What does the Bible have to say about wealth, budgeting, business, saving and investing? A lot. At the end of each week, I’d like to look at a verse concerning our heart posture towards God and money. We’ll examine how the verse addresses the practical issues of life, as well as our mindset on the gift of money God has given us. Ultimately, we should see Jesus.
Proverbs 28:19-20 "Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished."
In these verses from the book of wisdom, within the book of wisdom (Proverbs is a book of wisdom within the Bible - the ultimate book of wisdom) we get some really good nuggets about work, patience, greed and faithfulness. All of these insights are beautifully intertwined by Solomon, with this concise phrase. Let's unpack it.
First, theres a direct correlation between work and blessing or sustenance. Bread is a basic need, we eat it to survive. By working, we will not just have bread to survive, we will have bread in abundance. Having plenty means having a wealth of something - such as a wealth of knowledge, wealth of happiness, or plenty of friends. Plenty is a blessing and is the result of working. Solomon also clarifies whose land the person should be working on. "Whoever works his land." With what's been given to you, work and steward that well. When we start focusing on other things, we begin to act like the second man Solomon describes in this passage.
When we're coveting, we're not content with what we've been given. This leads us on a fruitless, or bread-less, path of worthless pursuits. It ultimately leads to poverty rather than plenty. We all have something that we can work and develop in order to provide for ourselves and our family. Whatever skill, idea, or opportunities we have can be worked in order to have plenty of wealth. Not riches, but wealth. There's a big difference. Wealth is a noun for abundance of valuable possessions. Rich is an adjective describing a person who has abundant possessions - especially material ones. Now, the main difference is is the ownership. Rich takes possession, while wealth just describes a state of being. When it comes to biblical stewardship, we all know there is only one person who is rich - and that's God. We get to share in his wealth as his creation.
The faithful man who works diligently will abound in blessings. He'll abound in the wealth of God because he's worked with what he has rather than long for what isn't his. Working consistently produces the character trait of faithfulness. The Bible is full of stories where God blesses those who are faithful, where blessing is the byproduct of a faithful life and not the goal. We don't act faithfully so that God can bless us. We do it because we love him.
Solomon then shows us the path to poverty. It's filled with get rich quick schemes that are ultimately worthless. These schemes are ways to avoid the blessing of work. We would rather be lazy and get what we want than labor for the things we need most. Anything worth doing is going to require sacrifice. Trying to take the easy route will only hurt us in the long run.
I want to be clear that I'm not saying those who are in poverty are lazy. That's not the point of this verse. There are also plenty of lazy rich people. Blessing isn't limited to money, and the value of work isn't simply in the wages we get because of the work we do. Working brings dignity and honor to the person, things money can't buy or quantify.
So how do we see Jesus in all of this? We can take a look at Matthew 4:1-11 and see Jesus being tempted by the Devil. Anything worth doing is worth sacrificing for. The Devil tempts him to manipulate creation in order to satisfy his own needs, break his fast and ultimately disobey God by distorting his creation. The Devil presents Jesus with the keys to the kingdom, if he would stop being faithful to God and worship him instead. With each temptation, Jesus shows faithfulness to God by following His word instead of the Devil's. Jesus ministered, or served, and worked on Earth in order to die on a cross for a people that rejected him. He didn't have to. But he wanted us to have a relationship with the Father again. That was worth sacrificing for. And now, resurrected and at the right hand of the Father, the firstborn of all creation, the King of kings and Lord of lords has plenty of bread and abounds with blessings. Blessings he has graciously bestowed on us by giving us eternal life.