RICH MAN: RIGHTEOUS MAN
A Proper View of Money
Most of us would acknowledge a life spent in the accumulation and enjoyment of worldly pleasures produces significantly different eternal results than a life invested in the concerns of God. Unfortunately, there is a regrettable human tendency is every area of life to seek a compromise, with a concomitant argument in support which basically says that worldly things are OK so long as they are put into the service of God. The Bible replies with an audible No!
Do Not Compromise with the World
Two short, simple passages from the Book of Proverbs will establish that we cannot compromise with the world in any way:
The Righteous Man: "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe" (Prov.18:10, AV)
The Rich Man: "The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as a high wall is his own conceit" (Prov.18:11, AV)
The Name of the Lord is the righteous man's strong tower. What is meant by that? Simply, God's Name is the essence, reputation, fame, and glory of the eternal covenant-keeping God. That is what the righteous trust in. That Name is "strong tower", a secure or majestic fortress. We may rest safely in His Name. Who, according to the Bible, are the righteous? They are those vindicated by God through faith in God's provision of salvation. In other words, the righteous are those who accept God's salvation on the terms which He gives it, and not as we might imagine it. Finally, the righteous are "safe", meaning, that the enemy of our souls -- Satan, his demonic angels, and his instruments on earth -- cannot gain access to our souls or capture us.
The rich man has a very different approach to life which is centred on his wealth. What is his wealth? It is his substance, sufficiency -- whatever he considers enough for his permanent security. That is his strong city. In the Hebrew, the word "city" can also be translated "to lay beams" or "flooring"; in other words, the rich man used his wealth as his life's foundation, the "floor on which he walks", and places his confidence in it. It is also his "high wall" which is used to protect him. The Hebrew word for "high" is also the same as "safe" in v.10. However, in this negative setting it takes on the meaning of something that is stronger than he thinks is stronger than it really is. Finally, the rich man does all of these things "in his own conceit". His wealth has become his showpiece on which he has come to focus his attention. In short, it has become his idol.
An Attempt to "Buy Me Out"
Shortly before the Church was organised in England a rich man once tried to buy me out. He said he would offer me a vast sum of money if I not marry his daughter, as he did not think me wealthy enough to meet her needs. When that failed, he offered be an equally vast sum of money if I would abandon my religion and focus my attention on building up a business so that I could provide for her supposed "needs". He built his entire life on money. This year he died. I feel terribly, terribly sorry for him. Money was his idol, and even though he meant well, he was actually an idolater. Money was his second resort, having failed to persuade me with threats of violence. When my marriage failed, I was told that his wealth would be used in the courts to remove my children from me. God frustrated this plan.
I was always taught to build up a good economic foundation, save, and prepare for bad times. From a worldly point-of-view, this was sound advice. But God says that if we are working our jobs simply to have enough money for today's emergencies and/or tomorrow's retirement (as most financial counsellors advise), we are actually building a "high wall" between ourselves and God.
If we already have enough to be comfortably insulated from needing God's daily provision, we are in fact already residing in a "strong city" and "high wall" of our own "conceit".
I am not, of course, advocating that we should become lazy or that we should stop saving. Families need sound economic management. We must learn to be careful with our money. The issue here is whether or not we are willing to be vulnerable toward God -- to trust His promises rather than our abilities and efforts -- to be dependent on Him rather than independent of Him.
My Own Idolatry Revealed
I learned this lesson recently when our enemies decided to strike at the heart of one my own idolatries. Though I have not been making provision for the long-term future (e.g. retirement) and though I am not a person who hoards wealth, I discovered that my job figured very prominently in my personal security. I have a good job, which pays well. Our enemies, trying to discredit me, telephoned my place of employment and tried to smear my name, making it plain that their aim was to get me fired. Though I had been expecting something like this to happen, I had no idea just how deeply my job had become a part of my spiritual security. When my employer called me in for an interview and told me what our enemies had said, I shook like a leaf. I had come to believe that my job, which feeds my family, was a fortress behind which I could hide. I had rationalised that so long as I had material security in this form, I need not worry about financial security and instead offer the rest of my time to the Lord's service.
After several days' intense inner wrestling, I realised that my job had become a little god -- an idol. I therefore released it into God's hands and said that if it were His will that I should lose it, and the security it brought me, I would gladly surrender it. The result of this was not only tremendous inner peace but also joy -- the joy of knowing that I was no longer a prisoner of this false security and of knowing that should I lose the job, God would provide.
Trust in Christ
My challenge to you, therefore, is to demonstrate your dependence on the Lord by letting go of worldly securities and putting your trust in God. Job said: "If I have made gold my trust, or called fine gold my confidence; if I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, or because my hand had got much...this also would be iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I should have been false to God above" (Job 31:24-25,28, RSV).
Let us learn dependence on God completely. Independence leads only to conceit and a fall. Let us surrender our sovereignty totally to Him and watch how He takes care of us. Amen.
This page was created on 30 May 1998
Last updated on 30 May 1998
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