Thursday, May 4, 2017

Proverbs 13:22 --- The Final Transfer of Wealth

Proverbs 13:22 
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children,
    but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.
If we are to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ, then the weight of the glory of Jesus Christ must be greater than everything else we are tempted to live for.  Jesus must be more satisfying to us than our pleasures.  Jesus must be bigger to us than our fears.  And, more to the point of our proverb, Jesus must be our true wealth, which relativizes earthly wealth.

This is just what Solomon's Second collection does in the second verse of the collection:

            Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
                but righteousness delivers from death.  (Proverbs 10:2)

Right from the start, Solomon in his wisdom tells us that righteousness is far more valuable than earthly wealth, for only righteousness can rescue us from death and give us eternal life.  We know, because we read the Bible backward from the New Testament to the Old Testament, that this righteousness which delivers from death is the righteousness of Christ imputed to believing sinners.

And yet, in our penchant for literalness, we are slow to see that the inheritance a good man leaves to his grandchildren in verse 22 is not earthly wealth.  It is a better treasure than the earthly wealth, which is a mere shadow of the true wealth found in Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament, read Christologically, is not near as enamored with earthly wealth as some would tell us.  Instead, it is enamored with the anointed King, the glorious Christ, who was to come.  For example, we see this in the life of king Saul's son, Jonathan.  Jonathan was the crowned prince.  He was next in line to the throne of his father, Saul.  But the Lord took away the kingdom from Saul, and this was communicated to Saul through the Lord's prophet, Samuel.  Then, at the Lord's direction, Samuel anointed a new king, David, who would replace Saul.  So, in 1 Samuel 18, what we read is remarkable:

"Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt" (1 Samuel 18:3-4).

Jonathan in these words becomes a picture of true discipleship.  Instead of seeking the kingdom for himself, Jonathan recognizes, submits to, and loves the Lord's anointed king, i.e., the christ (the title christ means anointed one).  By stripping himself of his robe, Jonathan acknowledges that the kingdom belongs to David.  Though his father, Saul, will fight David's kingship and defy the word of the Lord through Samuel until the bitter end, such was not Jonathan's attitude.  At great expense to himself, Jonathan gives up his right to reign, and becomes a model of discipleship for us forever.

When Jonathan dies, David laments Jonathan's death along with his father.  But two parallel lines of this chiastic lament tell us of the glory that became Jonathan's because of his loyalty to God's anointed king, the christ:

            Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! (2 Samuel 1:19a)

            Jonathan lies slain on your high places. (2 Samuel 1:25)

The parallelism tell us that the glory belonged to Jonathan, not his father.  Jonathan's glory was found in giving up his right to rule, and in his loyalty and love for God's small "c" christ.  Our glory, our true riches, is found in giving up our right to rule, and in our loyalty and love for the true Christ, Jesus the Lord, who has been installed by the Father at his right hand, after his death and resurrection.

When Jesus Christ becomes the true treasure of our lives, then the most important thing we leave to our children and grandchildren is not earthly wealth, but our prayers, our loyalty and our love for Jesus, so that they too might find Him.  As George Lawson said, "It is better to be the son of a poor saint than of a great lord, for every believer will acknowledge that a single promise in the Bible is far better than a large estate."[1]

As to the wealth that sinners are so anxious to acquire as they live for this world, and are sometimes anxious to leave to their posterity, it will actually impoverish their children and grandchildren if they live only for this world, which is opposed to Christ and his rule.  Instead of laying up true wealth for their children and grandchildren, they may be storing up for them treasures of God's wrath, for earthly wealth can often lead people to forget the Lord and the true riches he gives his people.

Finally, as Lawson wisely notes, wealth is often changing masters,[2] or changing hands.  But as Proverbs and the rest of the Bible teaches, in the eschaton, there will be a final transfer of wealth, when the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5):

            For the upright will inhabit the land,
                and those with integrity will remain in it,
            but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
                and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.  (Proverbs 2:21-22)

On that final day, "The kingdom of the world has [will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15).  In that kingdom, "Whatever is excellent and valuable in this world shall be there enjoyed in a more refined kind, and to a far greater degree---brighter crowns, a better and more enduring substance, more sweet and satisfying feasts, . . . a true sense of honor and far higher posts of honor . . . and a form and a countenance more glorious than ever were known in this world."[3]


[1] Lawson, Proverbs, 180.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Matthew Henry. A Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, 1185.

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