I am surrounded by so much beauty and a bit more time than usual, but also the opportunity to benefit from some rare fellowship, conversation, and activity during this northern sojourn. I am being refreshed and challenged. So, I can write a few things that come across my mind by way of my heart. This week, I am mulling over some of the Proverbs. One of the issues that they are presenting to me this time around (going around them once a month for some time now) is the matter of the relationship between work, wealth, and witness. Today's chapter is 19.
1 -Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
Proverbs does not exalt poverty as a value in and of itself. In fact, there is much in the book about how to maximize our financial potential, but it is always held in perspective. We are to strike a balance. For instance, we are instructed not to wear ourselves out to get rich while we are being taught not to be lazy either.
The question of wealth is relative. It is broader than our finances, but generally refers, in Proverbs, to money or its equivalents. Yet, some things are for more important: wisdom, integrity, morality, righteousness, and sound speech. Without these, wealth is of very little value.
The fruit of our lips is vital to our witness and also reveals the character of our hearts. Character is valuable to us and to God.
2 - Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.
We admire zealous people. The NIV translates the first part of this verse as "...zealous without knowledge..." Zealous people can sell almost anything to at least someone. They are often successful, sometimes overnight. But zeal without some basis in knowledge (read TRUTH here) is not good. Whatever your line, it is faulty if it is not real. Get real; be real; stay real. And don't get in such a hurry to be successful that you (a) don't get your facts straight and (b) do shoddy, sloppy, deceitful background work. That leads to sin.
Haste that sacrifices sound preparation and truth-seeking is dangerous and sinful. It is foolish according to Proverbs.
3 - The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.
The fool is the person who hastens to embrace half-truths and outright falsehoods in the interest of success and expediency. He moves in the direction that his zealous impulses prompt him and crash lands. Then he blames God. The irony is that he never consulted God in the first place. He never even glanced in the direction of real wisdom. He was in too big a hurry to get where he was going and pursued delusion with passionate fumbling.
8 - He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.
Seek truth. Seek guidance. Seek wise counsel. Seek God and His purposes. It is the purest form of self-love. It is the wisest sort of self-interest. It is the antithesis of sinking ones own ship.
15 - Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.
Work hard without wearing yourself out. Fully engage. Hare e integrity in your work. Laziness feeds on itself. It doesn't start with genuine weariness, but it produces it. Lazy people wear out as fast as people who dork without replenishing their energy. This is one of the insights I am getting from "The Power of Full Engagement." Solomon and his friends knew it thousands of years ago.
16 - He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die.
Of what use is wealth if you are dead physically or spiritually? Living our lives with contempt for all that is of real value leads to death. A high regard for God's truth leads to life.
Despising one's ways means that we live carelessly and work sloppily. If we desire to "keep our souls," we will seek the significance of even the most menial tasks we perform and do them the "right" way, fully engaged and sensitive to the commands that have been given us - especially through the scriptures.
17 -He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
Generosity is a good business decision and an even better life decision. It makes no logical business sense to be generous, fair, and just with the poor, but it makes a great deal of spiritual sense. If we believe that there is a God who rewards those who implement His principles of success we will reach out beyond what is expected and required. It will spill over into how we treat our clients, customers, employees, and the people on the street who do not have the ability to contribute to our success. God will repay and He will do it His way - which is the best way.
20 - Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.
Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep seeking. Don't stop listening. You will develop humility and you will gain wisdom. We really don't have many money problems, but we have loads of wisdom deficiencies. By the way, this kind of wisdom doesn't happen overnight, but if you expect to live awhile, you'll appreciate it when you come to the climax of your life.
21 - There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.
Work hard. Plan well. Trust God. Keep an open hand and heart. Keep your plans and strategies tentative and sensitive to the movement of God and His intervention in your heart, mind, and circumstances. He will have the last word and if you can get some of that word ahead of time, it will work in your favor. Real success is God working out His purpose in and through your life.
Kick this up
a notch. It is easy to make lots of plans and create elaborate schemes,
many of which might work, but it is not prgmatic outcomes that we strive for; it is God's best.
23 - The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.
Get your attitude toward and relationship with God straight. He is God. You are not. This is the elemental fear that is qualitatively different than all fears and casts them out. When you are rightly related to God as God and reverence Him, you will worry about nothing because you will know satisfaction at a new level. You will do your work carefully, purposefully, and enthusiastically. You will bear witness to God's sovereignty by obeying Him, to God's love by enjoying His gracious benefits and by loving others, to God's truth by living it, and to God's power by being a living demonstration of His ironies (first shall be last, last shall be first, etc ...). Then you will enjoy what wealth He bestows as He determines and defines. You will be satisfied and you will be like Teflon to the attacks of evil.
24 - A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible on laziness and industry. How many of us are hungry because we refuse to feed ourselves what has already been provided. "Blessed are the poor" is true. Our Master who makes all of this work in our lives by His redeeming grace said it and it is so. However, the kind of poverty He commended is not the kind that comes through sloth or indifference. It is more of an attitude than a bank statement. And if it is about our bank statement it is because of sacrifices we have made for His Kingdom at His behest.
There is no honor or blessing in laziness. Nor is there value in any lack of industry, goal-setting, dream-building, and complacency when we can do and be so much more for God in our businesses, ministries, and especially our personal development with Him.
25 -Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.
The wise person is willing to exert the energy to change and grow. The lazy man resents correction. It may require action.
If you want to go somewhere beyond where you are, it will require movement, the expenditure of energy, and some discomfort. It will also require that you hesitate long enough to get some direction. Once these are in place, move forward, willing to receive mid-course corrections.
But whatever you do, laziness is not an option.
I write this during a time of great relaxation and refreshment <BIG SMILE>.
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I must admit I get a little perturbed when people complain about lack of money and success when they haven't done the things that they can do to change their circumstances. When we operate on the assumption that the world or God Himself owes us a living when God has already given us opportunities, we limit means which He Himself may have provided for our support. I do not suggest that we veer away from a life of faith, but that we, especially those of us in ministry, at least lay before Him the question of whether or not He'd have us make a few tents along our missionary journeys. That is why I promote entrepreneurship, knowing it is not for everyone, but I suspect is for some who are not responding.