“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.” -Proverbs 6:6
Apart from the fact that the word “sluggard” is guaranteed to get anyone’s attention, this verse from the book of Proverbs leads into some important subjects. The passage instructs the reader to consider the diligence of the ant, who gathers her food when it’s plentiful in order to prepare for difficult times. By contrast, says the passage, lazy people just want a little more sleep. Soon enough, poverty will come upon them like a prowling thief.
Our focus in this series is on Christian growth. Previously we looked at the importance of growing morally, and now we add the valuable message that we should grow financially, too. The word “consider” in the middle of Proverbs 6:6 is important. It means there are lessons to learn and principles to apply so that we can grow in the financial area of life.
Money is one of the most challenging aspects of life. It’s absolutely necessary to focus on how best to earn it, spend it, save it, and invest it. On the other hand, even after making wise decisions about money, people often feel they still don’t have quite enough—a belief which has led many into unhealthy obsessions with money. Those obsessions will pierce you through with many sorrows (1 Tim. 6:10).
To live within that tension, cultivate both good planning and the habit of contentment. First, learn to save some money every month, even if it’s just five dollars. Saving and investing require long years of habitual foresight. The person who plans ahead will not be afraid when the winter storms of life arise (Prov. 31:21). Yet the habit of contentment is important for every Christian. Learning to live with less is a valuable experience.
Appreciate the necessity of a stable job as you create a financial foundation. Proverbs 24:27 tells us to work “in the field” before building a house. In other words, establish yourself in the abilities and responsibilities of work before thinking about more long-term goals. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that your job should become your identity. Work is important, but it’s not everything.
Borrowing and spending
Understand what happens if you borrow money: “The borrower is the slave of the lender” (Prov. 22:7). It’s not wrong to, say, obtain a mortgage when buying a home, assuming your employment will supply what you need for the payments. That kind of borrowing is like an investment because you are getting something of lasting value through that sort of loan. But remember that it often takes a great deal of time to get out of debt, so avoid it as much as you can. In addition, never borrow money just to go on vacation. Since vacations are not investments, that type of borrowing produces short-term joys but long-term burdens.
Learn to spend money wisely, not extravagantly. Extravagant tastes are a drain that will suck resources away (Prov. 21:17). Yet don’t waste your money on junk. Buy good tools, avoid cheap construction, and be willing to spend to get quality.
Be generous when it comes to sharing your resources. The Scriptures list a number of directions for Christian giving. The Lord’s work and His workers should be an obvious outlet for the believer. Widows and other needy believers should also be remembered. Urgent needs deserve your attention, too (Tit. 3:14)– although you should never give anything out of a sense of guilt. Con artists are skilled at tugging on our emotions. Remember that the Lord loves a cheerful giver, not a guilt-ridden one.
Even general needs among the poor of the world should draw out a Christian’s compassion. Avoid looking down on those who have little in this world. James 2:6 condemns believers who despise the poor. Poverty is a complex issue, and it often has nothing to do with laziness.
Money is filthy when it’s handled with selfish greed (1 Tim. 3:3, 8). But when dedicated to the Lord and used for the good of others, it becomes a grace of character, a sweet-smelling offering which God Himself appreciates (2 Cor. 9:6-15; Phil. 4:15-19).
Not only that, but good stewardship of our money actually determines the kinds of spiritual responsibilities the Lord will entrust to us. “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” (Lk. 16:11). Apply biblical principles of financial growth not only for your own security but also as a way to honor God Himself.