The wife and I have just recently started going through Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover in an attempt to streamline some of our finances. There’s nothing particularly urgent about the process, but it’s always helpful to have an actual plan in place rather than just kind of shooting from the hip.
For those who don’t know, Dave Ramsey is a self-professed financial advisor that, as he puts, has a “PhD in D-U-M-B.” He claims to have made every mistake you possibly can with money – credit cards, debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy, etc. For that reason, he feels it his life’s work to help people get out of similar possessions.
Since he claims to be a “born-again Christian,” Ramsey’s approach is also Biblically centered, and he emphasizes a lot of Biblical principles in his books, primarily generosity. He views the true value of financial blessings is inherent in your ability to help others – a trait we have seen over and over again this past week with the events in Houston with Hurricane Harvey.
Even though I knew the Bible had a lot to say about the idea of money, and especially on the topic of stewardship, I wasn’t aware just how much the Bible talked about it until I started going through his book, primarily the numerous references he makes to the book of Proverbs.
The book of Proverbs is often-seen as a quick-reference guide to life: it’s handy to just open up, flip through, find a couple of take-home quotes, and move on. Sure, there’s some epic stories that teach fundamental moral principles, such as the youth and the harlot in Proverbs 7, but most are one-off type statements about life in general.
We don’t have time to dissect that later point, but the most remarkable thing to me about Proverbs is how real Solomon gets about some of life’s most sensitive issues. Like work ethic (Proverbs 13:14). And kindness to animals (Proverbs 12:10). And gluttony (Proverbs 23:20-21).
And, oh yea, money (Proverbs 3:9, 10; 8:18-21; 10:4,15, 16, 22; 11:4, 24-26, 28; 13:7, 8, 11, 21, 22; 14:20, 23, 24; 15:6,16, 27; 16:8; 17:6; 18:11, 23; 19:4, 7; 21:5, 17; 22:1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 16; 23:4, 5; 27:24; 28:6, 8, 11, 22, 25; 30:8; 31:18).
Solomon has A LOT to say about wealth, the focus on wealth, the distribution of wealth, various comparisons to wealth, how to attain wealth, and so on. And as someone who not only possessed the most wealth of any singular person in his time, but also the most wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-14), Solomon is uniquely qualified to discuss this subject.
So what does Solomon advise? Quite a few things, but here’s six that I pulled that will absolutely change the way you look at money, for better or for worse.
1. “The wages of the righteous is life; the income of the wicked, punishment.” (Prov. 10:16)
It’s one of the most unfortunate fallacies in our earthly life that money has been so often acquainted with sin. The admonitions against greed and covetousness are rightly placed before us to keep us from making them our life’s pursuit (Col. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:10), but there is not inherently wrong with having money.
There are, generally-speaking, two main questions: how do you obtain it, and how do you use it?
In the case of the latter, if it’s done in a manner that is just and good, then your riches should enhance your life. You should be able to enjoy all the wholesome things this world has to offer, such as travel, experiences, possessions, as long as they don’t become sinful or idolatrous themselves.
Unfortunately for some, riches also allow people to pursue activities and works of the flesh that they would have a much harder time indulging in otherwise. Money can be used in two ways: to enhance a life that is righteous, or lead one further down the path of degradation.
2. “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice.” (Prov. 16:8)
There will never be enough wealth in the world to satisfy an unrighteous soul, as Solomon himself could attest to. Although there will be many who seek wealth in this life as some kind of indication of their self-worth, the true measure of a person is whether or not they walk with God.
This dichotomy is poignantly seen at the end of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16). In the end, Lazarus was carried away by the angels to rest in Abraham’s bosom, while the rich man, replete in all his earthly splendor, simply “died and was buried.” Some life.
3. “Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it.” (Prov. 13:11)
Fraud is not only pictured here as deceitfulness, it can also be characterized by what we would call in today’s world “get-rich quick schemes.” You know the kind I’m talking about. The kind where someone sends you a bucket of water and tells you swirl it around for an hour every day for a week, at the end of which a check will magically appear for eight billion dollars (actual scheme).
The reality is that true wealth is the result of constant, continuous labor, not by putting in a few months on a project and then cursing the heavens when it all comes crashing down. Disregard the claims that you see on social media and late night infomercials to “make $1000 while you sleep,”put in the work, and watch your net worth grow.
4. “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” (Proverbs 21:17)
Here’s a simple fact of life: there will never be enough “stuff” in the world to satisfy someone who makes “stuff” their primary goal in life. This is one of the reasons that Jesus’ teachings in the beatitudes are so beautiful: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).
The person whose sole desire is to become a millionaire will, when he reaches millionaire status, want to become a deca-millionaire. The deca-millionaire will want to become a billionaire, and so on. The cycle of carnality is never-ending.
5. “He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.” (Prov. 28:27)
One of the most common refrains from people when it comes to benevolence is, “I don’t have enough to give.” I know, because I’ve said it myself. Here’s the truth: You have too much not to give.
Don’t ask me how it works, but without fail, it always seems like God makes a way for Christians to make ends meet (Ps. 37:25). I know that one of those ways is through the intervention of other Christians who see a need and meet that need. They know that the next person who is in need might be them.
6. “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.” (Prov. 23:4)
In the end, there’s a lot more to life than wealth. It is a blessing absolutely, but just one of many blessings that God has given to us in this world, and only a blessing if used properly.
For that reason, we have to understand our priorities, and know when we become too preoccupied with our 401K. Otherwise that’s exactly what we will get – a huge, expensive house with no love or warmth on the inside.