I had the privilege yesterday of reading a letter Walter wrote to the campers at this year's Carey Family Conference. The morning sessions were looking at life topics through the lense of Proverbs and that, well, that is just up Walt's alley.
Several asked for a copy of the letter so I promised to post it here. It is longer than average, but your corn won't rot if you read it all.
Dear Friends at the Carey Conference,
Well, hello from here to there and welcome to my ramblings on money. I suppose Pastor Martin’s liquid spine is what caused him to ask me to write you since talking about money is like choosing paint colours for the church basement – everybody’s got an opinion!
My approach will be simple enough. I hope to remind you of what the wisest man on earth said about money and maybe point out a few observations I’ve made during my days under the sun. The stuff written by Solomon is worth heeding like a funnel cloud aimed at your barn. As for what I have to offer, remember an old horse will find his way home sooner than a yearling… the hard knocks of repetition can be a good teacher!
I suppose it is worth asking what money is? I accidentally left a $20 bill in my overalls last week and Mrs. Walter found it in 15 pieces after the rinse cycle. Now a Kleenex and money are both made out of paper, but my heart got a might more agitated over a torn twenty than a tattered hanky! Money gets all it’s power from what it does, of course. I can’t trade an envelope for a calf – unless it is full of the Queen’s pretty face. Only one kind of paper settles bills and bets in this country.
And I suppose that is the first thing we ought to learn about it – money gets its power from us. The more we love it, the more powerful it will become.
Money is Not Your God
Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.” (Luke 16:13)
So, every son of Adam and daughter of Eve needs to work out in their own heart who it is they are going to love. Money is just a thing, really… not evil in and of itself. But it is death to the person who loves it.
Proverbs 23:1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
observe carefully what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to appetite.
3 Do not desire his delicacies,
for they are deceptive food.
4 Do not toil to acquire wealth;
be discerning enough to desist.
5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
for suddenly it sprouts wings,
flying like an eagle toward heaven.
Money is like cotton candy – it tickles the tastes buds but leaves you hungry. A man ought heed Solomon’s warning: “A knife to your throat” before falling in love with money!!
Some men love money so much they are willing to be wicked in order to get it. That wickedness may be fudging a number on a tax form or robbing a bank at gunpoint – I don’t suppose there’s a cartload of difference between the two in the Lord’s eyes. “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6). Like the old King said:
Proverbs 10:2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
but righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 20:17 Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
I’ve known lots of men with a driveway-full of stones in their mouth. Sure, they seem to have all that the world offers – but the wicked only earn “deceptive wages” (Pr 11:18) and they will not deliver when needed most! I once waited in line for two hours to see The Happy Hands Fiddle Troop. Only, when I finally got to the theatre door, they turned me away! Seems they had sold too many tickets and mine was one of them. No matter how I pleaded, my ticket couldn’t get me in! That’s the problem with money, too.
Proverbs 11:4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
11 A rich man's wealth is his strong city,
and like a high wall in his imagination.
“The emperor has no clothes,” as the saying goes. Lots of men feel and act powerful and fearless in life who will stand naked and helpless in death. If you gain more peace about your situation from your bank account than your bond to the Lord, Walter says, “Watch out!”
“Earthly treasures quick run away,
but heavenly ones eternal stay!”
Proverbs 11:28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
If you worship it, money is like Baal of old – nothing. You may not dance and cut yourself to get it, but it will own just the same.
Money Comes By Work
Now once a man has got his loyalties settled, then he is set to ask, “How am I going to get some?”
Now here old Solomon left no doubts. IF you want to eat, you need to buy food. And if you want to buy food, you need to earn some money. And if you want to earn some money, you need to get a job.
Proverb 14:23 In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.
Proverbs 10:4 A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
Whether he works 12 hours or 3, a man deserves to be paid at the end of the day and that is what we call his income. And most of us say, “Come in!” However, for many that income has an unfortunate outcome!
A clean barn means no cows (Pr 14:4). That might make a Mrs. Martha Stewart happy, but it’ll leave Mrs. Walter going hungry! No, hard work usually means a bit of a mess. If I look to the services of one of the men in town, one of the first things I do is look at his desk – too messy and he is probably incompetent…. too clean and he probably doesn’t do anything at all! Every trade has its tools and most of them involve sweat of one kind or another.
A good man learns to work when it is time to work.
Proverbs 10:5 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
Proverbs 20:4 The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
The man who works will know something of His Maker’s pleasure and part of that smile is almost always bread on the table and beer in the mug (or, Adam’s Ale if you prefer). That man will “know his flocks and herds” (Pr 27:23-27) and always have enough for his family and his church. He may not live in gold and thousands of square feet – but he’ll live with a content heart and clean conscience. That’s something all the gold in the Royal Mint can’t buy!
If a man paid more attention to what he learned in grade school, he might do some good in this world. I recall one little rhyme:
Work while you work,
Play while you play,
One thing each time that is the way!
All that you do
Do with your might
Things done by halves are not done right!
But we tend to have the equilibrium of a newborn calf. If it wasn’t so hard to stay balanced I am sure the Lord would have had less to say about staying square between our work and our play. One man never raises a finger and the other works his fingers to the bone.
The Sluggard Will Have No Money
There’s very little fast money in this world. The sluggard spends all day scheming how to get it and goes to bed hungry. Another man inherits a safe-full, and it’s gone as fast as it appeared.
No, the Bible way to gaining your riches is through regular hard work over time.
Proverbs 28:19 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
Uncle Lester worked hard but died poor. Why? Because his life was full of worthless pursuits. From magnetic pipe purifiers to baptized Ponzi schemes, he was always chasing easy money.
Now, as for work itself – it’s not that bad! At least, Walter doesn’t think so, but I have known many who do not share my convictions! The Bible talks a lot about the sluggard and I don’t know if the two words go together, but I have seen how fast a slug moves… and what they are good for!
I have known men who can spend heaps of energy figuring out how not to work that, had they just put the same into a shovel for an hour, could have dug 4 miles of ditch. Some men move so slow you’d think their wife fed them led pancakes for breakfast and poured concrete in their shoes! The sluggard gets himself to the table, but never gets his hand from the bowl to his mouth – that’s too much work! (Pr 19:24; 26:15). He squeaks like a rusty hinge, but for all his noise he only goes back and forth, never forward (Pr 26:14).
Solomon said, the “idle suffer hunger” (Pr 19:15) and “hunger drives a man to work” (Pr 16:26), but the sluggard would rather sleep with a growling stomach than work for a full one. If Saul had ten excuses for not destroying the Amalekites, the sluggard has 100 for not going to work. The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” (Pr 26:13). And I know that lion’s Latin classification: labour avoidest
O, he is always full of grand ideas and elaborate schemes of how he is going to pay the bills and feed the family, but in the end he will be shown for what he is. The man committed to sleep over work will wake up poor and lonely one day. That’s what wise Solomon said:
Proverbs 24:30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32 Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
What I’ve never been able to figure though, is how they can stand looking at themselves when they shave in the morning? Always craving more and in love with pleasure, they get neither (Pr 21:25-26)! These men are the most foolish of all, I think, for they try to live contrary to nature – to the way God made them. The ant must have a small brain seeing how small in stature he is, but at least he does what he was made to do – “Go to the ant, O sluggard!” (Pr 6:6-11)! A man who does not work is worth nothing and should be avoided like an angry skunk.
The Overworker Will Have No Life
On the other hand, there are some men who just work too much! Even the ant stops and rests once in a while from his steady trek back and forth. I am sure that some men overwork partly because of nature – rabbits like to hop, cheetahs like to sprint and some men aren’t happy unless they are busy at something! But my guess is that the brunt of over-workers are merely coveters-in-disguise. Once a dog tastes blood, there’s no way to keep him away from your sheep. Some men turn into pit bulls once they taste a little money. You all don’t need me to tell you what that will get you. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes did just that when he wrote:
Ecclesiastes 2:18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.
Slow and Steady, Eddie
No, I say the best way to live is to get up regular every morning and do the tasks God has given you. I liken my prayers after Agur, son of Jakeh:
Proverbs 30:7 Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
Now there was a fine bit of wisdom! Some men get rich too fast and find they spend it just as fast. Gern Housely inherited 1 million dollars once – and spent it all in two years with nothing to show for it but a nice car. Mind you, he soon had to sell the car as he had no money to pay for the insurance! I am not opposed to being taken care of and even having a few loonies in the bank, but I’d rather mine came slow and steady than fast and furious. Haste makes waste as they say, or as Solomon put it:
Proverbs 13:11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
The Curse of Riches
Now, as I said, wealth is all fine and good and makes a man’s days seem brighter, but riches bring with them their own snare. Many a rich man in hell is regretting the comfort he felt on earth!
So, money is just a thing to be used this side of glory, and it is good to work for it, but not to live for it. But what if there are always seems to be more month than salary?
It seems to me that one of the simplest lessons the simple never learn, is that you have to spend less than you earn. Cars don’t run on fumes. Cows don’t live on air. Yet, lots of folks try to live on less than either! No, a man or woman has to learn to always have a little left over at the end of the month. If I’m set to run 300 feet of fence I’ll be sure to buy 350 feet of wire – things always seem to cost more then you plan.
The leeches daughters will always be crying, “Give! Give!” (Pr 30:15) and a man has to have some defense against it. I know of a Christian lawyer (yes, both they and puffins really exist) who makes more money than could fit in my silo, but lives in a tiny house, drives an older car and wears suits off the rack. He decided early on what his standard of living would be and everything past that he gives away. Well, did you know that this man just keeps making more and more money! Now, who is in charge of that? Why, the Lord, of course! Seems to me that the Lord is just directing what belongs to Him to that man since that man is faithful to give it to those who need it!
Proverbs 13:7 One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
Proverbs 28:22 A stingy man hastens after wealth
and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
It takes a truckload of godliness and discernment for a man to live rich and stay godly. Not too many can handle lots of money. That’s why old Walter says… “Better a little!” Yep, that’s my motto and I’ll stick by it!
Proverbs 15:16 Better is a little with the fear of the LORD
than great treasure and trouble with it.
17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
Proverbs 16:8 Better is a little with righteousness
than great revenues with injustice.
Proverbs 17:1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
I say a man ought to take a step back and ask what he wants to live his life for. Sure lots of folks are living for money… but are they happy? My god isn’t my happiness, at least I pray not, but it strikes me that only the man who is not living for money is able to enjoy the money he actually gets – whether it be lots or little.
Sins and Debts
Now, one other thing. Mr. Spurgeon said, “Sins and debts are always worse than we think.” And I agree with him 100%.
Nothing builds a fence between friends like a debt not paid. I was anxious to get Mrs. Walter out for a date once and had nothing in my wallet. I knew my pay was coming, but not for another week so I borrowed $20 from Steuben McGillicut. But did you know I forgot all about that loan – and after several months asked Stubby why he seemed so cool and distant. He quietly reminded me of my debt and Old Walter felt 2 feet tall and 3 feet thick. I learned then, better to go without than go in debt.
Some smart person told me if you total up what everybody in Canada owes on a credit card and average it out per person, then every one of us owes more than we make in a year. There are 74 million credit cards in Canada - three for every Canadian over the age of 18. Well, all I can tell you is that there is one credit card in Walter’s wallet that gets used very little and paid every month. Did you know nearly half of Canadians don’t even know how much interest they pay a month on their credit! The same folks gripe for an hour about HST while they are blindly paying twice that much on their credit cards!
If a man has trouble using too much plastic I hand him a pair of scissors. You don’t give free cocaine to a drug addict so why give what feels like free money to a man in debt. There’s always a way out of debt for a man or woman willing to work hard and live light. It may not be the most comfortable life, but they’ll sleep sound with a good conscience at night.
Proverbs 16:16 How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
Used furniture, old clothes, fruits and vegetables are the way to get rid of debt. You may not be as good-looking or well-fashioned as the next lady, but it would shock you to know how little she really owns anyway. There’s nothing so freeing as a debt paid. Just think of when you came to Christ and your most unpayable debt was taken away… how light and joyful you felt! Well, to some degree that’s what you’ll feel when the credit card says zero! Debt is a four-letter word and ought to be avoided like a sinkhole on the highway. Pay off that debt as fast as you can and never get in it again!
That goes for the spiritual also! If your sins still have you in debt to God, then run to Jesus Christ who can erase what you owe in less than a second. If you think an earthly debt is hard to pay off, then I have news for you about your eternal one. We used to sing by the campfire,
He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay
I needed someone to wash my sin away.
And now I sing that brand new song, Amazing grace (all day long)
My Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.
I can’t help but wonder if He has paid yours? Once He has, then this verse will make more sense than a shovel in winter:
Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
A person, who gets their money under control, might find it helps them in other areas of life too. Most of our over-spending is just giving way to our lusts and sinful pleasures… so spending less than you earn will help check those excesses. Not that a frugal man is a sinless man! A man can err just as severe on the other side by hording and lusting like Scrooge in the story. Better to be a man who chases hard after godliness in all areas.
Putting Others Into Debt
When it comes to putting others into debt, I agree with Solomon:
Proverbs 17:18 One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
Do not lend what you’re not willing to lose. I’d sooner give my neighbour a shovel than have him borrow mine. I’d rather make him a dinner than lend him the money to buy it. I’d rather have him stay under my roof than loan him my tent. Those in need are usually the worst borrowers – until a man learns to take care of himself he probably won’t take care of your stuff. I once leant a great deal of money to a friend that I totally trusted. He was going to pay it off in a month! Well, over a year later I had most of it back again. He and I both would have been better off had I given him what I could’ve spared.
And I suppose having a little to spare is a good plan.
Proverbs 13:22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children,
but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.
If I can die with a little for my kids and grandkids, I will be a happy man. I once saw a flyer for a company that would help you to die poor – spending all your money in a content retirement so that your bank account and heart would expire at the same moment. Well, I never did figure how they could time those things so right without a needle or a hammer, but never mind, because the goal was all wrong. Money is just a tool to live by, and if a little more might help my kids, than I am happy to leave it for them.
I say, learn to spend less than you earn and most of these things will take care of themselves. Then, once you have a little in the bank, be willing to give it away to whomever needs it if the Lord should lay that on your heart.
To Whom Shall I Give?
But even that can be a tricky thing.
Having money in the bank brings with it its own set of troubles. I’m too old to have taken French in school, but I am guessing “entourage” must be the French word for “blood-suckers.” I see these rich athletes and rock stars on the news never going anywhere without their little group fawning and following after and fleecing them. Well, these poor fellows ought to mind the words of the King:
Proverbs 19:6 Many seek the favor of a generous man,
and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.
Money will always buy companions, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Pr 18:24) and He won’t be bought. When money leaves, so do the bloodsuckers! So Solomon warns the rich who might be tempted to think that their money has nothing to do with their popularity:
Proverbs 19:4 Wealth brings many new friends,
but a poor man is deserted by his friend.
Proverbs 19:7 All a poor man's brothers hate him;
how much more do his friends go far from him!
Proverbs 14:20 The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
but the rich has many friends.
What’s more, some of my wealthier friends have the regular trial of deciding who to help. Everybody figures some of that wealth ought to come to them – and that they would be quick to do likewise had they the same. A rich man has to say, “No” sometimes, and that may be harder than pulling stumps in a muddy field for some people. I say, leave the rich alone and let them trust the Lord for where their money ought to go. If a wealthy Christian hears by providence of some particular need, he’ll be more than happy to help.
Not that a man ought to hate money. “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich” (Pr 10:22). The church can use some money to do the will of God and so the Lord often blesses some folks with more than they need. The trick is what you do with it!
Jesus told the story of a man who looked at all his great wealth as his own – for himself (Luke 16). He built bigger barns instead of a bigger treasure and died without hope of heaven. If the Lord prospers a man, it is more than likely so the man can take care of some of the Lord’s needy ones.
Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will repay him for his deed.
Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will not want,
but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
Proverbs 21:13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered.
Remember Paul’s warnings to Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
Well, there was more than you bargained for – kind of like trying to run into one store at the mall with your wife. Have fun talking about all this together… I wish I could be with you!
P.S. Please tell Pastor Muller I got his letter and we will mail down the rest of his cow come September.