“Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:4-5)
Picking up from my previous article in the twenty-third chapter of Proverbs, here we find a lesson on riches. The Bible has much to say about this subject and it is a challenging message for many. This passage begins with “labour not to be rich” and some would question, “What else would one labour for?”
The Bible is certainly not against earning a living. In fact, we read in the New Testament, “This we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) Good, hard, honest work is something the Bible extols and being fairly compensated for work is another thing it promotes. Consider James 5:4, “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”
God looks with disfavour on those who withhold or unfairly pay those who have rendered a service for them, because their motive for defrauding the labourer comes from the thing that the Bible does condemn, and that is greed.
The Bible says, not money but “the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Jesus said, “Beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:15)
There is more to life and working than simply amassing wealth. Our Proverb says that labouring to be rich is man’s wisdom, but it is a faulty wisdom, for riches won’t last, they fly away. There is something more eternal to live for. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
In other words, don’t live your life to add to your earthly material assets, but live a life that acquires eternal reward. First of all, live a life of faith, “But without faith it is impossible to please (God).” (Hebrews 11:6) Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ and live your life unto Him.
Secondly, live for others. Notice what this verse suggests we work and earn money for: “Let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” (Ephesians 4:28).
Some may say, “Some Christians are greedy and some preachers are in it for money.” Just know this, if that is true, they are in direct violation of the Word of God. Their wealth will also fly away and they’ll be left with nothing in the end.
Tom Kline is pastor of Castlegar Baptist Church.