Many people believe that happiness results from being rich. Consequently, they seek ways to boost their wealth. Often seen purchasing tickets at the lotto counters, they hope to strike it rich even against tremendous odds. Yet, on occasion we do hear that some unknown person purchased a winning ticket and suddenly became a millionaire. But is becoming rich what people think it is? The example below is one of many similar ones that illustrates what happens when vast sums of money suddenly come to someone not accustomed to it. The information in the next paragraph was taken from The Calgary Sun, June 23, 2004.
In New Waterford, Nova Scotia, a Cape Breton woman who won $10 million in the Lotto 6/49 draw has recovered from a heart attack believed to have been caused by the large number of people asking for money. The woman said she was feeling better now, as she just tears up the letters and refers any calls to her husband. She said, “I wish I could give it all back.” People were lined up at her door looking for money, letters jammed her mailbox, and the phone kept ringing. The hysteria became so intense that the family fled to London, Ontario and went into hiding where she suffered the heart attack.
While winning the lotto has benefited some, this particular family suffered. But not as bad as others who have won the lottery and find themselves in debt and misery a few years later. There is a reason the Bible admonishes: “A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent” (Prov. 28:20). “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him” (v. 22). Get rich quick schemes seldom profit those who make this a goal in life.
Neither Rags Nor Riches
Money in itself does not always make one happy but neither does penury. There are a number of reasons why poor people suffer. Some of the ways to overcome penury will be addressed in this article. A few reasons are: “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread” (Prov. 20:13). “For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Prov. 23:21). The book of Proverbs tells us this: “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food [sufficient for my maintenance] for me ” (Prov. 30:8). These are just a few examples found in the Bible.
The reader should keep in mind, however, that the definition of “rich” is in the eye of the beholder. Many people who live in third world countries generally regard all Westerners as rich. New Testament Scriptures state: ” . . . Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matt. 6:19). “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit” (Eccl. 4:6). “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:23). Thus, the Bible indicates that middle-class status is probably the best.
Financial Objectives Should Be Balanced
So middle class status, if you will, appears to be the optimum in one’s financial endeavor. The reason: “Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov. 30:9). Those who plan or connive to achieve financial success are often required to give their attention to the task a great deal of the time. Generally they must learn the ropes by trial and error, and to rely on their own wits and adroitness. How often do we hear that they bring disgrace upon themselves in this quest for wealth?
What does the Bible say about this quest for wealth?
“Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven” (Prov. 23:4-5). “Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith” (Prov. 15:16). “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1). While many succeed in the quest for riches, they seldom retain humility along with it. “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit” (Prov. 18:11). Is God impressed? “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa. 66:1-2). “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life” (Prov. 22:4).
To achieve a balance in financial success, there are a number of important keys. The first of these is to get wise advice. There are many sources of help available to help one attain financial success. Keeping out of debt is a major factor, one that will be considered later in this article. Also, one should get more than one viewpoint when it comes to making financial decisions. Many who place confidence in stock market brokers can find themselves at a disadvantage because brokers not only “represent the client,” they also represent their own interests. Consequently, their advice can easily be to their own advantage, not to the client’s. Also, many of them simply follow the policies of the firms they represent.
There is one danger in receiving advice. This danger is that one may be searching for the answer he wants, not for the facts. Emotion often becomes the catalyst in determining what decision is made. This is why all options must be carefully considered. Always get both sides of the story. General Omar Bradley once said that when he appointed a new staff officer, that if within a certain period of time that officer did not take an opposite view during the decision making process, the general would dismiss him. General Bradley knew he had to get all the facts, and sometimes these facts fly in the face of the favored opinion.
Important texts that emphasize the need to get advice are found in the book of Proverbs. “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Prov. 15:22). “Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war” (Prov. 20:18). So, a good rule in the matter of achieving financial success is to get wise advice. One cannot be too careful in this matter as it can often mean the difference between success and failure. If not handled wisely, money can quickly evaporate. This is why the Bible states: “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!” (Prov.16:16) “Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not” (Prov.8:33).
Make Work a Priority
How many times have we witnessed those who are financial failures because to them life is one big party. They have no goal except to live for the moment, and to have a good time. The instant they acquire money, it burns a hole in their pocket, and they cannot spend it fast enough. While no proverb states this, it is nevertheless true that a fool and his money soon part. Such people never think things through and are hasty in their judgments. They are the “now generation” who give no thought to the future until it is too late. A Proverb warns about this mind set. “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want” (Prov. 21:5). And, “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich” (Prov. 21:17).
While it is true that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, it is also true that all play and no work makes Jack a poor man. We have all heard the adage: “Make hay while the sun shines.” Too many poor people fail to put this into practice. They are too busy having “fun,” which in reality is irresponsibility. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8). “He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame” (Prov. 10:5). The Bible states: “He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth [fantasies] is void of understanding” (Prov. 12:11). Often the key to financial success is a willingness to work hard and to be diligent about it.
Consider this text: “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Prov. 6:9-11). This is why we are told: “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich” (Prov. 10:4). There is no room for laziness in achieving financial success. “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Prov. 13:4). More is required than mere wishbone. Success comes by having a backbone. Since lazy people must rely on others, they are often heavily obligated. “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute” (Prov. 12:24).
Avoid Debt and Learn to Save
Debt slavery is a very real thing in America. One indicator is the number of personal bankruptcies annually. For example, personal bankruptcies in 1997 were 1.3 million, up 63% from 1987. Consumer debt touches most American families is some way. Consumer debt reflects many differing factors, and total credit debt accounts for 40% of the national figure. Credit card debt amounts to approximately 400 billion dollars of that figure. Credit card issuers mailed out a record 5 billion cards in 2001, and the average American household possesses 14.27 credit cards. This is clearly an example of the inability for many to handle spending responsibly.
In the last ten years, the average US household consumer debt (mortgage payments excluded) has increased from approximately $8,500 to $14, 500, and the credit card debt now averages $8, 562 per household. As a result the average family is paying $1,100 in interest on credit cards annually. Credit card rates, after the introductory period, range from 4.75% (some less) to 35 %, which is the widest spread ever. Sixty percent of American cardholders do not pay off their balance each month and of these nearly half merely make the minimum payment. Thirteen percent of college students owe between three and seven thousand dollars on their credit cards, and the percentage of college students with four or more credit cards has nearly doubled in three years to forty-seven percent. In addition, most new college graduates owe about $17,000 on federally guaranteed college loans, and about 40% of graduating seniors carry an average credit card balance of more than $3,000. Credit card fees represent the fastest growing-source of income for the bank-card issuers.
Take third-world nations as another example. In 1997, “developing countries” were more than two trillion US dollars in debt. The result is a $400 debt for every man, woman, and child in the developing world. Consider this where the average income in the very poorest of these countries is less than a dollar a day. Structural adjustment is required for new loans to these countries in order to increase the chance of payback. To conform, the governments of these nations cut government spending on such items as healthcare and education-the very services on which the poor must rely. Many of these countries spend more on servicing their debt than on the basic needs of their citizens. America, by comparison, has an income of more than $7 trillion, which is a quarter of the world total and more than 80 times the average of low-income countries.
When we realize that in rich countries credit has been sold harder than any other product for the last 25 years, we can see why personal debt has increased so rapidly. Short-sighted people have readily succumbed to all the inviting credit-card offers. (For the benefit of the reader, the information in the above paragraphs was derived from various websites on the Internet, most which base their statistics on various government and private sources).
It is no joke when the Bible tells us that the borrower is servant to the lender (Prov. 22:7). Money can be a good servant but a cruel master. Anyone in debt needs to take a serious look at his or her spending habits, and make the necessary though painful adjustments to get out of debt. Aside from financing a home, or an auto, one who uses credit cards for consumer items is courting much distress. But it is so easy to desire an item so badly that people will put it on credit while refusing to seriously consider how they will pay for it later.
One thing that is a necessity is keeping a close account of one’s buying and spending. One can then make an effort to consciously save. In turn savings can be put to work to make a gain (Matt. 25:27). Making out and keeping a budget should be a absolute requirement. There are various agencies that can assist anyone who is serious enough to want to get out of debt. If need be, one can be helped in establishing and maintaining a budget. Any number of services are available for this need. But the debtor should first realize the absolute need for this service.
The need to be aware of one’s own financial status is found in Proverbs 27:23-27. Men who have prospered in their financial endeavors have all put this principle to practice.
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.
One who practices the fundamentals listed above will in due time be able to pay his or her bills and greatly reduce the level of stress. The truth is: Those who irresponsibly refuse to meet their obligations are not viewed favorably in the Bible. It states: “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth” (Ps. 37:21).
To the above, we can add several more principles of Scriptural advice. The first of these is the need to be honest. How many times have we heard of cheaters who end up in prison? The least that usually happens to such people is that their reputation is completely ruined, and the worst is that they are incarcerated and heavily fined. In the end swindlers and cheats often find out that dishonesty does not pay. Indeed, as Proverbs 20:17 states: “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.”
There are a number of Bible warnings about being dishonest. For example: “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight” (Prov. 11:1) We can carry the matter of dishonesty beyond simple lying, cheating, and conniving though. Consider this text for example: “He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor” (Prov. 28:8). So even the matter of taking financial advantage of others should be considered a form of dishonesty. Here is an example: “It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth” (Prov. 20:14). In other words, the purchaser disparages the value of the item he just bought at a bargain and then brags about his good buy. “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death” (Prov. 21:6). In the long run, people who cheat benefit for a short time only. “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death” (Prov. 10:2).
The book of Job warns:
This is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage of oppressors, which they shall receive of the Almighty. If his children be multiplied, it is for the sword: and his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread. Those that remain of him shall be buried in death: and his widows shall not weep. Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay; He may prepare it, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver. (Job 27:13-17)
Even the prophets weigh in on this matter:
As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool. (Jer. 17:11)
. . . Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay! Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them? (Hab. 2:6-7)
In the New Testament the Apostle James makes this matter plain.
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord . . . . (Jas. 5:1-7)
By being honest, some may not achieve the wealth they desire, but what is most important in the eyes of God?-one’s wealth or one’s honesty? Here is the answer: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1). “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase” (Prov. 13:11). What is more important, the increase in wealth, or the increase in God’s favor? Some may be successful today in their dishonest quest for wealth, but what will happen in the Judgment? “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs [impure, filthy] and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:14-15).
Be Generous and Help the Needy
Selfishness is one of the curses of this present world. The Apostle Paul wrote: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,” “Without natural affection . . . ” (2 Tim. 3:1-3). What is the contrast between generosity and selfishness? “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty” (Prov. 11:24). How does God regard the generous? “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again” (Prov. 19:17). “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” (Prov. 28:27).
We are admonished to be aware of the poor. “The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it” (Prov. 29:7). Additional Scriptures tell us: “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:9). This important practice is not overlooked in the New Testament either. Here is what Jesus said: “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matt. 5:42). “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again” (Luke 6:30).
Another serious consideration is the need to look after one’s elderly parents. Old age often requires children to help their parents in various ways. A text that addresses this need is Proverbs 28:24. “Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer.” Children who do not think it is their duty to look after their elderly parents or to assist them financially are placed in the same category as a destroyer-that is, no better than a robber. The Septuagint renders the word “robbeth” as “casts off,” referring to one who ignores or has no compassion for his parent’s needs. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their part in hindering this service to elderly parents.
Jesus told them:
. . . Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. (Mark 7:9-13)
The Pharisees were waving this parental obligation if the children dedicated an offering or gift for sacred use. Thus, the children were no longer required to help their parents. The purpose, of course, was to increase the contributions to the religious leaders at the expense of elderly parents. Jesus made it plain that the matter of remembering the needy should not exclude one’s elderly parents.
Fulfill Financial Obligations to God
There is much disagreement among theologians over the matter of tithing. It is not the purpose of this article to address this issue in detail. For a more thorough explanation from the Bible, interested readers may read our Internet article on the subject. Briefly, the issue is whether one chooses to live by every Word of God, as Jesus commanded (Matt. 4:4), or to select those portions of the Bible that seem to be the most suitable to the believer. Suffice it to say here that tithing is part of a financial law that God set in motion when man was created. Here is what the prophet Malachi wrote. Keep in mind the context of Malachi, chapter three, demonstrates that the book of Malachi refers to the last days.
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Mal. 3:8-10)
While some Christians tithe and are generous in giving, most fail to tithe at all. Yet, those who do not tithe seem unable to understand why things never seem to go well for them.
Consider the words of Haggai:
Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. (Hag. 1:3-7)
What does God promise? “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine” (Prov. 3:9-10).
God gives us all that we have on this earth. Everything belongs to Him, and He allows us to use it. But He requires that we give something back in return. By means of the gospel, this return is intended to help others learn the Truth. Yet some go so far as to say that not even the Words of Christ are intended for us today because He was preaching the “tail end of Judaism” to the Jews. Therefore, anything He said before His crucifixion does not apply to us, and since He said nothing about tithing after His crucifixion, there is no need to tithe. To carry this view to its limit, then neither should we repent of sin, accept Christ as our Savior, or be baptized. What folly! So what did Jesus say about tithing. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matt. 23:23). In brief, Jesus said tithing should be done but not to neglect judgment, mercy and faith.
Financial success requires the application of several principles. This article has revealed some of these overall principles. Implementing them may require much thought and detail, as advice and help can be obtained from various secular sources. But without a knowledge of the Bible principles on finances, one who continues to violate these fundamental rules will find secular help to be of little value. Everyone of the subtopics listed above are vital in achieving financial success. The reader should take them seriously and remember the words of the Apostle John: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2).