Category Archives: Proverbs and Business

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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