Sunday, March 3, 2013

Paycheck by Paycheck

Proverbs has a lot to say about wisdom (being wisdom literature after all), and it also has a number of things to say about finances. Lately, two passages have stuck out to me which I feel many forget about and/or don't apply when it comes to their functional way of "stewarding" the monetary resources God has given them. The first passage is from Proverbs 3:21-28:

[21] My son, do not lose sight of these—
keep sound wisdom and discretion,
[22] and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck.
[23] Then you will walk on your way securely,
and your foot will not stumble.
[24] If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
[25] Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
[26] for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
[27] Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
[28] Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
(Proverbs 3:21-28 ESV)

At the beginning, in Proverbs 3:21, Solomon says that the things he is about to talk about we should not lose sight of (i.e. don't forget!). He intimates that these things will: be life for your soul(v.22), adornment for your neck(v.22, unashamed of), aid in keeping you from stumbling (v.23), keeps you from fear(v.25), and keeps you from ruin (v.25). These things are so, it says, because "the LORD will be your confidence(Pro 3:26)." It seems good to me that the train of thought be continued into Pro 3:27-28, namely that a piece of wisdom which we should not lose sight of, which has all the benefits aforementioned, is "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it." When you understand verses 26-27 together it seems to suggest, counter to worldly wisdom, that giving when it is in your power is better than saving to give later (v28) because the Lord is the confidence of the giver, not the money. This idea of financial dependency on God is clearer in the next passage, Proverbs 30:7-9:

[7] Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
[8] Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
[9] lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:7-9 ESV)

This proverb is a prayer in which there are but two requests (if anything were to be granted, it would seem, these are the two desired). These are: "removal of falsehood and lying" & "give me neither poverty nor riches." The New American Commentary writes, "The author recognizes his weaknesses, both in his tendency to forget God when life is too easy and to turn in desperation away from God when life is too hard." It becomes immediately apparent in this passage that worldly wisdom is not what is in focus. The prayer is essentially, to borrow from Francis Chan, "God please let me live paycheck by paycheck. Don't give me so much that I'd deny you, nor so little I'd profane your name."

Here is the challenge from Francis:

Questions for Application:
  • Am I willing to pray Proverbs 30:7-9? Have I done it yet?
  • Do I withhold good from those whom it is due, when it is in my power to do it?
  • Is there good I could be doing, perhaps giving, which I have written off until tomorrow but which could be done now?
  • Weighing your heart, do I hide behind a guise of "stewardship" (which invests money, saves, and is frugal) because I do not trust God to provide for the future or perhaps I don't believe He is sovereign over it? 
  • If you skipped over that last one, reconsider it with this thought: Is there something I don't choose to give or sacrifice under the pretense that I am being a better steward of it by saving it? The Pharisees did things like this saying that what they had was given to God so they couldn't help family out (Mark 7:10-13), and Jesus called them out as "making void the word of God" because they valued worldly wisdom [traditions] over God's word.

Have a blessed day!