Monday, May 21, 2018

Wealth - First and Best 2

In poetry and wisdom literature, you see a lot of parallelism. This means the writer says the same thing in the second line, but changes the wording and sometimes adds a couple details or explains how to do something. A lot of parallels pop out of Proverbs 3:9-10.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, 
With the firstfruits of all your crops; 
Then your barns will be filled to overflowing, 
And your vats will brim over with new wine. 

"Honor” is paired with “firstfruits”
“Wealth” is paired with “all your crops”
"Barns” is paired with “vats”
“Filled to overflowing” is paired with “Brim over”

Wealth and Crops

That word “wealth” is a collective way of referencing everything I have that is worth any value. For the original readers of this poem, who lived thousands of years ago, their wealth was primarily wrapped up in their land. Cattle, crops, real estate – that was their wealth. So the writer elaborates in the parallel line “all your crops”.

For a middle-class American, wealth usually means something different:
  • Compensation (i.e. a paycheck, stock dividends, other benefits) 
  • Property (i.e. equity in your home, real estate value) 
  • Possessions with value (i.e. vehicles, investments, pensions) 
And each of us has our own unique measure of wealth. A blind man may have several thousand dollars wrapped up in his service dog. A consultant’s education and skills hold value. Someone below the poverty line has value attached to food stamps and welfare funds. A professional soccer player may have a large insurance policy drafted up for his legs, because his legs do things that mine can’t! What does your wealth consist of?

Notice our verse asks that we honor the Lord with all of our wealth. If we can grasp this concept, it will save a lot of headache. Sometimes we are guilty of asking the wrong questions:

Wrong Question
Right Question
What percentage of my income should I give?
What do I have available to give to God?
Should I give before or after paying taxes?
How can I honor God with everything I have, including money, possession, skills, education, and everything I own that has value?
How much can I keep for myself?
How much can I store up in heaven?
Should I give to my local church, or other non-profits?
Who or what would God want me to give to?

To Whom Much is Given…

I could use some more money. My family need some things we do not have. And the stuff we do have is getting old. I wish we could eat a little better. I wish I could go out to eat more. I wish we could do better vacations. I’d like to travel more. I wish I had more in savings. I wish I could put more into retirement. I wish I could finally start that college fund for the kids. I wish we could just pay off that debt.

This is how I think about my family’s current situation. But here’s the kicker - I thought the same things back when my salary was ⅓ of what it is now. When will it be enough?

The answer: it will never be enough. For the remainder of my life on this earth I will wish I had more money. And that will never change no matter how much I have.

Believe it or not, Jesus told us this would happen. And that was a couple thousand years ago when the economy and culture looked much different.

Matthew 6:19–20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

There are always new things to acquire. There will always be things you don’t have that you want to have. And once you finally attain them, when you buy something new, it will instantly begin to get old, get slow, get stolen, or break. And you’ll need a new one.

Jesus’ advice was this: Invest your money in a way that it will never get old, get slow, get stolen, or break. John Wesley wrote “I value all things only by the price they shall game in eternity.” David Livingstone likewise said “I place no value on anything I possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God.” And Jim Elliot told us “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” These guys were greedy. Completely driven by greed. They spent their time, money, and life trying to become rich. Not in this life of course; but in the next.[1]

Materialism is the greatest obstacle to the kingdom of God.[2] The writer of Proverbs wrote “Honor the Lord with your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9). We have to reorient ourselves to think heaven, not earth; then, not now; his mission, not our wishes.

How will you honor the Lord with your wealth?

[1] Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity (Tyndale House Publishers, 2003), 94–95.
[2] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007), 258–63.

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