and afterwards cannot take a penny with them as they slide into eternal death.

The character of Christ is so different. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). We cannot imagine the wealth and glory that Christ left behind him in heaven to descend to earth, live as a pauper, speak truth fearlessly, and die the death of a criminal. For that self-sacrifice God has given him the name that is above all names.

The Enron image is from Eflon on Flickr. / CC BY 2.0

22:2 No More Rich vs. Poor

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Karl Marx raged against the rich.

Karl Marx raged against the rich.

Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is Creator of them all.

It is common for Marxists to rage against the rich. It is common for the rich to denigrate the poor and commoners as Gasset y Ortega did in The Revolt of the Masses. Either attitude is wrong. Rich and poor are on the same plane before God. He made both categories. Wealthy and impoverished alike are sinners before him. As Scriptures says, “He imprisoned all men under disobedience so that he might have mercy on them all.” (Romans 11:32)

Jesus dealt as easily with the wealthy as with the impoverished. He was equally master whether he mingled in the top or the bottom of society. He rebuked the rich as readily as the poor. There was no favoritism with him. In this, as in all things, he lived out the Word of God.

16:19 Humble or Haughty

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Charles Wesley who rejected wealth.

Charles Wesley who rejected wealth.

Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

The young Charles Wesley refused a living of five hundred pounds a year, choosing to remain with those he loved. He also refused another large fortune which a lady would have given him out of spite toward relatives who had quarreled with her. His simple reply was, “It is unjust.” Advised to accept the fortune and give it to the relatives himself, Charles replied, “That is a trick of the devil; but it won’t do. I know what I am now, but I do not know what I should be if I were thus made rich.”

Considering how seldom riches go hand in hand with spiritual depth, and how often the wealthy are proud people, I cannot doubt that Charles Wesley made the right decision.

In embracing poverty for the sake of righteousness, Wesley was like his master. Christ emptied himself of everything pertaining to his Godhead (Philippians 2), and could justly speak of himself as meek and lowly (Matthew 11:28-30). He lived among the humble when his birthright and abilities might have placed him in a palace. But, like Moses, he preferred the privations of his people to the pleasures of their oppressors.

13:7 Great Fake Out

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

String of pearls, Zales store.

String of pearls, Zales store.

There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.

When I worked as a librarian at Michigan Reformatory, I had to take law books to the protection cells and help with shakedowns of general cells. This gave me opportunity to observe three ways in which prisoners handled possessions.

The first group simply had what they had and made no effort to exaggerate or conceal what they owned.

The second group, to prevent extortion or theft, took pains to conceal any useful item they owned, whether by hiding it where it could not easily be discovered, or by putting a sham front on it.

A very few—and this third group interested me the most—ostensibly stacked boxes of toothpaste, soap, cards and other small items of prison value for all to see, pretending a wealth they did not have. Every box was empty.

Jesus was their opposite; he came to the earth with real treasure (he likened it to a pearl of great price, or a buried treasure) but, like the second group of prisoners, he cloaked what he had. Although higher than any earthly king, he came as a the poorest of commoners, and forbade his disciples to reveal who he really was. The greatest of philosophers, he spoke in parables. The purest of men, he mingled with thieves, prostitutes, revolutionaries and extortionists. A healer of the first rank, he admonished those he cured to say nothing.

Jesus cloaked who he was and his message so that only those who were serious about following God would penetrate to the reality of himself.

29:3 The Wise Don’t Waste

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

The Prodigal Son of Christ's parable.

The Prodigal Son of Christ's parable.

Whoever loves wisdom brings joy to his father: but he who keeps company with prostitutes wastes his wealth.

As soon as I read this proverb in light of Christ’s life and teaching, I exclaimed to myself, “The Prodigal Son!”

Did Jesus have these words of Solomon in mind when he told his famous parable? The prodigal, you will recall, demanded his inheritance from his still-living father and headed off to squander it on prostitutes and fine food. Next thing he knew, he was a pauper during a famine. With rumbling belly he came to his senses and began to grow his first seedlings of wisdom.

In Solomon’s philosophy, wisdom was to steer clear of adulterous women and to live in fear (or reverence) of the Lord. The repentant prodigal did both; he abandoned the scene of his orgies and headed home with the acknowledgment of sin on his lips: “I have sinned against God and you.”

His new-found wisdom brought an almost delirious joy to his father, who ran to greet him, hugging and kissing him, and throwing a party to celebrate his return.

The terms of Solomon’s proverb were fulfilled.

20:21 Quick Money, Quick Curse

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

US mint coin.

US mint coin.

An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed. Proverbs 20:21.

A while back, I read a book which documented the stories of people who had won large  lotteries. With just one exception (a Christian woman who tithed heavily and went on living the same as before), the recipients were worse off after winning than before. One had even been killed for his money. Most had lost friends. Others had quit their jobs or gone into such debt they were staring at poverty.

Wealth gotten quickly through any dishonest or corner-cutting means (exploitation and gambling come to mind) is not blessed in the end.

By comparison, Christ gained an imperishable inheritance for us by leaving his riches in heaven (2 Corinthians 8:9), living a perfect life (Hebrews 4:15) and finally dying an agonizing death in our behalf (1 Peter 1:3-6). From his life we see that a blessed inheritance is one gained by steady determination and self-sacrifice.