Wealth in Proverbs

Business owners have unique opportunities to leverage the work and talent of others to create value for their customers and wealth for themselves. How a Christian Business Owner manages the wealth that God gives him or her (Deuteronomy 8) is a core stewardship issue about which God will evaluate the owner. So, given that the Bible gives us everything we need to know from the mind of God in order to live righteously before Him, it behooves us business owners to understand and follow what God has told us about wealth.

Why look to the book of Proverbs? Because “the purpose of a proverb is to help one choose the best course of action among those available—the foolish way is to be avoided and the wise way followed.” (Ross, A. P. (1991). Proverbs. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 5, p. 904). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.)

This post look at the concept of wealth in the book of Proverbs. What does Proverbs have to say about wealth and how does this teaching guide a Christian Business Owner? Let’s take a look.

The Concept of Wealth in Proverbs

The following references to wealth exist in Proverbs:

Proverbs 3.9-10

Honor the Lord with your wealth,

with the first fruits of all your crops;

10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

and your vats will brim over with new wine

Principle: the first part of our wealth that God gives to us should be given back to Him in recognition that God gave it to us in the first place. In exchange, we are promised abundance and fullness.

Proverbs 5.10

Now then, my sons, listen to me;

do not turn aside from what I say.

Keep to a path far from her,

do not go near the door of her house,

lest you lose your honor to others

and your dignity to one who is cruel,

10 lest strangers feast on your wealth

and your toil enrich the house of another.

Principle: when we spend our money on sin, we enrich the house of another and we lose our honor and dignity (see Proverbs 29.3 for a similar teaching).

Proverbs 8.12-19

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;

I possess knowledge and discretion.

13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil;

I hate pride and arrogance,

evil behavior and perverse speech.

14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;

I have insight, I have power.

15 By me kings reign

and rulers issue decrees that are just;

16 by me princes govern,

and nobles—all who rule on earth.

17 I love those who love me,

and those who seek me find me.

18 With me are riches and honor,

enduring wealth and prosperity.

19 My fruit is better than fine gold;

what I yield surpasses choice silver

Principle: gaining wealth is the result of pursuing and possessing wisdom, knowledge and discretion. In Proverbs, “wisdom, right behavior, and devotion to God are inseparably bound…” (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 14, p. 84). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

Proverbs 10.4

Lazy hands make for poverty,

but diligent hands bring wealth

Principle: you can’t get rich by being lazy. Bachman Turner Overdrive had it wrong (even though I like the tune – it’s rather catchy):

You get up every morning from your alarm clock’s warning
Take the 8:15 into the city
There’s a whistle up above and people pushin’, people shovin’
And the girls who try to look pretty
And if your train’s on time, you can get to work by nine
And start your slaving job to get your pay
If you ever get annoyed, look at me I’m self-employed
I love to work at nothing all day

And I’ll be taking care of business (every day)
Taking care of business (every way)
I’ve been taking care of business (it’s all mine)
Taking care of business and working overtime, work out

If it were easy as fishin’ you could be a musician
If you could make sounds loud or mellow
Get a second-hand guitar, chances are you’ll go far
If you get in with the right bunch of fellows
People see you having fun just a-lying in the sun
Tell them that you like it this way
It’s the work that we avoid [emphasis added], and we’re all self-employed
We love to work at nothing all day

And we be taking care of business (every day)
Taking care of business (every way)
We be been taking care of business (it’s all mine)
Taking care of business and working overtime

Proverbs 10.15

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,

but poverty is the ruin of the poor

Principle: the wealth of the rich is their security, but this must be tempered with other teachings on wealth (see also 18.11 where this same idea is stated).

Proverbs 10.22

The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,

without painful toil for it

Principle: The Lord’s blessing can greatly reduce the effects of the original curses God placed on work (see Genesis 3.17)

Proverbs 11.4

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,

but righteousness delivers from death

Principle: Wealth will not impress God at the Judgment Seat. Only your righteousness (which is imputed to us anyways by God through Christ’s atonement) will save us on that day. Your wealth is temporal and has no eternal value.

Proverbs 11.16

A kindhearted woman gains honor,

but ruthless men gain only wealth

Principle: Evil men can acquire wealth, but they cannot acquire the higher valuables in life, such as honor.

Proverbs 14.24

The wealth of the wise is their crown,

but the folly of fools yields folly

Principle: Wealth is an ornament for those who use it well.

Proverbs 15.16

Better a little with the fear of the Lord

than great wealth with turmoil

Principle: Wealth is not nearly as valuable as fearing the Lord.

Proverbs 19.4

Wealth attracts many friends,

but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them

Principle: People like to be around wealthy people. Money attracts “friends”. Be careful, however, as these “friends” will desert you when you’re poor. Blood, Sweat and Tears had it right:

Them that’s got, shall get
Them that’s not, shall lose
So the Bible said, and it still is news
Mama may have, and papa may have

God bless’ the child,
That’s got his own
That’s got his own
Yes the strong seem to get more

While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t
Ever make the grade
As mama may have

And papa may have
God bless’ the child
That’s got his own
That’s got his own.

And when you got money,
You got a lots of friends
Crowdin’ ’round your door
When the money’s gone

And all you’re spendin’ ends
They won’t be ’round any more
No, no, no more
[emphasis added]
And rich relations

May give you
A crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don’t take too much

Mama may have
And your papa may have
But God bless’ the child
That’s got his own

That’s got his own
God bless’ the child who can stand up and say
I’ve got my own
Ev’ry child’s, got to have his own!

Proverbs 19.14

Houses and wealth are inherited from parents,

but a prudent wife is from the Lord

Principle: Material wealth can be gained by earthly means, but the most valuable things we want in life come from the Lord.

Proverbs 22.16

One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth

and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty

Principle: The sure way to become impoverished is to make your money on the backs of the poor. Why? Because God is the defender of the poor and He will set Himself against you.

Proverbs 28.8

Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor

amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor

Principle: When you make your money by taking advantage of the poor, you will amass wealth, but God will ensure your wealth lands in the hands of another who will be kind to them – who will not take advantage of them.

Summary

Here is an introduction for Proverbs’ teaching on wealth:

Verse or Passage Core Principle Application for Christian Business Owners
Proverbs 3.9-10 We give back the first part of our wealth to remind ourselves Who gave us our wealth. It teaches us humility and giving. Our minimum giving should be our tithe. Our maximum giving should be more than our tithe as God leads and directs us.
Proverbs 5.10 Do not spend money to sin. God will take away your wealth and you will lose your honor and dignity as well as your wealth. Take seriously how you entertain customers, partners, vendors and so forth. Do not invest in businesses that create sin.
Proverbs 8.12-19 Wisdom, wealth, right behavior and devotion to God are inseparably bound You can’t live with private sin and expect God to bless you financially.
Proverbs 10.4 You can’t get rich unless you work hard Avoid “get rich quick” schemes – they don’t exit. Avoid laziness. Work hard and yet don’t become a work-a-holic.
Proverbs 10.15 Wealth provides security. Don’t think your wealth is your primary security. Part of the reason we tithe and gift our wealth is because we know that God is our ultimate security and provider.
Proverbs 10.22 When we live in righteousness, even our hardest work is not that hard and God gives us increased productivity Walk with God in righteous and you will find your work is more productive and not as “painful” as it was when you were living in sin (2 Chronicles 7.13-15)
Proverbs 11.4 While wealth may be a sign of blessing from God, it’s not a ticket into heaven. Only your righteousness before God – which is given to you anyways – is your way into heaven. Wealth is temporal – righteousness is eternal Put your trust in eternal things in God alone. Your wealth is worthless outside of these worldly systems.
Proverbs 11.16 The highest valuables you really want in life cannot be purchased with money. Pursue the most valuable things that can be found only in God. Keep your wealth in it’s’ place so that it can be used for God’s Kingdom.
Proverbs 14.24 Wealth is like an ornament to the wealthy person when it is used properly Ask God how He would have you use your wealth. It doesn’t belong to you – it belongs to God to be used for his purposes on this earth. Be willing to live at a lower standard of living in order to use your wealth for God’s Kingdom.
Proverbs 19.4 Wealth attracts people – lots of them who will claim to be your loyal, trusted friend. Don’t fall for this ruse. As you become wealthier, don’t fall for the schemes of those who want to cozy up to you with a hidden agenda of getting at your wealth. Be careful who you trust with your wealth and your information.
Proverbs 19.14 Material wealth can be gained by earthly means, but the most valuable things we want in life come from the Lord. Set your heart on treasures in heaven, not on acquiring treasures on this earth
Proverbs 22.16 The sure way to become impoverished is to make your money on the backs of the poor. Why? Because God is the defender of the poor and He will set Himself against you Pay fair wages. Ask for honest work. Train your employees. Focus on building them up and making them better people, not just better workers
Proverbs 28.8 When you make your money by taking advantage of the poor, you will amass wealth, but God will ensure your wealth lands in the hands of another who will be kind to them – who will not take advantage of them Be kind to the poor – help them out by providing good work and a fair wage. Give them work even when you don’t need it. Protect their dignity by providing work for them.

I’ve written this list elsewhere on this site, but it bears repeating here:

  • Money can buy a house, but it can’t buy a home.
  • Money can buy medicine, but it can’t buy health.
  • Money can buy a thrill, but it can’t buy satisfaction.
  • Money can buy power, but it can’t buy respect.
  • Money can buy sex, but it can’t buy intimacy.
  • Money can buy an education, but it can’t buy wisdom.
  • Money can buy a membership, but it can’t buy friendship.
  • Money can buy an army, but it can’t buy peace.
  • Money can buy servants, but it can’t buy loyalty.
  • Money can buy prestige, but it can’t buy a reputation.
  • Money can buy a religion, but it can’t buy a savior.

The things we most deeply want in life cannot be purchased by money. It’s one of the great lies of Satan – that money will satisfy you. Everything you really want in life is found, ultimately, in the person of Jesus Christ.

God gives differing amounts of wealth to those in the body of Christ. To whom much is given, much is required. If you are a Christian Business Owner, take a moment to check yourself against the truths of Proverbs. And then take whatever action God asks of you in response to your self-assessment.

Bill English
Founder, Bible and Business

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