Category Archives: Business in Proverbs

Trust in Proverbs

Trust is a curious thing. At its core, it is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something else. It is predictive in nature – you can know the future because you trust the outcome from that person, process or event. Trust takes years to develop and a few seconds to destroy. Trust reveals the quality of the relationship between you and the other person or event.

Proverbs has significant teaching on trust – to whom we give it and how it can harm or benefit us. Like the other articles in this series, we’ll look at each verse where the word “trust” occurs and see what we can learn. Along the way, we’ll apply it to business ownership and leadership.

Proverbs 3.5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs starts its teaching about trust by pointing us to God: We can fully trust in the Lord because His understanding is higher and better than ours. Moreover, when we submit to Him, He has the power and authority to make our paths straight. Trust is relational too: “with all your heart” – there is visceral part of our being that is involved. We have developed a deep relationship with God and can trust Him to act in accordance with His character and personality. We have taken the plunge – we have no plan B – there’s just trust in God. Yes there is danger, but with the very core of our being, we trust God – not ourselves, not our money, not our status, not our insurance, not our businesses – we trust God.

This is where planning and trust must be balanced. Proverbs teaches us to plan and while we can have confidence in our plans, our trust needs to be in God and when He sees that we trust Him viscerally, He then makes our paths straight. Our own understanding – our own knowledge, by itself, will lead us astray. This is because all of life always has a spiritual, unseen component that, if not taken into consideration, will cause us to make decisions without the right matrix of information.

Most business leaders I have met place more trust in their own selves and their plans than they do in God. Many Christian Business Owners will make decisions about spending, expansion, compensation, partnerships and so forth without sitting down and asking God directly. They’ll ask for wisdom, guidance and direction, but they don’t ask directly “what decision should I make?” I personally feel this is due to them not knowing how to hear the voice of God. Once they learn how to do this, they are able to more fully live out Proverbs 3.5-6.

Proverbs 11.28

Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf

In this verse, we are told not to trust in our riches or money because, if we do, we will fall. The reason we fail is because our trust has been misplaced and therefore, God cannot make our path straight. Trusting and/or loving money is one of the best ways to fall away from the Lord. Money comes and goes like a wisp in the wind. It is not a worthy object of trust – it is not reliable, it lacks stability and strength.

Today, there is much cash on the balance sheets of many businesses. They view their cash as their strength – perhaps along with their employees. People, cash, processes, intellectual property – these are the “strengths” of a business, or so the conventional wisdom says. The Bible says something different – our cash is not a strength. Now, it is a tool that can be used, but it is not a “strength”. It is something fools trust in and when it fails them, they fall.

Proverbs 16.20

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord

In this verse we learn that when we trust in the Lord, we are blessed. So, now we know that not only are our paths made straight when we trust in God, but His strait paths provide ongoing blessings to us.

In business, no matter how talented or successful we are, we need to heed instruction that comes our way. I would suggest we need to seek out wisdom and instruction (other part of Proverbs says as much). We can always learn and grow, both personally and professionally. In the long run, when someone stops growing – when they start coasting – that’s when they become irrelevant and outdated. And you can’t coast unless you trust in yourself.

Proverbs 21.22

One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty and pull down the stronghold in which they trust

It seems to me that the phrase “city of the mighty” is a bit tongue-in-cheek in that their “strongholds” in which they trust can be pulled down simply by being wise. This implies that these folks are fools and are trusting in that which is not trustworthy. On the surface, it will appear that they are might and strong, but if they are confronted with Biblical wisdom, that in which they trust will crumble – it will be “pulled down”.

In business, the strength of a company or a balance sheet can be talked about in terms of “this company has a lot of muscle” or “they have the resources to fight”. These types of phrases imply that they are strong and mighty. A Christian Business Owner should look at what they trust in: is it their cash balances? Their legal resources? Their experience? What does the Bible have to say about trusting these things? Wisdom is stronger, this verse tells us, than the strongholds of a mighty city.

Proverbs 23.4-5

Do not wear yourself out to get rich;

do not trust your own cleverness.

Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,

for they will surely sprout wings

and fly off to the sky like an eagle

This is one of the clearest instructions on avoiding work-a-holism. It is sin to wear ourselves out to get rich – to chase money. Why? Because money vanishes faster than a wisp of air. It can fly off and leave you when you least expect it. We are told not to trust in our own cleverness (בִּינָה, literally someone who understands – this is the same Hebrew word used in Proverbs 3.5). We think we understand, but we really don’t. We think we’ve “got it”, but we really don’t. This verse teaches that if we think we can get rich simply by hard work over a sustained period of time, that we may achieve those riches – but then they will be gone – they will fly away and we’ll have to start over.

Two weeks ago, we learned about avoiding get-rich-quick schemes. Today we learn that if our main goal and motivation in working hard is to get rich, that we might very well make some money, but it won’t last, so don’t wear yourself out to get rich.

When you’re a business leader or own, the applications for this are obvious.

Proverbs 27.6

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,

but an enemy multiplies kisses

Wounds from a friend can be trusted because they are coming from your friend, who presumably is a wise and Godly person. When it comes to leading a business, you need to develop friends around you who can speak truth into your life as an owner and sometimes wound you in an effort to help you grow personally and professionally.

Proverbs 28.25

The greedy stir up conflict,

but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.

Those who chase money and wealth often create conflict. I worked with a guy who was in sales and he told me that the way he landed new customers was to watch and wait for his competition to sign new contracts with new customers, then he would go in a create swirl and conflict to the point where he’d walk out with a new contract. He enjoyed creating problems for his competition. He owns his own business now and continues to be greedy – chasing wealth as the ultimate goal in life. By contrast, the righteous who trust in the Lord prosper because A) they don’t stir up conflict, so their business relationships are better and B) God can bless them because they trust in him.

The word prosper (דשׁן) means to be fat, to grow fat, to be fertile, to have abundance. Hence, the writer is saying that when we trust in the Lord, we will be fertile and have abundance. We’ll be able to reproduce and the “soil” in which we work will result in abundance. This applies to our businesses. When we seek to fulfill God’s purposes for business instead of making profits out first goal, we will necessarily place our trust in the Lord and we will prosper as a result.

Proverbs 28.26

Those who trust in themselves are fools,

but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe

We considered this verse in our study of Fools in Proverbs. We learned that when we trust ourselves, we are fools (כְּסִיל, literally insolent; stupid, a person who lacks good judgment). We now can learn that not only is it unwise to place your trust in your wealth, but you’re a fool if you trust yourself as opposed to trusting in God. In business, be sure to place your trust in the Lord, even if you have top talent and a large bucket of cash on your balance sheet. You’ll be tempted to trust the latter, but you’re a fool if you do.

So, to summarize:

  1. We trust God because He is trustworthy
  2. The wisdom of God is stronger than the “strengths” of business
  3. Christian Business Owners and Leaders pay attention to instruction – they are coachable and teachable
  4. Christian Business Owners and Leaders take less profit and success in exchange for a healthy work/life balance
  5. Christian Business Owners and Leaders find their greatest success when they start their activities by trusting in God vs. chasing American success

Planning in Proverbs

Planning is an essential part of leading a business. There are two basic concepts of planning in Proverbs: Plotting (תַּחֲרֹ֣שׁ, literally to plan secretly, usually something wicked) and Planning (מַחְשְׁב֣וֹת, literally the content of what a person is thinking about). The first word focuses more on how the evil plan their future. The second word is more instructive for us as Disciples of Jesus Christ. Proverbs has much to say about planning, so let’s get started.

Proverbs 3.29

Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you

This is one of four verses that gives four prohibitions against malevolent behavior. Verses 27-28 command the reader not to fail to do good whereas 29-30 prohibit malicious activity. Hence, in these four verses (27-30) we find four commands:

  1. Do not withhold good from those whom it is due when it is in your power to act
  2. Do not withhold giving to your neighbor
  3. Do not plan to do harm against your neighbor
  4. Do not falsely accuse your neighbor

For our discussion here, 3.29 is best illustrated by Jezebel’s conspiracy against Naboth and Haman’s designs on Mordecai in Esther.

Note also that the concept of deceit is assumed – the contrast between plotting harm against your neighbors who trust you indicates that deceit will be employed as part of your plan to harm your neighbor. The element of surprise via deceit is in view here.

Proverbs 6.12-15

12 A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
13 who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up conflict.
15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy

In this section, a troublemaker and a villain is described by a cluster of character traits:

  • Corrupt (עִקְּשׁוּת, literally the act of perverting something by turning it to a wrong use) talk
  • Sinister non-verbal’s (winking, shuffling feet, motions with fingers – remember the movie The Sting?)
  • Plots evil with deceit
  • Stirs up conflict

Consider this cluster or matrix of character traits – if you see two or more of the six, be on guard for the others and stay far away from a person like this.

Proverbs 12.5

The plans of the righteous are just,
but the advice of the wicked is deceitful

Here, the plans of a just (righteous) person is compared with that of a wicked person whose plans deceive others. Note also that the concept of a “plan” and “advice” are compared, instructing us that when we create plans, we’re advising those who charged with implementing the plan. A righteous plan does not deceive – it does not mislead or contain deceptions.

Proverbs 12.20

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
but those who promote peace have joy

This is the third time we’re seeing the connection between evil plans and deceit. We’re also seeing that evil plans create strife and conflict because the contrast is with those who promote peace. The opposite of evil plans with deceit is the promotion of peace that results in joy. The follower of God will be aware of this command to avoid deceit and evil and will take intentional actions to ensure that is not part of his/her business.

In business, we must be careful to ensure our marketing, sales and contracts do not deceive or mislead others. We should be intentional about not overstating the quality of our products and services or the positive effects our customers will experience after engaging us. When you hear marketing that sounds too good to be true, your guard should be very high.

Proverbs 14.22

Do not those who plot evil go astray?
But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness

One’s moral behavior is usually the result of planning. When we plan evil, we go astray. But when we plan that which is good, we find love and faithfulness. Both love and faithfulness are characteristics of God and help us understand that planning “good” will also point us to God and demonstrates these two aspects of His character to a lost and broken world.

Proverbs 15.22

Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed

Plans that are created without proper input from those with the right experience and expertise will likely fail, but if you include the right advisors, your plans will succeed. This instructs the business owner and leader to have a team of advisors around them who are allowed to speak into the owner’s plans and business. This is often a serious short coming of most business owners: they are often too proud and too independent to seek out help and collaboration with a team of trusted advisors.

Proverbs 16.1

To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue

Biblical righteousness is fundamentally an attitude of trusting in God. We will “feel” that a certain plan is the right way to go – our intuition may point us in a specific direction. But from God comes the answer of logic and speech. God doesn’t intuit His way through time or our lives.

Proverbs 16.3

Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans

Similar to Proverbs 16.1, we find that when we commit all of our work to God, that He will “establish” our plans. The word for establish (יִכֹּ֗נוּ, literally, to stand up, to sit erect, to set up) gives a flavor of God making one’s plans firm and strong: when God establishes our plans, the storms of life will not sway them.

Proverbs 16.9

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the LORD establishes their steps

Again, we make our plans, but God’s sovereignty determines our steps. This verse wraps up both major lines of theology into one verse: free will and God’s sovereignty. The Doctrine of Concurrency is so helpful at this point – the notion that both are true. We make our plans, but God determines our steps. Both are true.

Proverbs 16.27

A scoundrel plots evil,
and on their lips it is like a scorching fire

Slander is in view in this verse. Scoundrels (בְּ֭לִיַּעַל אִישׁ, literally a man of no worth, especially in regards to righteous behavior – “the term describes deep depravity and wickedness” (EBC)) plot evil and they have no problem slandering others. Slander is described like a “scorching fire” which speaks of the devastating effect of his words. This person digs for scandal and then propagates it with words which are on fire. Investigative reporting borders on this activity. Finding out dirt about a competitor and then spreading it around exemplifies the actions condemned in this verse.

Proverbs 19.21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails

Plans represent purposes. Plans try to accomplish that which is purposeful. Let’s remember that no matter what our purposes are, God’s purposes will prevail. Ultimately, this verse teaches the same core truth as that of 16.9: we make our plans, but God’s sovereignty will win every time. When it matters, God does not lose out to man’s efforts.

Proverbs 20.18

Plans are established by seeking advice;
so if you wage war, obtain guidance

True plans incorporate the wisdom of trusted advisors. Business leaders who draw up their own plans without input of advisors do so at their own peril. This need for advice is heightened when waging war. Business is sometimes war. If you’re going to compete head-to-head, be sure to seek the advice of other leaders and owners – you’ll need it to be successful.

Proverbs 21.5

The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty

Plans, by themselves, are worthless. While they represent purposes and advice, in order to bear fruit, plans must be executed. This is where so many businesses fail – they spent time and money on building great plans – but then they don’t execute well. Poorly executed plans lead to poverty. Executing a plan is an intentional activity. Just like being intentional to spend time with God, tell your spouse you love him/her or saving for retirement, executing a business plan requires intentionality.

Proverbs 21.30

There is no wisdom, no insight,
no plan that can succeed against the LORD

There no nuance in this verse: God’s plans will win every time when in conflict with man’s plans.

Summary

  1. God’s purposes will prevail when our plans are in conflict with His
  2. We should seek advice from others in order to ensure our plans will succeed
  3. We must execute our plans well
  4. We must never plan evil or allow for evil in our plans
  5. We must be intentional in planning and execution of our plans

Speech in Proverbs

How we talk – what we say – is a reflection of what is in our hearts and displays our self-control. Luke 6.45 says:

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Another translation says “…for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” If you want to know what’s in another person’s heart, just listen to what they say.

Another aspect of our character – self-control – is on full display when we talk (James 3.2)

“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”

If you can tame your speech, you’ll be able to keep your whole body in check. But since few of us, if any, keep our whole body in check, it stands to reason that we are sometimes at fault in what we say.

Hence, two core aspects of our personas are on full display when we talk: the quality of our hearts and our self-control. With this in mind, let’s learn about what Proverbs has much to say about our speech. I will apply this to the world of business ownership and Christian Business Owners.

Proverbs 1.20-21

Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech

Wisdom is communicated through speech. We’ll learn that folly is connected with a person who speaks before he thinks. In this verse, we learn that wisdom (which we can have simply by asking God for it in faith – see James 1.5-7) is communicated through speech and that she (the Hebrew word for wisdom (חָכְמוֹת) is a feminine word) is calling out (רנן, lit. to emit a tremulous and stridulous sound) in the public square. In other words, she’ll talk with anyone who will talk with her. In business terms, she’ll work with anyone who will work with her. She is not ashamed of her ideas, insights, observations or conclusions. She knows she is right and yet is not arrogant. She wants to share her wisdom and so she stands in the public square and calls out.

So, the application of this for Christian Business Owners is a question, not a conclusion: Are you listening?

Proverbs 4.24

Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips

In this verse, the Hebrew word for perversity (עִקְּשׁוּת) means the wrong use of something or someone. You’ve taken something intended for a legitimate use and used it for an unintended purpose. The Hebrew word for corrupt (לָזוּת) means a quality of being deceitful and underhanded. Deceit is when you lead someone to believe something is true when it is not. Certainly, not all deceit is sin. For example, most sports include the expectation that the offense will try to deceive the defense in an effort to score. But within the context of sports, deceit (based on the rules of the game) is both expected and applauded when successful. But in life, generally speaking, deceit is sin.

Hence, in our speech, when we take words and use them to lead others to believe something other than what is true, we have both perverted and corrupted our speech.

Now, the fact that our speech might be *legal* (“…it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is…) doesn’t mean we can engage in perverse or corrupted talk.

The words we choose to use in marketing and sales need to be run through this filter: is our marketing speech perverse and/or corrupted? I think the latter is difficult to maintain in sales and marketing. “We’re number 1” or superlative phrases such as “the best” or superlative words such as “unparalleled” or “unmatched” need to be fully vetted and thought through. The Christian Business Owner should be circumspect in his or her sales and marketing claims. It’s best to be as accurate as possible and lose some sales or market share than to sin.

Finally, note that God hates perverse speech (Proverbs 8.13):

To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech

Let’s keep perverse and corrupt talk far from us.

Proverbs 5.3 and 6.4

5.3: For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,

and her speech is smoother than oil

6:4 keeping you from your neighbor’s wife,
from the smooth talk of a wayward woman

Speech can be seductive an alluring. Nearly all temptation involves either speech or site. In both instances, one gets the impression that simply by the way the woman talks, the man becomes spellbound and loses his moorings to his principles as he is seduced and destroyed by the adulterous woman. A Christian Business Owner needs to be on alert for speech like this.

But it’s not just the adulterous woman again whom we need to be on guard. We need to be aware that most marketing materials are filled with words and phrases designed to get you and I to want their product and buy it (here). So, as a consumer, be aware that “smoother than oil” words are around us all the time and that our emotional responses to sales and marketing pitches need to be submitted to the Lord as we let him evaluate our desires.

It’s my observation that those times when I’ve walked closest with the Lord are the same seasons in which I’ve not wanted to purchase very many things – I was happy and content with what I already had. As I drift from the Lord, I can become more discontent. One of the ways to know if a purchase is wise is to compare it to the characteristics of Godly wisdom in James 3.17-18:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness

Note that this wisdom is:

  • Pure
  • Peace-loving
  • Considerate
  • Submissive
  • Full of mercy
  • Full of good fruit
  • Impartial
  • Sincere

The alluring speech of the adulterous woman (and most marketing copy today) is anything but these qualities. A Christian Business Owner will walk closely with God and discern between alluring, seductive speech and speech filled with wisdom.

Proverbs 12.6 and 12.13

12.6: The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the speech of the upright rescues them

12.13: Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk,
and so the innocent escape trouble

The 12.6 proverb comes as part of a series of proverbs that compares the righteous and the wicked:

“The unity of this collection is indicated in the Hebrew structure. These three proverbs follow a logical progression: the righteous make plans that are just, but the wicked scheme with deceitful counsel (v. 5); the wicked attempt to ambush the righteous with their lies, but the righteous are delivered by their integrity (v. 6); the wicked are totally destroyed, but the righteous stand secure.” (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 14, p. 130). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

The integrity of the righteous saves them from being devoured by the wicked.

We have learned that the Christian Business Owner who is walking with God can spot seductive speech and avoid being injured by the wicked person (adulterous women) who is speaking. We have learned that we can avoid sin by making sure our speech is pure and holy, not perverse and corrupt. But we can’t achieve this from the outsideà in, we need to have our hearts and minds transformed so that our speech reflects what is in our hearts (insideàout). It is the transformed pre-disposition to purity and holiness and the supernatural anointing of the Holy Spirit that will help us see the ambush and avoid it, not because we are smart or clever, but because our pre-disposition to purity and integrity will lead us away from the ambush.

The meaning of 12.13 is a bit more clouded, so Garrett helps us here:

“This collection employs two metaphors of gathering food: hunting with snares (symbolizing the wicked) and laboring to raise crops (symbolizing the righteous). The wicked are always looking for ways to defraud people (v. 12a) but are trapped by their own machinations (v. 13a). The righteous, however, allow their prosperity to grow gradually from deep, strong roots (v. 12b), escape the traps set for them (v. 13b), and see their way of life (“fruit of his lips”) yield a bountiful harvest (v. 14).”

Note that the core idea of the righteous being delivered from the ways of the wicked because they escape the traps set for them by wicked people is repeated. The Christian Business Owner and Business Leader sees potential danger and avoids it.

Proverbs 14.23

All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty

The principle that wealth is a reward for diligence is clearly taught here. Elsewhere in Proverbs we’re taught to moderate our hard work (23.4), but here a clear connection is made between wealth creation and hard work. Conversely, if you just sit around and talk about an idea, you won’t create wealth. You must put your talk into action.

Proverbs 20.19

A gossip betrays a confidence;

so avoid anyone who talks too much

The company we keep should reflect who we are in Christ as Christian Business Owners. Those who talk too much end up betraying confidences, so let’s limit our company to those who have self-control and know how to keep confidences.

Proverbs 24.1-2 and 26.23-26

24.1-2: Do not envy the wicked,

do not desire their company;

for their hearts plot violence,

and their lips talk about making trouble

26.23-26: Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware

are fervent lips with an evil heart.

24 Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,

but in their hearts they harbor deceit.

25 Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,

for seven abominations fill their hearts.

26 Their malice may be concealed by deception,

but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly

The wicked will often have money. Elements of their lives may be attractive to us, such as their power, influence, possessions and so forth. If you listen closely to their speech, they may sometimes talk about making trouble for the other guy. Pay attention to this and then control your desires so that you don’t desire to be with them. The implication here is that spending time with them may likely corrupt your desires as you learn to desire what they desire. Stay away from them. You don’t want to put into your heart what is in their heart.

Notice in the 26.23-26 passage that they disguise (נכר, lit. to be foreign, to estrange, to be strange) themselves with their lips (think about how smooth the adulterous woman’s speech is to seduce and entice a Godly man into her bed) to hide the deceit their harbor in their hearts. Their speech is charming (חנן, lit. to be inclined towards or to show favor to someone), but we are instructed not to believe them.

It will require discernment to not believe them. This passage gives us a hint of what we will see: fervent (דלק, lit. to set on fire, to burn, to hotly pursue) lips. Combined with vs 25, we can learn that they will be “over the top” in their effusive praise and favor toward us. They will compliment us to the point where we feel uncomfortable with their praise and favor. This is your indication that their hearts are likely filled with evil and deceit and that you should stay away from them.

Gossiping

Turning to a topic in Proverbs called gossiping (הלך lit., to go around), Proverbs consistently condemns this type of speech. Here are the verses regarding gossip in Proverbs:

11.13: A gossip betrays a confidence,

but a trustworthy person keeps a secret

16.28: A perverse person stirs up conflict,

and a gossip separates close friends

18.8: The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;

they go down to the inmost parts

20.19: A gossip betrays a confidence;

so avoid anyone who talks too much

26.20: Without wood a fire goes out;

without a gossip a quarrel dies down

26.22: The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;

they go down to the inmost parts

Those who engage in gossip:

  • betray confidences
  • create conflict
  • injure people to the core of who they are
  • separate close friends

All of us have engaged in gossip at one time or another. Gossip should not be characteristic of the Christian Business Owner or a Christian Business Leader.

Summary

In this post, we have learned from Proverbs several points and principles to bear in mind as Christian Business Owners:

  1. What we say and how we say it is a reflection of what is in our hearts
  2. Wisdom is communicated through speech and is available to anyone who wants it. The question is: Are we listening?
  3. We need to keep perverse and corrupt talk far from us
  4. We need to walk with God so that we can discern smooth speech that has deceit and evil behind it
  5. If we just talk and take no action, we’ll not be prosperous
  6. We should avoid associating with a gossip and we should not engage in gossip
  7. Unnecessary flattery means there is an evil intent in the heart of the other person

Bill English
Founder, Bible and Business

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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