Archives For money in the Bible

       With all this talk about how God calls us to hard work, you might begin to wonder when you’ll ever get to rest. Despite the fact that God does call us to work hard and avoid laziness, we are not to forsake rest and relaxation when it is needed. God knows that we need rest and He knows that many people may not rest when they need to. We can get caught up in our work sometimes and forget that we need to take a break in order to do our best. This is one reason God has commanded us to rest.

God Commanded Rest

       When God instituted the Law for the Israelites, one command that we find numerous times is to keep the Sabbath. God commanded the Israelites to rest for several reasons, but we’re going to look at two main reasons. First, God wants us to remember that it is He who sanctifies us.

       Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies them.

Ezekiel 20:12 (WEB)

       God wants us to remember that it is He who created us, who cares for us, and who sanctifies us. We cannot accomplish what God has done by means of our own work. By taking rest and remembering the Lord, we can keep in mind the power and providence of God.

       Another reason God commanded the Israelites to rest is because He knows we need to rest. Left to ourselves, we might work every day of the week in our attempt to secure our future or seek after the things of the world. But in the process, we’ll exhaust ourselves and strain our families. We can see the effects of overworking in the lives of workaholics. Stress, poor health, and struggling families are all caused by working too much. God wants us to take rest so that we can be refreshed and avoid these difficulties.

       12 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Yahweh your God commanded you. 13 You shall labor six days, and do all your work; 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God, in which you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.

Deuteronomy 5:12-14 (WEB) emphasis mine

       I won’t say more about our need for rest because we’re going to look at it in more depth in the next part of this series.

The Sabbath Was Made for Man

       God’s command to the Israelites about keeping the Sabbath was very serious, but in their zealousness for keeping the letter of the Law they forgot the purpose of the Sabbath. When the Pharisees saw Jesus’ disciples picking grain on the Sabbath and accused them of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus made the purpose of the Sabbath clear.

       23 It happened that he was going on the Sabbath day through the grain fields, and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Behold, why do they do that which is not lawful on the Sabbath day?” 25 He said to them, “Did you never read what David did, when he had need, and was hungry — he, and those who were with him? 26 How he entered into God’s house when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the show bread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and gave also to those who were with him?” 27 He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:23-28 (WEB)
This passage is also found in Matthew 12:1-8 and Luke 6:1-5.

       Jesus explains that God created the Sabbath for man and not the other way around. We are not here just to keep the Sabbath – as if that is our sole purpose for being created. God created the Sabbath so that we might have rest – rest that we need to refresh ourselves to do the hard work He has called us to. In all their arguments about what it meant to keep the Sabbath, the Israelites forgot why the Sabbath was created in the first place.

       We see this same kind of legalism and loss of vision today in arguments about which day should be celebrated as the Sabbath and what should or shouldn’t be allowed. We forget the purpose of the Sabbath and what God intended it to be about. The important thing is that we rest, remember God as our Creator, Provider, and Redeemer, and seek to honor Him. We would do well just to keep the purpose of the Sabbath in mind rather than arguing about which day it should be observed and whether or not you’ll go to Hell if you don’t do it on the right day.

       In the next part of this series, we’re going to look a little more at Jesus’ teaching about the Sabbath – that it was made for man so we might rest and remember God. God knows that we need rest, and He does not want us to work ourselves so hard that we do not take the rest He has created for us. We’ll look at the fact that we need rest, that God desires rest for us, and that Jesus led by example on this idea of rest.

       The final danger of laziness that we’ll look at is the unnecessary difficulty it creates in our lives. Where the distractions of laziness allow small problems to grow into big ones, careful and constant diligence prevents many problems from ever occurring.

A Little Bit of Laziness Can Go a Long Way…

       The verse we’re going to look at in Ecclesiastes reminds me of an oft-quoted saying of Benjamin Franklin: “…for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for want of care about a horse-shoe nail.” A little bit of neglect or laziness can cause great problems and difficulty, especially when concerning important matters.

       In our finances or our work, misplaced focus or intentional laziness can cause problems that would have been easily avoided with a little hard work and diligence. A little bit of time spent on maintenance and gradual improvement can have a profound effect when continued over a long period of time. In the same way, a little bit of laziness can have disastrous results when sustained over time.

       By slothfulness the roof sinks in; and through idleness of the hands the house leaks.

Ecclesiastes 10:18 (WEB)

       Maintaining a house takes a lot of work, but it’s often many small tasks that need to be done rather than many large ones. With diligent care, the house can be kept in good condition. Without it, small problems become major ones. Projects that could have been completed inexpensively can become a major drain on your savings.

       This analogy easily carries over into many other areas of our life. Small projects and tasks at work can often be dealt with quickly and prevent future (and larger) problems. But the inconvenience of these tasks often causes us to slack off and procrastinate – creating much more work for ourselves in the future than if we had just dealt with it early on. God wants us to embrace hard work and diligence to save us from this extra work. He knows that there’s no need for us to deal with many of the problems we encounter if we’ll follow His call to work hard.

       The wisdom of hard work and diligence and the difficulty it can save us from is also reflected in this verse from Proverbs:

       The way of the sluggard is like a thorn patch, but the path of the upright is a highway.

Proverbs 15:19 (WEB)

       I really enjoy hiking in the woods. I find my hikes especially easy and enjoyable when I have a clear trail to walk along. I can see where I’m going and find the obstacles easily. And I get to my destination quickly. But when the trail is overgrown and difficult to navigate, I find it takes much longer to get where I’m going and I can’t see the dangers ahead very easily at all. While it can be exciting to overcome such a challenge at times, I don’t have the same peaceful and relaxing experience as I do when the trail is clean and clear.

       Clearing a trail that’s very overgrown is difficult and takes a lot of time. But clearing a trail that’s been carefully maintained through diligent work is easy and quick. Laziness is what allows the trails in our lives to become overgrown and difficult to walk. God wants us to use hard work to keep the trails clear so we can focus on Him and doing His will instead of dealing with hassles and problems all the time.

       It’s clear that God is looking out for our interests when He calls us to work hard. If we apply this idea of diligence to everything we do in life, we’ll find we can overcome huge hurdles easily and we’ll encounter fewer unexpected problems along the way. However, we must also remember that God does want us to rest when needed. In all our hard work, we must not forget to rest and refresh ourselves so we are ready for the work that lies ahead and are able to do it with all our might. We’ll look at our need for rest in the next two parts.

       Another danger of laziness is dishonor or a bad reputation. If we are the body of Christ, our actions and reputation impact other people’s ideas about Christ. If people know us to be lazy, we weaken our witness as Christians and bring dishonor to God’s name.

The Destruction of Laziness

       Proverbs contains a powerful warning against the destructiveness of laziness. Laziness can affect us and our reputation so strongly that it makes us a brother to the “master of destruction”, or Satan.

       One who is slack in his work is brother to him who is a master of destruction.

Proverbs 18:9 (WEB)

       If laziness makes us a brother to Satan, we can easily see why God has called us to work hard. There is no glory for God in laziness. (Let’s make sure we agree on the definition of laziness. Laziness is refusing to do work when work needs to be done or should be done. It is not the same as recreation, which comes after the necessary work has been finished.)

       We don’t admire lazy people. We don’t look at a lazy person and say, “Now he’s a respectable fellow.” We might envy or covet their rest, but that is only an indication that our heart is not right or that Satan is tempting us. But we do not look up to lazy people as an example to be followed. This is why laziness is warned against so strongly in the Bible, and especially by Paul in the New Testament. Laziness can destroy our reputation and completely undermine any witness we have in Christ. And that’s the most terrible effect of all.

       Not only can laziness ruin our reputation, but it can also ruin our life. Laziness in our work can lose us our job. Laziness in managing our finances can bankrupt us. Laziness in our relationships can hurt others. Only a short-sighted fool would choose laziness over doing the work needed to keep things going smoothly.

       The fool folds his hands together and ruins himself.

Ecclesiastes 4:5 (WEB)

       It’s clear that laziness is extremely destructive in our lives. Whether we’re looking at the spiritual aspects of our lives or the temporal, the devastating effects of laziness are not worth the fleeting pleasure of rest. Even just a little bit of laziness can make things much more difficult than they need to be, and we’ll talk about that a bit more in the next part of this series.

       But it’s also important to remember that we do need rest. Proper rest taken at the right time is essential to our health and well-being. After we look at the difficulty laziness brings, we’ll look at our need for rest.

       We’ve discussed how God calls Christians to work hard as a way to glorify Him and because of the benefits hard work affords. However, there is a third aspect to this calling. God knows that laziness and too much rest can be dangerous for our well-being and can become a stumbling block in bringing others to Christ. In the next three parts, we’ll look at the dangers of too much rest and laziness.

The Traps of Laziness and Excuses

       The problem with laziness and excuses is that their full effect is not felt for quite a while. It never seems like a little more sleep here and a little more fun there will cause our entire world to crumble. But it’s the cumulative effects of our procrastination that can wreak havoc in our lives. With steady, diligent care we can manage our lives well. But if we allow ourselves to get sidetracked with sleep, idleness, or unimportant things, we can quickly lose track of what we need to be doing and become overwhelmed with the mess that piles up.

       30 I went by the field of the sluggard, by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 Behold, it was all grown over with thorns. Its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32 Then I saw, and considered well. I saw, and received instruction: 33 a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep; 34 so your poverty will come as a robber, and your want as an armed man.

Proverbs 24:30-34 (WEB)

       Continual neglect of our work and the important matters in our lives, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time, can cause poverty and want to creep up on us – even to the point where we don’t realize it until it’s too late. In stark contrast, continual care, maintenance, and repair, even though it doesn’t seem like much, can keep our work running smoothly and help us deal with our lives much more easily – especially when disasters strike.

       But even if you’re at the point where your neglect has ruined your work or your finances, do not fear. With the Lord, nothing is impossible. You can overcome the weeds that have taken over your life, if you will fall back on the Lord and commit to His ways. The same thing that prevents the ruin of poverty and neglect can overcome it – diligent, hard work over time will bring you and your affairs back into order. During this recovery time be careful not to forget prayer and do not be so proud as to reject the help of your fellow Christians.

       The are two main ways to prevent poverty and disaster from sneaking up on you. One, be careful of how much you sleep. And two, be cautious of using excuses to avoid work.

       Don’t love sleep, lest you come to poverty. Open your eyes, and you shall be satisfied with bread.

Proverbs 20:13 (WEB)

       Sleep and naps can easily rob us of time we need to do work. While sleep is necessary and a quick nap may refresh us enough to get some work done, it’s easy to fall into the habit of excess. But it’s easy to see that too much sleeping and napping can quickly bring you to poverty. You just can’t do any work while you’re sleeping or napping.

       The sluggard will not plow by reason of the winter; therefore he shall beg in harvest, and have nothing.

Proverbs 20:4 (WEB)

       Another trap we must avoid is using excuses to get out of work. I don’t just mean calling in sick to get a day off. These excuses can come in all kinds of disguises depending on your circumstances. It’s up to you, through the power of the Spirit, to uncover those excuses for what they are – lies designed to distract us from the work God calls us to. I’m not saying you should be out breaking your back if you’re on your deathbed. But we all know how we use excuses and half-truths to get out of things we don’t feel like doing at the time.

       If a farmer doesn’t plant his seed in the spring, there will be no harvest in the summer and fall. And if we don’t do our work when we need to, there won’t be a paycheck to pick up next Friday. Don’t let the excuses Satan feeds you distract you from the work God has called you to. Pray to God for deliverance from Satan and ask for His strength and guidance. His will can overcome any excuse.

       Besides providing for our needs and bringing honor to our name and God’s, hard work can help us to gain wealth beyond what is required to meet our needs. To honor God with this extra money, we need to be focused on how we can serve Him with our extra instead of thinking about how we can use it all for ourselves.

Hard Work Brings Wealth

       Hard work is the fuel for wealth. (The engine would be spending less than you earn because that’s what actually gets you to wealth.) We cannot gain wealth without hard work, regardless of whether we’re trying to honor God or ourselves. And it’s not enough to work “just enough”. We have to be willing to put in the effort:

       He becomes poor who works with a lazy hand, but the hand of the diligent brings wealth.

Proverbs 10:4 (WEB)

       Once we combine work with diligence and focus, then we can begin to gain wealth. We can all think of people we’ve worked with who did only what was required so they didn’t get fired. But it’s rarely those people who get the promotions, raises, and bonuses. This principle of working with a diligent hand is even more important for the self-employed. When you are your own boss, your income is primarily the result of your effort.

Honoring God with Your Wealth

       We’ve already determined that God calls Christians to work hard. Being lazy and bumming around when we are able to work does not glorify God at all. When we begin working hard, we not only honor God but we also reap the benefits of our work – namely providing for our needs.

       The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.

Proverbs 21:25 (WEB)

       But it’s not just how we work that makes Christians different from the rest of the world. It’s what we do with the wealth we gain from our work. The worldly view is to use whatever you earn for yourself – it’s your money, so do what you want with it. The Christian view should be vastly different. Everything we have, do, earn, or gain belongs to God. And after meeting our needs, we are to honor God with the rest of our wealth by giving generously. (And by needs, I do not mean a luxury car because you “need” transportation.)

       Take a moment to realize how different that idea is from the rest of the world. While everyone else is worried about how they can get a bigger house, better car, nicer clothes, fancier country club – more and nicer stuff – Christians are supposed to be focused on how we can glorify God with what He has given us. How can we bless more people, meet the needs of the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, comfort the mourning and the lonely? Those are the things that should constantly be on our mind. While the world is seeking more and more for itself, we’re trying to give more and more of ourselves.

       There are those who covet greedily all day long; but the righteous give and don’t withhold.

Proverbs 21:26 (WEB)

       This idea of giving generously out of our wealth, even to the point of denying many of our own wants, seems like utter foolishness to the world. But for Christians who trust in God and believe Christ, it is a sure reward. We are no longer working just so we can buy more stuff. We’re not breaking our backs so we can keep a house that’s much larger than we actually need. We are working so we can glorify God by giving away the wealth we gain and blessing the poor and needy. We are working for a sure reward.

       Wicked people earn deceitful wages, but one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.

Proverbs 11:18 (WEB)

       In addition to providing for our material needs, hard work brings honor to our name and glory to God. People don’t look at a hard-working person and think ill of them. Diligent work brings respect and reward. It is key to remember, however, that this aspect of work is not to bring honor to ourselves. Our hard work is a sign of our dedication to God’s ways, so when we are honored because of our work we also honor God.

Hard Work Brings Responsibility and Reward

       In 1 Kings, we find the story of Jeroboam. He’s introduced by his reputation as a hard worker, and we see that this is why he became one of Solomon’s officials:

       The man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor; and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he put him in charge of all the labor of the house of Joseph.

1 Kings 11:28 (WEB)

       As we continue reading the story of Jeroboam, we see that God used him and his position of power to accomplish His will. The good reputation we can build through hard work may put us in positions to do much good work for the Lord. This idea is also outlined in Proverbs:

       The hands of the diligent ones shall rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.

Proverbs 12:24 (WEB)

       Through our hard work, God can bless us and put us into positions of power – power that may then be used to further glorify God and do His will on earth. Though many people work hard to gain power for their own edification, Christians should use positions of power to build up the Lord and do His work.

Hard Work Brings Honor

       Our hard work may not always put us in positions of power, but it can help us influence those who are in leadership. Those who do their work well are often called upon to serve powerful people or to offer their advice:

       Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve kings. He won’t serve obscure men.

Proverbs 22:29 (WEB)

       We’ve seen this clearly in the life of Billy Graham. His reputation for clearly teaching the Word of God and explaining salvation simply has brought him into contact with many powerful people. God can use such opportunities in our lives to influence leaders to follow His will.

       God can work through many circumstances in our lives to accomplish His will, but our hard work can put us in a position to do even more for God. Next week, we’ll look at how our hard work can help us gain wealth that can be used to bring glory to God.

       We’ve already seen that God desires Christians to work hard as a way to glorify His name. But that’s not the only reason He calls us to work. There is value in hard work, and these tangible benefits are impossible to achieve without effort. Today, we’ll look at how hard work provides for our material needs.

Will Work for Food

       With the money we earn from work, we can buy the things we need. Food and water, shelter, clothing, fuel for warmth in the winter, and other necessities can only be obtained when we are willing to work for them. This could mean earning the money to buy those things, or putting in the time and effort to make or produce those things ourselves. Unless we are willing to work hard, we will not get the things we need to survive.

       One who works his land will have an abundance of food; but one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.

Proverbs 28:19 (WEB)

       Working hard with what God gave us will provide an abundance for our needs. But sitting around talking about what we could do or will do brings us nothing but poverty. This clear advice from Proverbs tells us that we need to focus on actually doing the needed work instead of chasing fantasies. Those dreams of getting easy riches from the stock market or some get-rich-quick scheme will bring you no closer to actually meeting your needs.

       In all hard work there is profit, but the talk of the lips leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23 (WEB)

       Hard work will provide for our needs. Talking about our needs and how we wish we had the money to get the things we need does absolutely nothing to bring us closer to meeting our needs. God’s wisdom has not changed throughout the ages – this is as true today as it ever was in the past.

       Before I go much further, I want to stop and look at what our needs really are. When I’m talking about needs, I mean the things we actually need to survive. Food, clothing, a place to live, a way to stay warm in the winter, transportation to our jobs (if necessary), etc. – these are things required to survive. Cell phones, cable/satellite, entertainment, eating out, internet, and other things that aren’t absolutely necessary for our survival are luxuries or wants. We’ve forgotten these definitions of needs and wants in the U.S., but spend any amount of time learning about living conditions in third-world countries and you’ll start to realize how easy we have it here.

       It’s important we understand the difference between needs and wants when we start talking about budgeting or giving. Part of denying yourself and taking up your cross is realizing what the “wants” are in your life and choosing to forgo those in order to help the poor. In some cases, this may even mean helping yourself. If you’re struggling to get by every week and keep going deeper in debt, one of the first things you need to do is break down your expenses into absolute needs and unnecessary wants. Eliminating the wants can give you the cash flow you need to make it to the next week and begin getting out of debt.

       Once we know what our real needs are, we know what our soul desires and requires to survive. Then, through hard work we can meet the desires of our soul:

       The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing, but the desire of the diligent shall be fully satisfied.

Proverbs 13:4 (WEB)

       God can bless us and fully satisfy our needs. But we must be willing to work hard instead of sitting around waiting for God to hand everything over to us. Working hard is no guarantee that we’ll get everything we want. But God promises to meet our needs if we diligently work and trust in Him.