Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wisdom of the ages -- about money

I've been frustrated.

On the one hand, Sarita and I have been urged to make plans for what wealth we have accumulated so that it (the wealth) will go where we [think God might] want it to go. On the other hand, it seems as if ever since we received that counsel and began acting upon it, the funds we have put aside have been devastated by the stock market crash and the ongoing inability of even "the best" advisors to avoid handing us losses in today's investment climate.

I just received another reminder last night as our investment advisor sent us a bunch of performance statements and, once again, every account suffered losses this past month. . . .

So today I was reading in Proverbs and noticed something that had never caught my eye before:
Do not toil to acquire wealth;
     be discerning enough to desist. (Prov. 23:4)
I took that to be saying (in the context of so much else that the writers of the Proverbs say), "Work hard and long enough to meet your and your family's needs (cf, for example, Prov. 16:26), but don't try to pile up wealth. It's not worth the trouble.

What "the trouble" may entail includes strife and discord (see, for example, Prov. 15:16; 16:8, 19; 17:1; 19:1; 21:9 & 19; 25:24; etc.--all of which generally add up to, "Better to have little--and peace and quiet, than to have much accompanied with yelling and strife"), but "the trouble" may also entail "simple" loss and/or emptiness, or what Solomon called a "chasing after the wind" (ubiquitous in the Book of Ecclesiastes). In Proverbs 23, where I began this meditation, the author follows his admonition about desisting from the pursuit of wealth with this explanation:
Do not toil to acquire wealth;
     be discerning enough to desist.
[Because w]hen your eyes light on it, it is gone,
     for suddenly it sprouts wings,
     flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Prov. 23:4-5)
And all of this together, for some reason, is reminding me of Jesus' words of wisdom in Matthew 6:19-34 (NIV):
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . . .

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
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