Attitudes Toward Wealth

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddently it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven (Proverbs 23:4-5)

Not all aspects of wealth are bad. Though Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, that is not necessarily the prescription he gives everyone. In the New Testament, Jesus encountered many people upon whom he did not make that demand.

Labor is also not all bad; in fact, it is what we call a creation ordinance. Work is not a curse of the fall of man into sin, but the work we do is now contaminated by that fall and made much more difficult and vexatious.

In fact, if faithful Christ-followers are being productive with their lives and skills, wealth will be produced as a natural by-product. Indeed, part of the common grace God gives to the world is that even when unbelievers engage in valid work, wealth is created that benefits everyone.

What is addressed in this Proverb is an attitude about labor (work) and wealth. Wealth is illusory: just listen to some of the debate about the tax code and you will recognize that almost everyone believes himself not wealthy; it is the one with a few more dollars who is “rich.” And in our personal lives, just a few more dollars, a bit bigger house, a slightly newer car is what we are perpetually after, and then we will be wealthy.

In other words, wealth “sprouts wings”. It may take flight by being that goal that is always just over the horizon, or it may more literally take flight by actually leaving us with less than before.

But the answer is not that we quit work, labor less, or do so for no wages. We still toil, we still labor, we still work, but we do so with a view to providing for our necessities and then giving to others. When we work to earn wages, we should also recognize that our work itself benefits others. Why should not our excess also benefit others?

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