Sufficiency is enough

The goal of hoarding wealth is not a biblical goal in any way. If God blesses us, we need to use what He has given us for the purpose it was given. However, our goal in life should be as the proverb describes:

“Remove far from me vanity and lies: Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with food convenient for me: 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 30:8-9)

He asks God to remove “vanity and lies”—the Hebrew words mean ‘empty worthlessness’ and ‘things that are occupied with falsehood’ or ‘things which capture us’. They can refer to any worldly influence that captivates us but, in the end proves empty and worthless. He also asks for neither “poverty nor riches”. This might seem strange from the Pentecostal businessman’s perspective, where gain is associated with godliness.

Instead, the writer of the Proverbs asks to be fed with food “convenient”, that is, to be provided with bread of ‘a prescribed portion, or limit or boundary’. The reason is that both extremes—riches and poverty—are a source of temptation. If we are full and have excess then we might “deny” God. The Hebrew word, kachash means to ‘feign obedience, to act deceptively, to be disappointing’ in our actions. This is why Paul exhorts us to have “unfeigned faith” (1 Tim 1:5), and Peter “unfeigned love” (1 Pet 1:22). Riches can cause us to forget God, as we have already examined, and manifest a surface level faith and love—not believing or relying on Him. The reverse of this is to blaspheme by stealing out of necessity and breaking the commandment (Exod 20:15).

God does not want us to spend our time in the pursuit of our own wealth. This is fleshly thinking, and He has called us to elevate our minds and our ambitions above this:

“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)

We are not to “labour” for riches; to make ourselves weary with toil; or to wear ourselves out for fame and fortune. This is where man’s default thinking is focused, but God asks us to rise above that. He tells us to “cease from our own wisdom” for we are called to higher things (Isa 55:6-9).

The wealth of this world is fleeting and we are not to “set [our] eyes” upon it in the sense of focusing our mind on these things to the exclusion of all else. This isn’t to be where our focus is and where our minds constantly go, always hovering over our financial affairs. The reason is that riches will grow wings and “fly away” like a bird toward heaven. We can’t control riches, they move about so fleetingly, so let’s not spend all our time brooding over them.

Owe no man anything

The world we live in is one of instant gratification. We can have what we want and pay for it later. Credit is easy to come by and debt can pile up quickly. Once we are constantly in debt it is hard to emerge from that debt cycle. We can become servants to the institutions that lend us money, and the workplaces where we generate our money. I can remember standing in my employer’s office as we watched an employee drive up in a shiny new car. My employer was very happy that this employee had bought the new car and told me the debt would force him to stay in his employ. I took note of how the proverb proved to be true:

“The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Prov 22:7)

It is very easy to become imprisoned to debt. Most of us tend to measure out lifestyles by our incomes, and debt can easily get out of control. It is often simply a consequence of covetousness; wanting more than our God has provided for us. The admonition of Christ is worth considering again:

“And he said unto them, 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).

The scriptural prerogative is worth taking to heart: “Owe no man anything, but to love one another” (Rom 13:8). The context of this passage demonstrates that covetousness is rooted in selfishness.

Although debt is a part of doing business in society today, it is not a burden we want to allow ourselves to be chained with. Instead of purchasing the new car with all the fancy features, perhaps we need to restrict our purchases to what we need, not necessarily what we want. A good second-hand car is often adequate and will burden us a lot less. A more modest home might mean we only need one income instead of two. If we try to keep up with society, we will become prisoners to its never-ending appetites. We have learned this from experience and, as is often the case, must be reminded of it from time to time.