“Exercise Financial Responsibility”

God has instituted in this world that just exchange of money for goods and services is a reflection of the laws of cause and effect, of sowing and reaping, and of sin and punishment. Improperly and unjustly used, money can be a snare and an incitement to corruption and destruction. Properly perceived and employed, its hard materialism and temporality can be transferred into spiritual and eternal gain. Money represents the moral equity of the world. The symbols of the death of Christ should make us pay heed to the seriousness with which God takes just and righteous exchanges. Scripture not only says that “the wages of sin is death,” but also that Jesus gave “his life as a ransom for many,” and that we are “bought with a price.” Sinners are “redeemed” Not with corruptible things such as silver and gold but with the “precious” (highly costly) blood of Christ. Absolute justice is presented in Scripture in these monetary and commercial terms. We should take care, therefore, how we appropriate the values and beware of the pitfalls of money.

Implications from Divine Law Concerning Dangers – Ex. 20:15 [8th]; 20:17 [10th]; also 20:3 [1st]; 20:8 [4th] The Ten Commandments have implications at several points for the use of money and also for its delusive impact on the fallen mind.

Relation to God

Labor for six days; set aside the Lord’s day for worship. So it is with the weekly, rhythmical recognition that God owns us and all that he has given us and that our time also is his. To set it apart for more financial gain or for personal pleasure is also idolatry.

Relation to neighbor

Don’t steal – Not only should we avoid the unjust taking of material things from others, but, according to Ephesians 4:28 we are to do “honest work with his [our] own hands, so that we may have something to share with those in need.”

Don’t covet – Covetousness is foundational to all sin. When Paul described the destruction of self-righteousness by the Law in Rom 7:7-12, it was the commandment “Thou shalt not covet<” that showed him to be a breaker of all the commandments. Probably he referred to this same experience when he wrote in Galatians 2:19, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.”

Put money in perspective 22:4; 23:4, 5; 30:7, 8; 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19

Rightly or wrongly, wealth tends to give a person advantage in this world – 10:15; 14:20; 19:4, 6-7,

1. This shows how impressed people are with money, both those that have it and those that want it and envy its possessors. Many earthly advantages follow in the wake of money. Crime often can be solved by following the money. It provides a great temptation, therefore, to grasping for unjust power and manipulation of situations.

2. Paul seeks to encourage people to contentment in temporal affairs and the employment of energy to obtain godliness. If material wealth rather than godliness is uppermost in our affections the pay off is “ruin and destruction.”

3. Those who in God’s providence already have substantial wealth should not see in it any reason for a sense of superiority, nor should they put any trust in it so as to supplant their conscious submission to God’s glory and reliance on his day by day provision. They just be more solicitous of good works here and eternal life hereafter than in the material position and possessions of worldly wealth.

Humility opposes a grasping spirit Pr. 22:4; cf. Phil 4:12; One might be blessed with worldly riches as a direct blessing from God in light of that person’s godly and reverential fear of God and humility before him. Paul also learned how to abound and prosper as well as how to be in want, and, in both circumstances, he was content with the earthly provision and joyful in the eternal provision in Christ.

The goal of getting rich is an inferior end and has no guarantee of permanence(23:4, 5; 28:20)

1. It is clear throughout Proverbs that the sluggard will come to ruin and that poverty in such circumstances is shameful and should be remedied by hard work [28:19]. Although the support of one’s self and one’s family through labor is a good thing, the better part of it is the labor itself. It is an investment of time in something productive, a recognition that in a fallen state unoccupied time leads to sinful activity and destruction.

2. If one creates an unbalanced life by putting increase of wealth as his goal (“He who hastens to be rich”) and labors so as to ignore other aspects of his stewardship of life, then he should discern that his labor for such a goal has become an idol. “Do not toil to acquire wealth, be discerning enough to desist.”  Riches as a goal will bring a person to allow money to trump virtue, and God wil not allow that to go unpunished.

3. Our goal should be, not the acquisition of wealth, but to please the Lord cf. Eph 6:5-8; Col 3:22-24; 1 Peter 5:2. It is very clear from the biblical text that God looks upon faithful labor with favor, and even the slave, that would not enrich himself personally through his labor, still must see that his employment is ultimately from the Lord; he works as unto the Lord. The benefits received, therefore, when such labor is done, are of an imperishable nature given by God, cleansed from its impurities by the blood of Christ, and constituting rewards that will stand the test of judgment. If the slave, by his earthly circumstances is admonished to labor with that view, then so it should be for every Christian who knows that all he does, he does for the glory of God. “From the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:24). “A faithful man will abound with blessings” (28:20).

Wisdom is better than riches  16:8, 16

1. Great riches can never compensate for the loss of righteousness and justice. The righteousness of Christ is an everlasting righteousness and will give us right standing before God for eternity. It is by his righteousness that God remains just while justifying the ungodly. These gospel truths must serve as disciplines upon our lives so that we never violate justice and righteousness in the quest for much. 

2. “How much better to get wisdom than gold!” So it is, for the goodness of wisdom as an attribute of God. Christ is made unto us wisdom from God [1 Corinthians 1:30} and that consists of righteousness, sanctification and redemption. The cross is the wisdom of God. By the same token, far to be preferred to silver is understanding—the heart’s grasp of the beauty and eternal loveliness of a holy gospel. We can see this from the way the lack of understanding manifests itself: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10, 11). Paul’s prayer, therefore for Christians is that their “hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance  of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (Colossians 2:2)

Satisfaction with necessary care is a great blessing Pr. 30: 7, 8; 1 Tim 6:6-10. Both poverty and riches can lead to covetousness and temptations to lawlessness. Riches also can produce a sense of personal satisfaction that amounts to godless pride. This prayer is a request for God’s providence to place us in a position where we will find our satisfaction in him and increase in our praise of him.

Value integrity and labor more than money-10:16; 13:11; 15:27; 28:6; 21:6

Wealth is not wrong – God created all wealth; frugality, honesty, inventiveness, all tend to create wealth  10:4;13:11; 14:23

A person that operates on principles of right will use his gain to promote the knowledge of God. An unrighteous person will use his gain to increase his opportunity for sin.  (10:16) Though the love of money leads to all kinds of evil the love of righteousness can transform money into spiritual good.

Integrity is the greater good – Pr. 19:1, 22 – Though integrity often creates circumstances in which material gain may be the natural outcome, poverty with integrity and steadfast love is to be preferred to any material gain. Though the book of Proverbs does not magnify poverty as a good thing, but really as a debility or the result of lack of industry, for the sake of comparison, even something as distressing as poverty is to be preferred to a loss of integrity or a failure of justice and lovingkindness.

Along the same lines, Proverbs insists that wealth at the expense of honesty and integrity is destructive – 15:27; 21:6; 28:6.

Use money for eternal benefit – contrary 1 Tim 6:5 comp. 17-19;

A .  Missionary support – Philippians 4:15ff; 3 John 5-8 As Jesus indicated in the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:9), wicked mammon can be transformed into personal relationships, or even eternal relationships, through the wise and strategic distribution of it. Supporting a gospel proclaimer to those that have not heard can mean that money provides the context in which “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.”

B. support of ministry – 1 Timothy 5:17, 18 To pay a faithful gospel minister is to love the well-being of one’s own soul.

relief of poor – Lev 19:9, 10; Pr. 14:21, 31; 19:17 1 John 3:17

Do not see money as an evil but as a channel for doing good to others – 22:16; 28:8; James 5:1-6

Desire for it can lead to evil activity 22:16; 28:8 – God has so constituted the world that those things are capable of serving the greatest good are also capable of the most egregious corruption. Money can result in a reflection of generosity, humility, lovingkindness, grace and a beneficent consuming passion for the glory of God in the world; or, it can become the occasion for oppression, niggardliness, and pretentious flattery.

Generosity is blessed – 22:9 – The person with a “bountiful eye” will share bread with the poor and not consider it an imposition, for he has surrendered all that he is and all that he has to God for his glory; we are warned, however, against eating the bread of a man who is stingy (or has “an evil eye”) [23:6] for he is inwardly calculating, adding up how his goods have decreased because of this appearance of generosity on his part.

James 5:1-6 indicates this stingy person, the one of the “evil eye”, not only is miserably narrow and constricted in spirit in this life, but heaps up judgment for the next. His stinginess makes him unjust in the way he treats his workers, while he lives “on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence.” James would indicate that he should pay a good wage and pay it quickly.

The Example of Christ and the value of Christ

Not grasping but emptying  Phil 2:5, 6

Support of  world Christianity is an emulation of Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9 in context)

Any attempt at wealth  that compromises the glory of Christ and our knowledge of him is not gain but loss – Proverbs 3:13-18; 8:7-11; Phil 3:8

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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