Proverbs 23 / January 27th, 2018 / Dr. Todd Gray
Did you know that 40% of Jesus’ parables were connected with wealth and money? We know that we should be chasing God over everything else, but we often get distracted by the pursuit of more, bigger, and better. Chase God and not wealth. Wealth and work can be good, but God is better.
- Don’t Work for Wealth (Proverbs 23:4a)
- Don’t Let the Pursuit of Wealth Distract You (Proverbs 23:4b)
- Wealth Flies (Proverbs 23:5)
Amen. Wasn’t that a good song? Wow. The theology is deep and good. If you have your Bible’s this morning, let’s open together in Proverbs, chapter 23. Proverbs, chapter 23 verses four and five. Not a lot of verses this morning but a lot of impact, if you would let it. We’ve been in this series called, Beyond Sunday. Basically what does your Christian faith look like, the rest of the week, and in this series we’ve talked about a lot of things.
The last couple of weeks we’re talking about living on Mission Beyond Sunday, and our mission is the same no matter who you are or where you from, to love God and to love others. I don’t know about you but those verses were impactful, and on time for me. I pray they were for you as well. The first Sunday we started this series, kind of, the motivation for why God gave me this series was work, and we took a trip to Genesis to see literally, the Genesis or the beginning of work and we found out a lot of good things about work that, work is good.
It’s not a curse. The sin came in and then work had a curse attached to it but from the beginning, work is good because it’s from God, and we agreed together on that Sunday that work was worship. Now today’s message is kind of a counterpart, the warning to that first week’s message. It’s don’t worship wealth, which for you might be translated, don’t worship work. As soon as I say the word, wealth, many people’s attention, their attention meters … what wealth, what? Not always a bad thing.
I’m just saying it gets our attention but also it gets people a little antsy. I don’t believe there is a more sensitive subject to be preached about in America in 2019 than wealth. Now some of that’s because we have so much more of it than we’ve ever had in the past but also because of that, sometimes we want it more than we ever have had in the past. So we talk about not worshiping wealth, which I believe might the root cause of why so many people are workaholics, because they’re chasing the dollar through work.
Now let’s pause for a second. There’s clarifying statements I’m gonna make throughout the message that you’re gonna get tired of because I don’t know where your mind is right now. I don’t have to. I don’t know where your heart is right now but I’m anticipating some fear of talking about wealth. So let me say some things that are just true, okay. Wealth is not evil. Money is not bad. We’ve already established work is good and we work to make wealth to provide for our family.
What I want to talk about today, is the motivation on how we do it. This issue of wealth is not about money. Having it or not having it. It’s about what is your motivation in obtaining it, and how do you obtain it. Now the Bible has a lot to say about that and the passage I want to read together is Proverbs, chapter 23. Let’s turn there together and start reading in verse four. Let’s stand together.
This morning what I believe we need is balance. We don’t need to hate money. Money is not the problem. We don’t need to hate work. Work’s not the problem. We also don’t need to be lazy and just expect God to bail us out. What we need is balance and so this is what the book of Proverbs is all about. Practical balance. Let’s read together.
Solomon who wrote this book says, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth. Cease from your consideration of it”. Proverbs 23 verse 5, “When you set your eyes on it”, listen to this, “It’s gone”. Like it vanishes. “For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens”. This is God’s word, practical word. Please be seated.
Today here’s my desire. My desire is that you would chase God and not wealth. A pretty simple concept, that we chase God and not wealth, that you see wealth as good but you don’t become obsessed with it. That you see work as good but you don’t work so hard that it distracts you from things that are way more important in your life, and this is what Solomon, who by the way was probably the richest man who ever lived, this is what he wants to talk to us about today.
If anybody understood the subject or the concept of what it meant to be rich, it was this guy, and he has this to say to us, and the first thing I believe he wants us to know is that we don’t work just for money. Now wait a second pastor, I have to work to make money. I didn’t say you shouldn’t do that. Yes, I understand you have to work to make money and whatever work and the internet world looks like today, but don’t work just for the money. Don’t work for money alone. This is what Solomon wants us to hear, to not be obsessed with gaining wealth and that be sole motivation of why we go to work. So it says, “Don’t weary yourself to gain wealth”. Don’t weary yourself out getting rich, it’s not worth it. Let’s talk about wearing ourself out for the sake of getting rich for a second.
This whole series has been directed toward the things that we do beyond Sunday, and here’s the reality. What we do beyond Sunday, much of it revolves around making and spending money, going to the grocery store, spending money, shopping online, spending money, going to work, making money, savings and all the other things that we do so much of it, has to do with money. That’s why there’s like 500 verses in the Bible that talk about prayer and faith but there’s 2000, over 2000 verses in the Bible that talk about wealth and money. It’s what we deal with on a daily basis.
In the eyes of some, it’s what makes the world go around. Wrong. That is God’s job but sometimes that’s how commerce happens through wealth and through money. Did you know that 40% of the Parables that Jesus taught were connected to money and wealth somehow. So that means this church. We have to talk about it. It’s a part of your daily life and if any time we needed some financial wisdom it’s now, right now because we have so much wealth.
So Solomon’s message to all of us today, and his warning to all of us today is on time. I pray that you will see it as such. When you focus only on money, when you make work just about money, some things get lost behind you as you’re moving forward. Sometimes it’s family that gets left back here. Sometimes it’s friends. Sadly, sometimes it’s faith. Sometimes it’s your co-workers. Sometimes it’s what it means to be a boss, sometimes it’s what it means to be a co-worker. There’s all of these things when your focus is only on one thing and that’s not Christ, and that’s money instead, there’s lots of things that get hurt that you don’t want to get hurt or they get neglected that God doesn’t want you to neglect.
So yes, work is good but listen to this. Don’t stain the beauty of work by making it all about money. If you would just write anything down today, write that down. Don’t stain the beauty of work by making it all about money because God has purpose in your work, and most of it doesn’t come from the dollars you earn, it’s the people you work with, the influencing you have and the platform, the Gospel, for the Gospel that he’s given you.
If all you are is focusing on that dollar, you’re chasing it every day, you’re gonna miss the good stuff. That’s what Solomon is trying to help us understand. The great commandments are, loving God and loving others. That’s all about God and people that surrounds you. If all you’re focusing on is making money at work, you can’t love God and love others at work. It’s a competition that God wants to win every time. So don’t make it competition, make it all about him. Notice what’s not in the great commandments, loving money, which I could also translate, not just loving yourself, because when you make it about money, why you making the money? For you. If that’s your most important thing and usually it has something to do with you. Now I know we’re trying to church it up like, well I just want to get rich to help God out. He doesn’t need your help.
Turns out he owns the camel and a thousand needles, turns out you don’t even know [inaudible 00:09:16] thinking about God but he can use it, and he can get the glory from it, and it can be good. Oh, wealth … church listen to me. Wealth can be so good. Money can be so good. It’s how Christianity has impacted the world for thousands of years. Those who God has blessed with money, they build hospitals and orphanages and church buildings and help reach people that have never been reached before. All that takes money but you’ll never be able to see those things and give to those things if all you’re focusing on is the money you make for you.
That’s all that Solomon is trying to say. I read a story this week about a, again this is like a good joke almost, about a wealthy, rich old man and a Rabbi. It’s not gonna be a joke but they were friends and they kind of grew old together. The wealthy man had grown old and gotten very wealthy but he was a little grumpy. That happens to us sometimes when we get older. I don’t why but guess what, it happens sometimes when we’re younger as well. This Rabbi, I don’t know if he was grumpy or not, that’s not in the story but he had also grown old but he wasn’t rich. He had a very simple life and one time the rich, old man went to visit the old Rabbi. Went to his home and the Rabbi soon realized that he was very grumpy and he came up with this genius idea to help him understand why he was so grumpy.
So the first thing he did, he took the rich old man to a window, and the Rabbi said, “What do you see?”. The old guy goes, “Well I see some men over here, there’s some women and there’s some children as well”. The Rabbi says, “Fine”. He takes him and leads him to another part of the living room and this time he has him look in the mirror, and he says, “Now what do you see?”. By this point the rich, old man is not enjoying whatever point he’s trying to make and he gets a little frustrated and he goes, “Well I see myself of course, what do you expect me to see?”.
The Rabbi says, “Oh I understand, when you looked out the window it was made of glass. All you could see was the people but as soon as a little bit of silver was added to the glass on the mirror, all you could see was yourself”. Some of you is taking a second to hit. Don’t miss that point. Silver represents wealth. If silver is added to the equation, and that’s all you can see is the wealth, it’s gonna blind you to the people and to the blessings around you and all you’re gonna see is yourself. That’s what wealth does when it consumes you. All it shows you is you, and what you want, and what you need and you, you, you and you lose the focus on God and them and then you’re unable to fulfill the great commandments of loving God and loving others.
Solomon is saying, don’t make it about you, don’t wear yourself out getting rich. If you want to wear yourself out doing something, wear yourself out bringing glory to God through your work, through your discipleship, through your school, through your class, through your vacation, through whatever. My favorite verse on the subject, as you probably well know is, Colossians 3:23. Paul says, “Whatever you do”, meaning your job, whatever you do that consumes those week day hours, whatever your work hours are or your school hours are, he says, “Do you work heartily, as if for the Lord rather than for man”, even if the man you’re working for is you.
“Knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the reward. Not from man, of the inheritance. It is the Lord, Jesus Chris whom you serve”. I love this verse. We serve Christ not money. We serve Christ, not people. We serve Christ, and not work. All of those things are vehicles in which we serve him through. Money is not the problem church, wealth is not the problem. It’s our motivation and how we get it.
This is what Paul says in First Timothy chapter six. He reminds us in verse nine that money is not the issue. What does he say here? “Those who want to get rich, fall into temptation”. He doesn’t say those who are rich. He didn’t have a problem with rich but those who wan to get rich. Meaning the desires, all they’re thinking about is getting rich. They fall into temptation in a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. Pretty strong words for those who want to get rich.
Verse 10, “For the love of money”. He didn’t say for having money. He says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil and some by longing for it”. That’s a good word. “Longing for it, have wondered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”. That’s all that Solomon’s saying. Don’t try so hard to get rich to the point where it consumes you. Why, because then when it consumes you, it’ll distract you.
Let’s move on to the second part of verse four. “Don’t let the pursuit of wealth distract you”. See this is where the problem comes in, not that you have wealth but your pursuit of wealth. You’re chasing wealth, when it distracts you from the most important things in life. So what does Solomon say, stop giving your attention to it. That’s how the HCSB translate it or the INV says, “Be wise enough to restrain yourself”. Then the ASB, which we study out of most of the time says, “Cease from your consideration of it”. It doesn’t mean stop thinking about it altogether, but it’s like the New Living translation says, “Be wise enough to know when to quit”. Church, this is a fine line you have to walk every day.
When you go to work and you make money, know when to stop. Know when enough money is enough. Know when to leave work. You say, “Pastor how do I know when good is too much?. When the good thing about going to work and the good thing about money, when do I know it’s become too much?”. It’s an easy answer. Everybody listen.
When it distracts you from the other more important things in your life. The most dangerous thing you can be distracted from, because of your love of money is Christ. How many unbelievers have lived in our world that have been distracted with the love of money and never come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? I don’t know the number but it’s too many. It’s too many that I see by the way they act and the books that they write and what they pursue more than anything.
If money causes you to miss Jesus, listen to me, you’ve missed the most important thing on the face of the universe because if you don’t have Christ, and you have lots of money, how does that equation end? You have what, nothing. Nothing. That’s what Jesus says. “What good is it if a man gains the whole world?”, every cent that’s ever existed. Solomon almost had all that. What good is if he gains it all but he forfeits his soul?
Solomon, a very rich would say, it doesn’t do you very much good to have a lot of money without God. So you can’t buy a magic eraser that can remove the stain of sin on your heart. You can’t buy your way out of the penalty of sin. You can’t buy your way into forgiveness but you know who can and who did? Jesus. He paid your debt on that old rugged cross 2000 years ago and because he was fully God, and because he was fully man, if you would repent of your sin and believe in him, he would remove the stain of sin on your heart, and he’s the only one that can do that.
So if he’s the only one that can do that, don’t let money distract you from that. If you’re here today and you’ve not entrusted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, there’s no amount of money that’s gonna help you. Jesus can give you more joy than the world even has to offer, and he gives it to you, not for free but through the price of his blood that he shed on the cross but it’s available to every one of you today.
Don’t be distracted from Christ because of a love of money. Please don’t. It’s not worth it and as a Christian, you know what? Did you know that believers, true follows of Christ can also be distracted by a love of money? It can consume us as well. It can distract us as well. Now we have to find some balance here. What I’m not saying is that you should be lazy and you shouldn’t work and you shouldn’t desire to make money.
Paul addresses that. He says, “If a man does not work”. Here in 2 Thessalonian 3:10, “He shouldn’t eat”. He also says in first Timothy 5:8, “If a man doesn’t provide for his own family or woman, he’s worse or she’s worse than an unbeliever”, but at the same time it doesn’t give you the liberty to be consumed by money and to be consumed by work to the point that it distracts you. What do we want? Balance.
It’ll get you both going and coming. So here’s the thing, I don’t know where your heart is today. I don’t know which way you lean. If you’re here today and you lean towards laziness, know you cannot sit at home and wait for God to bail you out. You need to get off your hinny and you need to get to work and you need to work hard, and if through working hard God gives you wealth, praise him. Use it for his glory but if your heart, which Solomon is talking to today has a tendency towards hoarding money, it’s not just those who hoard money and save money, saving money is actually a biblical concept. It can also be those who love to spend money. I’m kind of over there, then what you need to hear is know when enough’s enough.
You say, “Pastor how how do I know when I’m distracted?”. Not too complicated. When you start letting go of those things that are more important that wealth. So this is gonna get personal but hear me out for a second. If you’re constantly missing tucking your children in at night, and not leading them in the word of God, for months and months and years, and years at time, you’re probably getting distracted. If vacation is an alien concept to you, if the idea of taking off work early is a foreign thing, if date night is a word that your spouse has never heard, you’re probably getting distracted. If you’re missing these key moments in your children’s life, their games, their activities on a continual and consistent basis, if you’re constantly showing up and your wife’s like, when are you gonna come home on time, if your husband’s constantly saying, when am I gonna get my wife back, you’re probably getting distracted.
I just want to show you the danger. When your focus on money distracts you from the people, the relationships and the God that you serve, if you go every day, you wake up and you hustle, and you hustle, and you hustle and you never pray, and you never read his word, you’re getting distracted. What’s the solution? Fall into a spiraling guilt of shame. Fix it. Solomon says, know when to go home, show some restraint, find balance.
Now let me talk to some of you hustlers out there. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean some people just work hard and sometimes when you’re getting started in something, when you just get to a new job or you’re young and you’re starting a new business, you have to make some sacrifices. I want you to know, God understands that for a season. Okay, don’t feel guilty for putting in a lot of time for a season.
When Tammy and I first got to Tabernacle, I was up here till midnight more times than I want to admit. I was working hard. There was things that I felt like I needed to do but we agreed it was a season but you know what happens sometimes? Sometimes that season was extended, and we agreed on a time period and I started moving into that other time period. So what did she do? She goes, your season’s getting too long. You’re sacrificing too much. We need to see you. So here let me help you guys and gals. Your spouse is a great resource to find out if you are getting so focused on money or so focused on work to the point of distraction.
You need to listen to your wife. You need to listen to your husband, and you need to tell your spouse when enough’s enough. These are just guides. I’m not trying to tell you everything you do is wrong, everything you’re doing is right. I just want you to listen to God’s word. Let’s move on.
In Matthew 6:26. This is the passage earlier, “What good does it a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul”. I remember Brother Dick Moody. He really taught me this lesson. Now in the ministry, let’s be honest, like that Rabbi you’re probably never gonna be consumed by wealth. I mean there’s wealth there but I’m mean not a ton of it but what can get you sometimes, is time. Time and your love for success and sometimes that can bite you in the name of Jesus and it’s hard for your spouse to argue with, well I was just up there for Jesus. How do you argue with that? It’s a pretty tough argument.
Brother Dick Moody set me down in my office many times. If you don’t know who Brother Dick Moody was, he was a pastor here at Tabernacle Baptist Church from 1970 to 1995 and he didn’t leave. He did a couple of interim’s and he came back and up to just a few years ago, we buried him and now he’s in heaven. He was our senior adult minister, and let me tell you, Brother Dick had a wonderful work ethic. He would be here early, he would stay here late. He would burn the midnight oil, he would visit people and then he’d be visited but when he was in my office, here’s what he would share with me.
I didn’t know it then but I know it now, he was mentoring me but he said pastor time, he was 83 or 4 years old. He goes, “When I’m up at the church”, he goes, “You know what I never think about, I never think about how much more time I could have spent at work”. He goes, “I never think about how much time, more time I could have spent at ministry”. He goes, “But you know what I think about all the time? How much more time I could have spent with my family”.
That just impacted me. I’m trying to learn that listen still today. So let me pass on his wisdom to you. The person that’s gonna be with you when your job is over, your retirement account is thin or it’s fat, that’s gonna be your family. Know when enough is enough. Show restraint. Let’s move on to verse five.
Not only is chasing money potentially a distraction, again money is not evil. I don’t know if I can say that enough but also, wealth flies. Look at verse five. “When you set your eyes on it, it’s gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens”. This is pure and simple practical help. What it’s telling you is that the harder you chase the money, the faster it gets. Money or wealth, the pursuit if wealth is a moving target. It’s like hunting duck, right. You think you have a beat on it but boy just move and sometimes it goes here or hunting hat hog, and you think you have it and then it just moves. What does that look like practically for you?
Well I tell you what it can look like. If you pursue wealth and that’s your focus and that’s your goal, it’ll be a moving target. Right when you think you have your hands on it, the number changes. Now how can the number change in you retirement needs. How can the number change in what you think you need to have enough wealth. I’ll tell you how. Inflation.
All right this is enough money I need for savings and you’ll get almost there and the number will change but it cannot only change through inflation. Hear me now, this is where I’m talking to you. It can also change in your heart because of greed. Just be careful because chasing money is a moving target but not only as they say is it a moving target but sometimes money will sprout wings and fly away.
What it means is, what it’s trying to say here is that money and wealth can be here today and be gone tomorrow. Did anybody have money in the stock market in 2008? Yeah. Find somebody that went through that. Find somebody that was close to retirement in 2008. People were thinking, oh year I’m gonna retire in 2009. They wake up one morning in 2008 like, never mind. I’m headed to work for another 30 years because their life savings that was there one day literally overnight was not there anymore. Solomon saying, stop chasing it so bad because you are not guaranteed financial security.
We try hard for that, and I want you to save it. I want you to try for it as well but the reality is, when a natural disaster hits, when the stock market crashes the Great Depression shows up again, you’re not gonna be immune to it no matter who you are. It can be here today and tomorrow it can sprout wings and fly away. So why would you put all of your eggs in that basket? Why would you put your heart, your soul, your life, your faith focused on wealth when it can be here one day and gone tomorrow? That’s all that he’s saying.
He’s not saying that it’s evil and he’s not saying that God can’t use it. He’s just saying don’t chase it so bad, don’t want it so much because it distracts you from the things that are important in your life and it’s also fruitless. You may never get to where you want to be but not only can it be here today and gone tomorrow, not only can money be a moving target but here’s where it really gets you.
It can corrupt your heart. Now with Christ, praise God, money can’t corrupt your heart unto losing your salvation. Go read Romans eight, you can’t lose your salvation but boy it can distract you and change you into a different person. I’ve seen a love for money corrupt some of the best Christian people that I’ve known.
It’s sad to watch, and every time I see it happen it reminds me of Gollum, in that book, The Lord of the Rings. Have any of you read it or watched the movies. I think it’s great. I think there’s like a number of movies. I don’t have any movies that aren’t … the book series is long but there’s this character in the movie, Gollum. Gollum was an ordinary, happy, every day hobbit who loved being short and having big feet. Just hobbits in the book, they just love life and he had a simple life.
He lived in the Shire, had some family, had some friends, ate like seven meals a day. He was just happy but if you remember, Gollum started off as a hobbit until he found the ring of power or is it the ring of wealth? Anyway so he finds this ring of power, this wealth and he finds it and it consumes him, right. What does he say, “My precious”. That freaked me out the first time I saw that and that face that he makes. Anyways, so he’s sitting here and he’s focused on the ring. He kills a friend. You don’t know it in the movie but he says goodbye to his family. Goodbye to his family members. He’s so focused on wealth, I mean the ring, that he goes into a cave and all he can see is the ring and his precious and he doesn’t eat, he doesn’t sleep very much, and he just looks at it. Family, friends gone. Just him and the ring.
It contorts his face. It shapes his body different and you would not even recognize Gollum in most of the movie as a hobbit. He’s a shell of the man that he used to be. It’s a sad story. I’m not gonna lie to you. When I saw Gollum … I’m not gonna tell you the movie but it’s sad story watching him being corrupted by the ring but it’s a terrifying story, when I see it happen to humanity because of wealth.
God did not create you to hoard wealth or to be so focused on spending money that you sit around, you say goodbye to family, you say goodbye to friends, you seclude yourself and you hold onto your account, you hold onto you money. You say, “My precious”. Distracted from everything that’s important in life. Don’t … this is the thing. Don’t let that happen to you, and there’s simple steps that you can take to not let it happen. Look up. See the people you work with and not the dollar amount you’re trying to collect. See your family and your children begging for your attention, wanting you to disciple them. Look up and see Christ in his glory and if you’re gonna be consumed by anything, be consumed by your passionate pursuit of him. Don’t let wealth take the place that it was never meant to have.
Don’t let it distract you from what’s important. Realize that it has wings, it may be here today and it may be gone tomorrow, and if you look at it like that, here’s the good news, this is so good. God’s so good. When you look at it like that, wealth can be awesome. Really, I’m not joking. People that get it, you know them in your life, that are ridiculously wealthy, that don’t love money. Oh they have such a great impact on our world, no better or different than you impact without money. It’s not about being rich or poor but the people who God gives money to and they don’t hoard it for themselves, they do amazing things. They don’t want the glory.
You probably didn’t even know their name but God gives the glory. Wealth can be good. Work is good, and when you get a little bit of money, if you have the right mindset, here’s what you’re gonna do, you’re gonna give it. You’re not gonna hoard it, you’re gonna want to share it. The Bible talks about the proper view of wealth being a sacrificial and a joyful giver. I can’t tell you what feels better, maybe than sharing the Gospel and seeing someone converted than when you make a little money and you sacrifice it to give it to something else or to someone else that has God’s name attached to it.
That when you give it and it’s joyful when you give it. You know, take it. I want you to have it. There’s nothing better than that.