Throughout Proverbs we’ve witnessed Solomon urging his son to gain wisdom. Wisdom is more priceless than silver and it’s worth far exceeds the value of gold. (Proverbs 3:14) We are told that if we will look for wisdom as we would for silver and search for it as if it were a hidden treasure then we will understand the “fear of the Lord” and gain wisdom. (Proverbs 2:4) In Proverbs 8:10-11, Solomon encouraged his son to “choose” instruction and knowledge, the components of wisdom, because wisdom is more precious than rubies. Solomon says,
10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 8:10-11 NIV)
Silver, gold, rubies–all of these were evidence of a person’s wealth. The more silver and gold a person possessed the more prominent they were among the people of the community. The people of Solomon’s day were no different than the people of our day–status, having a reputation, toys and trinkets, and impressing others with what one possessed were highly prized.
We are no different today. We don’t hear so much talk about how much silver, gold, or rubies someone possesses today, but we want to know and read about their bucks and “Bling.” Some of you may not even know what “Bling” is, but if you will look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary then you can read the definition of the word. “Bling” is used to describe a person’s diamonds, jewelry, and all of the accessories of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Sean “P. Diddy” Combs has an Ipod with 120 diamonds inlayed in the cover. The Los Angeles Lakers 2001 Championship ring has “Bling Bling” inscribed in diamonds along with the name of the player and year of the victory.
Bling may be a new term to some of you, but the mindset of Baby Gangsta and the Cash Money Millionaires, the famous New Orleans rap family that coined the phrase back in the late ’90s, has been around a long, long time. Liz Taylor was the Bling Queen of the older generation as she would always appear draped in diamonds and other precious stones. Carol Channing sang, “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.” Long before “MTV Cribs” or “Pimp My Ride,” Robin Leach took us all on a tour of the homes and lifestyles of the rich and famous. The Bling mindset of showing off what you’ve got has always been around, it’s just given a new name with each new generation.
It takes money to sport the equipment of the opulent lifestyle so that you can try and impress those around you. You’ve got to work and make cash to be able to buy big, fancy homes, expensive automobiles that are decked out with video screens and sound systems that could drive a rock concert at the Chesapeake Area, and all kinds of accessories to go along with these statements of wealth and supposed importance.
Just a few years ago, Bill Gates made headlines in Newsweek magazine, not for his computer genius, but for the $40 million home he was building. Today Bill’s home wouldn’t make the top 10 most expensive homes in America list. Forbes.com reports that the most expensive home for sale in the United States is the 35,000 square foot Fleur de Lys in California. If you are looking for a home on the West Coast you can grab this one for a mere $125 million. The palace has 12 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, a ballroom that sits 200 guests, two kitchens, a 50-seat theater, a 9-car garage, a three-quarter-mile jogging track, and much more.
Or maybe food is your fashion statement. If you’re ever in New York and want to impress those with you, then you might want to visit Masa on the Upper West Side of New York where you will pay $300-$500.00 per person for lunch or dinner.
More money, more toys, more, more, more has always been the driving force of many people’s lives. Solomon, the ultimate “Bling King,” learned that more money doesn’t bring more contentment or peace. He took his experience and counseled his son to seek wisdom like others fight and push for more money. Here in our Scripture for today we read about something else that is more valuable than silver, gold, or money. Take a look with me at Proverbs 22:1-9.
1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. 2 Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all. 3 A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. 4 Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. 5 In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them. 6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. 7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. 8 He who sows wickedness reaps trouble, and the rod of his fury will be destroyed. 9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. (Proverbs 22:1-9 NIV)
In our Scripture for today we see the importance of a good name and then Solomon tells us how we can work to gain a good name in society, and even more importantly, in the eyes of God. Our “name,” our integrity, honesty, and character are of paramount importance my friends. Just in the last few years we have witnessed the destruction of some high profile people’s character because of decisions they’ve made.
I watched highlights of the Laker’s game on Sports Center the other morning and witnessed the incredible talent of Kobe Bryant. I had been studying this Scripture and I thought of all that Kobe has given up because of choices he made in June of 2003. Choices like breaking the vows he made before God to his wife Vanessa. Choices like taking advantage of a young 19 year old woman. The case never came to trial, Kobe wrote a check for several million dollars to settle a civil suit, but Kobe admitted that he committed adultery and now his name has been tarnished. Jon Sarche, an Associated Press writer, wrote,
Kobe Bryant may eventually regain his superstar mystique, and the woman who accused him of rape may someday return to college, but they may never shake the lingering effects of their legal battles that generated sensational headlines around the world. “They will never be who they were before this happened,” said victims’ advocate Krista Flannigan.” (Jon Sarche, Associated Press, Mercury News, Thursday, March 3, 2005 http://www.mercurynews.com/)
Kobe will continue to make his millions playing basketball, Vanessa will continue to wear the $4 million, 8 carat diamond ring that Kobe gave her as a “guilt offering,” but the stain on Kobe’s name will never be removed for the rest of his life.
Our name is precious. You can’t place a monetary value on our integrity, character, and reputation. Every decision we make counts, they can have life-long implications regarding the way others think of us. Don’t believe me? Let me give you a test. I’m going to mention a few names and let’s see what’s the first thing to enter your mind. Benedict Arnold. Traitor. Richard Nixon. Liar, cheater, right? Mother Theresa. Servant, woman of God, compassionate, right? Bernie Madoff. Greedy swindler, right? Martha Stewart. Cheater, right? Billy Graham. Integrity par excellence, faithful, respected. Do you see how our actions have direct implications for the legacy we will leave behind after we are gone? Not only will our actions have implications for our legacy after we are gone, but they also have implications for the way others will view us now. If Ken Lay from Enron or Dennis Koslowski from Tyco, both CEO’s who’ve been indicted for cheating their investors, came up to you and said, “I’ve got a business proposition for you.” Would you jump at the chance or run? You better run.
In our Scripture for today Solomon says that the way we handle our money and the way we treat others in relation to our money has everything to do with our good name. Let’s move on in our study of our Scripture for today. In verse 2 Solomon writes, “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22:2 NIV) Proverbs 22:1-9 is filled with terminology that reflects our financial practice or status. The Hebrew word for “rich” or “riches” appears in verses 1,2,4, and 7. The Hebrew word for “poor” is found in verses 2 and 7. Bruce Waltke says,
Other financial terms are ‘to be fined’ (v.3), ‘wage’ (v.4), ‘generous’ (v.9), and ‘the one who sows injustice will reap an empty deception’ (v.8), which by standing opposed to ‘generous’ suggests that the metaphor pertains to the oppressive rich of v.7. (Bruce Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Proverbs 15-31, pg. 198.)
All of these words and phrases set in this context teach us that the way we handle our money in relation to one another has consequences for the ‘name’ we put forth in the community.
In verse 2 we find the precedent for the way we relate to all people, rich or poor, God has made them all. It’s no secret that those who are wealthy, those who possess status and stature in the community, those who live in the more prominent neighborhoods in Oklahoma City, are treated differently than those who struggle to pay their bills and live in the ghetto or at the City Rescue Mission. That should not catch any of us off guard, that’s the way the world works, but it’s not the way that God works, nor is it the way that God’s people are to behave. The world lives by what they think is best, what will benefit them most, but we live according to God’s Word. God’s Word teaches us over and over again that rich and poor are created by the same God, the God who loves each and every person on the planet! This same God commands us to never favor someone because he or she is wealthy or to look down upon someone because he or she is destitute. Let me give you a few examples. In Proverbs 29:13 we see the same teaching.
13 The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives sight to the eyes of both. (Proverbs 29:13 NIV)
In Proverbs 14:31 God’s Word goes even further than teaching us that we have all been given life from God. Solomon says the way we treat the poor speaks volumes about our relationship with God. Read along with me. “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14:31 NIV)
In Job 34, Elihu, Job’s friend, tells Job about the character and nature of God. He says to Job in verse 18-19,
18 Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’ and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’ 19 who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? (Job 34:18-19 NIV)
Let’s move on in our study by taking a look at verses 3-5. Remember as we take a look at these passages that we are talking about finances and our relationship to God and others.
3 A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. 4 Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. 5 In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them. (Proverbs 22:3-5 NIV)
Solomon says that a “prudent” or “wise” man sees the danger and doesn’t get involved. He turns the other way. The simple-minded who do not think before they react, jump at the opportunity and “suffer for it.” The Hebrew word translated, “suffer for it” is interesting in that it is a monetary hit. The Hebrew word means, “to fine,” or “to be punished.” The Hebrew word is a term of legal redress, to punish by a monetary fine. Let me show you a couple of examples before we talk about the verse. In 2 Kings 23:31-33 we see the fine imposed on Judah by Pharaoh Neco.
31 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother’s name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. 32 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his fathers had done. 33 Pharaoh Neco put him in chains at Riblah in the land of Hamath so that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and he imposed on Judah a levy of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. (2 Kings 23:31-33 NIV)
In Proverbs 19:19 we see another instance of the word and this time it is talking about the penalty paid by a hot-head who can’t control his temper. Have you ever heard of someone who destroyed property or attacked another person in a fit of rage and ended up paying a big price? That’s what we’re talking about here.
A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. (Proverbs 19:19 NIV)
Now, let’s go back. Remember a prudent or wise person sees danger and runs, but a simple-minded person runs right in and has to pay the price. How many times have we jumped in to what looked good and later had to suffer because of the unwise decision we made? You are shopping for a car and the salesman down the street convinces you that he’s got a peach of a deal for you, one that will even include a car seat with stroller wheels. You test drive the car and sit down with the salesman so that he can go over the terms with you. You are so excited about your new car that you really don’t even pay attention to the part about the interest you will pay for the next four years because the monthly payment is right for you. You make a down payment and drive your car off the lot. A few months later your payment is getting the best of you and you decide to go back and explore the terms of your note. The 20% interest is astronomical and you realize that you will be making payments until Jesus comes back again.
Or maybe you enter college and begin to get mail from MasterCard or Visa. They’ve got a “low introductory interest rate” and you are looking to build your credit history. You get your piece of plastic and tell yourself that you will pay the bill off each month, but then you see something you like, but can’t afford, and the rat race begins. The low introductory rate runs out and you are stuck paying 18% interest on a bill that you can’t handle at the end of the month. You are paying the price for not using your head.
You want to know a really interesting thing about this verse that you can’t see in English? The word for “prudent” is singular, but the word for “simple” is plural. There are so many more simple-minded people who are biting at the bait and suffering from their decisions than there are wise folks who are staying away from these traps today.
Let’s move on. You know how to guard against falling into this trap? Take a look at verse 4 with me. “Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4 NIV) Humility and fear. Very uncommon words today wouldn’t you say? Yet, these two words are central for you and me if we want to avoid the things that will destroy us. Humility helps us remain cognizant of the fact that we don’t know everything, that we are easily deceived, and it makes us more dependent upon God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” Solomon told us in Proverbs 1:7. Not only will humility and an awesome reverence and respect for God and His will for our life help us avoid the painful experiences of suffering financially, but they will “bring wealth, honor, and life.”
Now, I don’t have to repeat what I’ve said a million times about the fallacy of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. Being a Christian will not necessarily translate into a fat bank account, no doctor visits, and many years of life. That is not to say that this verse is not true. I will assure you of this: if you will live your life and handle your finances according to biblical principles you will have more money than if you rush into every opportunity that comes your way. You won’t be paying that 20% interest for a used car for four years. You will spend your money more wisely so that credit card companies can’t hit you with 18-24% interest. You will live a more financially disciplined life and not buy things you don’t need. Your name will be preserved because you will pay your bills on time and not default on your loans. Your name will be preserved because you will refuse to take advantage of the poor with high interest rates when they need your services or buy your products. Your years will be lengthened because of the lessened amount of stress you carry around on you because you pay your bills and avoid creditors beating down your door. What incredible wisdom this is for you and me!!
Let’s move on to our final section of today’s Scripture found in verses 7-9. Read along with me.
7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. 8 He who sows wickedness reaps trouble, and the rod of his fury will be destroyed. 9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. (Proverbs 22:7-9 NIV)
In verse 7 we have a parallel. The word “rich” is paired with the “lender,” the word “poor” is paired with the “borrower,” and last of all “rule” is paired with “servant.” The word “servant” is really the word, “slave” in Hebrew. We see this in our own day. When you owe someone you are in debt to them, you owe them, and they have a certain amount of control over you. Here in this verse we have the rich ruling over the poor because they are charging them interest. God would not allow His people to charge the poor interest. Take a look with me at Exodus 22:25-26.
25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, 27 because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 22:25-26 NIV)
The same teaching is found in the Book of Leviticus where Moses writes,
35 If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. (Leviticus 25:35-38 NIV)
Did you know that when this was written in the ancient Near East enslaving the poor by charging exorbitant interest was allowed everywhere except in Israel? Bruce Waltke writes in his commentary on this verse,
The law codes from the Old Babylonian period limit the rate of interest to 20 percent for money and 33 1/3 percent for grain, and the later Assyrian laws allowed interest at 25 percent for money and 50 percent for grain. These rates aimed to protect the borrower against the greed of moneylenders, who were notorious for their avarice! (Bruce Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Proverbs 15-31, pg. 206.)
God’s people do not create wealth by taking advantage of others. Those that God has blessed with material resources are accountable to use the resources the Lord has blessed them with to help others and not enslave them with exorbitant interest or overcharging them. We desperately need this advice today. Those of us that have been blessed by God need this counsel so that we don’t use our resources to plunge others even further into debt.
There are people who come to this church most everyday who are finding it difficult to pay their electric bill, gas bill, or to buy a prescription they need for some ailment. We could become the First Church of the Loan Sharks and charge them 20% interest on the money they need and help our budget. We might help our budget, but we would ruin our name, and more importantly we would tarnish the name of our Savior. He knows what we are doing.
For those who will not hear the voice of God calling you to change your ways then prepare yourself. God will not forever stand by and allow this to take place. In Proverbs 22:8 we read,
8 He who sows wickedness reaps trouble, and the rod of his fury will be destroyed. (Proverbs 22:8 NIV)
The word for “wickedness” is the opposite of “righteousness.” God’s people are to live in right relationships with all other people. We are to live honestly with others. We are not to steal, manipulate, coerce, use deceit or deception in any of our dealings with others. If we do then God will take care of business. You may be thinking, “I’m not in the loan making business, I don’t own a business so how does this pertain to me?” I’m so glad that you asked. Take a look at verse 9 as we close our study today.
9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9 NIV)
The word for “generous” literally means, “good eye.” The man or woman of God is on the lookout for those they can help. The tyrants, the unrighteous, are always looking for a way to get ahead, a way to make a buck off the backs of others. Solomon says in verse 9 that if we give to those in need with no thought of making money off of them then we will be blessed. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 28:27,
27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.(Proverbs 28:27 NIV)
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul told the people in Corinth that their generosity will not deplete their resources–God will provide for them everything they need in life.
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NIV)
It is no coincidence that Jesus talked more about money than any other subject. How we handle the resources that God has showered upon us has much to do with our relationship to God and how our name is either honored or despised in the community. We should value our name, not simply the name that our parents gave us, but the name “Christian” because how we behave is a direct reflection upon the One who gave His life for us. Because God values His name we should place supreme importance upon how our name reflects His glory, grace, compassion, and honor. In Psalm 138 we read how highly God regards His name.
1 I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise. 2 I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (Psalm 138:1-2 NIV)
I pray that this morning you will allow the Lord to search your heart. Are you honoring His name by the way you live, the way you manage the resources He has entrusted to you? If not then won’t you confess your sin and allow Him to change your heart?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114