In reading Proverbs 21 today, the Lord impressed on me two verses which work together to help give us clear instruction that we need today.
The first is verse 2: “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.” We make our plans, we make our decisions, we live our life and in the midst of all this, the Lord is weighing our motives and what is in our hearts. He looks not only at what we do, but why we do it. He considers our intent – what is in our heart. The second is verse 20: “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” I have to admit that I have been a foolish man in the past, devouring all that I had. I didn’t save. I didn’t store up for the future.
There are a couple of undercurrents that connect these two verses. First, a foolish man will devour all that he has for selfish reasons. American encourages this selfishness and celebrates it, frankly. Just watch some of the shows on cable TV – lives of the rich and famous, mega yachts, doomsday preppers and so forth – what is common in all of them is a complete consumption of one’s wealth to achieve something that cannot be sustained except by a very few. Many of the very wealthy in decades past are now broke. They spent all they had on themselves. Or, perhaps, they engaged in philanthropy and giving – but the giving was done “before men” rather than “before God”. But even if they consumed all they had through giving to charities and the like, God still considers their heart and their motives.
It cannot be denied that American marketing encourages us to spent all our wealth in exchange for supposed happiness. Americans are NOT encouraged to save. Why do we do this? Why do we consume all that we have? I suspect, in one form or another, it is to tranquilize our boredom. Look at the malls of America – they are filled with people looking to buy one more thing – one more toy to give them a lift. The vast majority of Americans have everything they need. But satisfying our wants is impossible because our desires are insatiable. We believe that we won’t be happy and satisfied without getting that new this or that. In verse 20, the underlying current is that those who spend all they have on themselves will not be happy. Those who are wise “store up” the best for later, which leads to both contentment and margin.
The lessons for all of us today is simple:
- Regardless of your income level, live on less than you make.
- Learn that you won’t find sustained happiness in spending all that we have on our own pleasures.
- Want what you have and be content with it.
Bill English, CEO