Live Within Your Means
(Proverbs 3, 11, 14 and 28)
Introduction: This week our lesson turns to the topic of money. This is where "the rubber meets the road" when it comes to our relationship with God. We certainly are not saved by works or by giving money, but I think our attitude towards God and money gives a pretty good read on our spiritual condition. So let's jump into the lesson and find out what God has in mind for our wallets!
- Read Proverbs 3:9-10. What would you guess is a "firstfruit?" (Nelson's Bible Dictionary says "the firstborn of the flocks and grains to be gathered at harvest time.")
- No one in our congregation is a farmer. Does this text apply to us? If so, how?
- Most of us earn money. Money is fungible (the first dollar is exactly the same as the last dollar). Would "firstfruits" for us refer to the order in which we paid our bills? Should we pay God first?
- Or, should we wait to see how paying our bills comes out?
- Is this a reference ( Proverbs 3:9) to tithe paying (giving 10% of our income to the Lord)? (Read 2 Chronicles 31:5. The concept of giving God our first fruits is tied up with the concept of tithe paying.)
- Is tithe paying a part of the Mosiac law that was done away with at the cross? (It doesn't seem that is true. If you look at Genesis 28:20-22 you will see that long before Moses' time Jacob was familiar with the concept of tithe paying and paid a tithe. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that they should practice justice, mercy and faithfulness along with paying a tithe. Thus, Jesus also endorsed the practice.)
- What do you think of Jacob's attitude revealed in Genesis 28?
- For many years I have heard people ask (or debate) about whether we should pay tithe on our money before or after taxes. Does "firstfruits" have an application here?
- Or is the money taken out of our income for taxes simply not "income?"
- Do we get something for the taxes that we pay?
- Let's look again at Proverbs 3:9-10. What is the result of honoring God with the "firstfruits?"
- Our lesson says, "Sometimes [God] gives temporal prosperity. Sometimes, for reasons we do not understand, He withholds it." The lesson goes on to "spiritualize" God's blessings. Is this fair? Is Proverbs 3:9-10 talking about spiritual blessings? (I think it is improper to change God's words. This unambiguously refers to money (increased crops) and I think we should hold God to His promise if we are faithful in tithe paying.)
- Is the idea of "holding God to His promise" inconsistent with the idea that we should simply trust God's (vastly) superior judgment, no matter what? (I think this is certainly worthy of debate. However, I think God exercised His judgment when He made the promise. We trust His promises.)
- Have you ever heard someone say, "I tried tithe-paying and it didn't work?" Does this prove the truth of the lesson's comments about God withholding prosperity in some cases? (Ask them how long they tried tithe-paying. You cannot expect, in six months, to reverse 20 years of disobedience. Proverbs 3:9 tells us to honor God will "all" of our crops, not just a small sample.)
- The Desire for Money
- Read Proverbs 28:19-20. We just looked at how God promised full barns and filled vats and we decided that we would certainly hold God to His promise, right? So why does verse 20 tell us that those eager to get rich will be punished? Why is it wrong to want what God promises? (Read Proverbs 11:27-28. I think our attitude, our goal is critical. If we pay tithe to get rich (28:20), then we will not. If we pay tithe to obey God (28:20 "faithful man" & 11:27 "seek good"), then God says we will prosper. Look again at Proverbs 3:9. It starts out "Honor the Lord with your wealth." That sets the tone for our motives. Not "Honor yourself with wealth.")
- What does Proverbs 28:19 teach us about "get rich fast" schemes? (Work is honorable and helpful. Scheming to get rich fast will generally leave us poor.)
- Read Proverbs 11:24-28. What attitudes about money do you find in these verses? What is the result of having the proper attitude towards money?
- Savings and Debt
- Read Proverbs 14:15. Do you think Solomon is speaking about spiritual matters here or does this also include money?
- Would the warning about being simple refer (in the U.S.) to promises about the future of Social Security? (Sorry, I could not resist.)
- Is it appropriate to save for our retirement? Or is that the wrongful hoarding of money ( James 5:3) or refusing to trust God?
- Read Proverbs 22:3-4. Do you think this text refers to preparations for retirement? Does this refer to all aspects of life?
- If we do not prepare will we (v.3) suffer?
- Let's continue on in Proverbs 22. Read Proverbs 22:7. In what ways are those who borrow servant to those who lend?
- Does this mean we should not borrow money?
- How should we view debt?
- Does your debt create a problem for your tithe-paying?
- Does your debt create a problem for providing Christian education for your children?
- Does debt create a problem in general for your life?
- Should we co-sign for a loan for someone else? Should we put up security for someone else? (Read Proverbs 11:15 and 17:18)
- Why not help others with getting a loan? Isn't this just being kind to the other person? Aren't we called ( Proverbs 14:21) to be kind to the needy ?
- How should we help others who need money? (It seems the better way is to lend the other person money. If you don't have it to lend, you shouldn't guarantee the debt.)
- Friend, God is concerned about how you handle your money. Frankly, I think He is concerned for OUR benefit, not His. He calls on us to pay a faithful tithe, plan for the future, be content, avoid troublesome debt and avoid foolish financial adventures. Are your finances in line with God's advice? Would your life be better if you followed His guidelines?
- Next Week: As the Needle to the Pole.