In The Word
Whether dealing with greed or generosity, laziness or work, the Bible has a lot to say about how we handle our resources—our energy, our money, our time. What exactly does it say? Shirley Hull (MA[BS], 2002) has written this study for students of the Word who want to dig deeper on their own to answer that very question.
"Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16).
GUARD YOUR SECURITY
Have you ever thought that your generosity to a friend may be his or her undoing? The giving or loaning of money is not always the wise or prudent thing to do: it could actually be a disservice. When Jesus told His disciples to be as shrewd as snakes, His advice was that they should not be gullible but should be alert to possible danger.
Read Proverbs 6:1–5.
What was the first mistake made (v. 1)?
Practical advice is part and parcel of Proverbs. "Striking hands in pledge" was like our shaking hands when a deal is made. In our day it would be like putting up collateral for a loan—which helps guarantee that it will be paid back. Or cosigning a loan, which makes you responsible for the debt if the neighbor fails to come through!
What was the second mistake (v.2)?
You have heard the statement, "My word is my bond." In this case he had struck a deal with his word.
What advice does the father give his son? How hard do you think this is? (vv. 3–5)
What is the danger if he doesn't do this?
The shrewdness demanded here is to know what the possible dangers are and to step back from a shaky deal. How well do you know this person? What is his past financial history? Is she reliable? Is he honest?
Have you had any experience in this area? If so, what did it teach you? How was your relationship with the person afterward?
While we need to be wise in our dealings, we can't close our hearts and our pocketbooks to those in need. What do Proverbs 11:25 and 22:9 say?
How do the following verses in Proverbs reflect our attitude toward God?
What is the difference between the advice given in 6:1–5 and these verses you have studied?
What is Jesus' attitude toward giving to the needy:
…as seen in Matthew 5:42?
…as seen in Matthew 6:1–4?
Do you see a discrepancy between what Jesus says and what the teacher says in Proverbs 6? If so, how do you solve it?
If you have a generous heart toward God and men, you might need the mindset that what you have given was a gift to God and what was borrowed might never be returned. Did you ever think that you were lending to God when you loaned money to someone? "In as much as you have done it unto the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40).
"Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16).
GUARD YOUR HEART
Maturity equals not naïvete but shrewdness. It means being aware of what is going on around us and of those people who make their living from the unsuspecting and gullible. Today we will look at the scoundrel and villain, along with the seven things that God hates. Our prayer is that God would give us wisdom to apply the truths for our day.
One of the Hebrew words for "scoundrel" is Beliya'al, which became in time the proper name for Satan, Belial. Beli means "without," and ya-al means "profit." In other words, it is used of someone who is "worthless." "What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?" (2 Cor. 6:15).
The meaning of "villain" here focuses on someone who plans deception. The psalmist says, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51:5). This verse expresses that at the core we are totally depraved.
Read Proverbs 6:12–19
Note the parts of the body involved in sin.
Listing the parts of the body—the mouth, eyes, fingers—was a common teaching tool to make the words easier to memorize. But it is also reminded listeners that when evil is entered into, it is with all one's faculties.
In Romans, Paul tells us about the human condition (Rom. 3:10–18). What does verse 18 tell us is the root problem?
Read Proverbs 6:16–19. Note again the use of the body. "Six things…seven that are detestable…" is an ancient poetic form of wisdom teachings. (See also Proverbs 30:15, 18, 21, 29.)
List in your own words the seven things the Lord hates:
Why do we assume that because pride is common, it isn't so bad? Yet what does Isaiah tell us was the root problem of Lucifer, or Satan (Isa. 14:12–14)?
Have you experienced someone stirring up dissension? What picture does it give you? What is the root problem?
What is the command of Christ found in John 15:17?
The safeguard: the wise man or woman uses the lips, the mouth, the feet, and the heart, but this time in an instructive way (Prov. 4:23–27). What is he or she to do?
Eugene Peterson wrote in The Message, "Don't talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip" (Prov. 4:24).
Reflect on the things the Lord detests. ("To detest" means to loathe, to find disgusting.) Ask the Lord to show you what in your life needs to be changed—pride, deception, envy, dissension?
Write out your thoughts or confession. What changes need to be made? What can you do to bring about healing in a relationship?
"Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty" (Prov. 21:5, NLT).
GUARD YOUR ATTITUDE ABOUT WEALTH
The Bible has much to say about wealth and poverty, especially in Proverbs. We all have our own ideas of wealth, but if you own a car, you are among those who possess the top five percent of income in the world. Today we will look at the wise handling of money. We will look at some reasons people end up poor, and why others have more.
The following are work ethics about making and keeping money.
Remember that to have wealth in Old Testament times was generally an indication of God's blessing and approval. Who are some wealthy people in the Old Testament?
What is the precaution given in Proverbs 22:1?
In the following verses in Proverbs why do people end up poor?
What is the implication of Proverbs 22:7? Does it teach that it is wrong to borrow?
Is it wrong to want to pass on an inheritance, according to Proverbs 13:22?
What warning does God give to those with wealth in Proverbs 21:13?
Jesus goes one step further in his teaching about money (Luke 6:30–38). What principle of stewardship is behind His teaching?
What are the dangers of wealth, according to Deuteronomy 8:11–18?
Have you thanked God recently for what He has blessed you with? Have you refreshed others with your generosity—whether of your material goods, or your time? Take some time to pray about how you can refresh someone today who is needy, whether emotionally, spiritually, or physically.
"The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends" (Prov. 14:20).
"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!" (Prov. 6:6).
GUARD AGAINST LAZINESS
When I was growing up, my father told me a story about laziness. He knew a woman who had a lazy son. That son didn't like to get up in the morning. While my dad was staying with them, the mother called and called her son, but she got no response. In complete exasperation she said, "Well, lie there then 'til you rot!" How do you think he ended up?
When we teach future generations, we want them to know that work is not only necessary, it is also good. God Himself worked. "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work" (Gen 2:2). And God made Adam and Eve responsible as stewardship of the earth before they ever sinned. Work is good and noble—a stewardship of time and effort.
The Puritans who landed in the New World did not dream up "the Puritan work ethic." Rather, they relied on the words of wisdom found in Scripture about work and its rewards.
How does laziness relate to poverty?
Read Proverbs 6:6–11. In verses 9–10 what do you see as the sluggard's basic problem?
What is the result (v. 11)?
In your own words state the reasons for the sluggard's problem in Proverbs:
What does the sluggard lack according to the following verses?
What kind of employee is he or she?
What are the sluggard's frustrations?
What does the lowly ant teach us in 6:6–8?
The apostle Paul was an example of someone who "worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone" (1 Thess. 2:9). Besides preaching the gospel what was his occupation (Acts 18:3)?
What is Paul's teaching about work, according to 2 Thess. 3:6–10?
Our attitude toward work is really a heart problem, is it not? In God's eyes nothing is trivial, nothing is too small, nothing insignificant. We are called to be faithful stewards of what has been entrusted to us. Jesus commends his servant for being faithful in a few things. What is his reward? (See Matthew 25:21.)
We have to prove ourselves faithful in the few things before we move on the "greater" things! What does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 4:2?
What does this lesson teach you today?