Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wealth that Matters --- Proverbs 11:24

Proverbs 11:24
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
    another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

Verses 23-27 form a unit.  Verses 24-26 are about generosity and its opposite.  These middle verses on generosity are framed by verses 23 and 27, which are quite similar in form and content:
                             
            23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
                the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
                                
            27 Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
                but evil comes to him who searches for it.
                                                             
This frame is important, because it will keep us from misinterpreting the verses in the middle that deal with money and possessions, which we, because of our sinful nature, are prone to interpret in a less than heavenly and unspiritual manner.

Coming, then, to verse 24, I am in agreement with Derek Kidner when he says, "This verse emphasizes the paradox that you must sometimes lose to gain.  It is drawn from the business world, not necessarily from farming . . . and its application is left quite open.  But almsgiving is an obvious example (Psalm 112:9; 2 Corinthians 9:6-9), and, more deeply, the giving of oneself (John 12:24-25)."

The paradox in our proverb is that, logically, giving something away should make us grow poorer, and similarly, holding on to what we have, should help us retain our wealth.  The problem with this calculus, however, is that it does not take into account the sovereignty of the Lord over all things!  This earthly way of doing math might work in a virtual world without the sovereign Lord, but in the real world in which we exist, the Lord is providentially in control of all things.  Therefore, he ensures that both sides of the paradox are true: "One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want."

What the literary frame helps us to guard against is the ungodly idea that we should give to the Lord and others in order to get material wealth.  Such a notion is sinful and heinous, and it contradicts the literary frame of our text, which teaches us that the desire of the righteous is the Lord himself, whose kingdom his people seek.

The righteous, those who belong to the Lord through the new birth, are not motivated by material wealth.  Rather, they are motivated by being rich toward God.  The Spirit of God has poured out the love of God into our hearts, and we live to please our heavenly Father and his Son, our Lord, and to bless others, whom we long to see prosper spiritually especially, but also materially so that their basic needs are met.

Wealth has the power of becoming a rival to the kingship of Jesus in our lives.  This is why we as believers should never hoard our wealth, but rather use it to advance Christ's kingdom.  The only way to break the power of money and possessions in our lives is through giving it away, because we love the triune God and live in him.  If we do not give our  wealth away for the kingdom of God and the blessing of others, we are in danger of being poor toward God, which Jesus warned about in Luke 12:20-21:  "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

Notice, what the grace and love of God did in the hearts of the early Christians in Asia.  Notice, how they saw giving as a great blessing and privilege, because they understood the idea of being rich toward God:
"We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part" (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

These believers were generous, because they loved the Lord, and had given themselves first to the Lord.  And, if you give yourself to the Lord in view of his grace, salvation, and mercy to you (Romans 12:1), then your money will follow, not begrudgingly, but as an opportunity to show your love for Him.  Thus, we read:
"For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us" (2 Corinthians 8:3-5).

Are you rich toward God?  May the Lord give you the kind of wealth that alone truly matters.

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