What? Yes…the Bible teaches that some are wise and some are foolish. We find the Old Testament full of all the economic principles important to the Jewish culture. But the book of Proverbs is especially clear on the fundamentals of Jewish thought. Wisdom is valued and makes a difference.
The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame. Proverbs 3:35
The Bible puts a high value on wisdom calling it more valuable than gold. Let me explain…so if my neighbor and I have each been farming for 5 years and at the end of that time I have 5 cows and my neighbor has 10 cows perhaps I should take a look at what my neighbor is doing differently from me and learn from him. Maybe they have more wisdom in the area of farming than I do? So instead of being filled with envy that my neighbor has more cows and plotting to get them I should be sitting at their feet to learn from them.
Misguided governments with socialist tendencies feed in to this envy. Such shortsighted governments take cows from the one who has 10 and give them to the one who has 5 in the name of “fairness” or “justice”. Not only does this feed the temptation to envy, but it short circuits God’s plan for the foolish to learn from the wise and sadly locks them in to a lifetime of foolishness and dependency. Of course we respect all humanity as created in the image of God, but the reality is some people are wise, some people are foolish and a lot are in between the two. God has a plan to make us wise. It is called learning and we find it in Proverbs.
Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance. Proverbs 1:5
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. Proverbs 9:9
When foolish people will not learn it is unjust to expect the wise to carry all the responsibility. This is why socialism does not work and bring people into prosperity. It is unjust in that it rewards the foolish man and punishes the wise man. Socialism does not recognize human nature. God’s plan for the Hebrews and for the Christian today is built on the truth of human nature. It recognizes people’s individuality and justly rewards those who have gained and learn to use wisdom.
God taught his children to work hard and expect the benefit of the work. So when the 10th commandment tells us not to covet what our neighbor has (including his wife) it is encouraging us to enjoy the fruit of our labor. Coveting can lead to theft but more often it leads to a dissatisfied life. Sometimes people become obsessed with what they don’t posses and what others do. Coveting. Then they tend to conclude their life is unfair and they got a raw deal. This turns them in to victims (or slaves…remember Egypt?) rather than free individuals taking life by the reigns and improving their own life.
Whenever people waste their energy desiring other people’s possessions (or spouse) they have less energy left to take advantage of what is presently available to them. They miss the work, opportunities and blessings right in front of them. We find this Biblical perspective in Ecclesiastes:
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God. Ecclesiastes 2:24
The Bible teaches us to enjoy the fruit of our labor and its related prosperity. Don’t covet our neighbor’s stuff. If our neighbor has more possessions than we do perhaps we should go learn from them how they do things. Perhaps they have a wisdom or work ethic we do not. It might help our finances. You will have the greatest blessings when you enjoy what you have worked for with your family and friends.
Be the best person on your job…even if it is minimum wage. Be early and stay late. Talking excitedly about work creates passion for work. This is something practical you can do. Embarrassment about work causes shame and decreased passion and success. Be proud of and let people know what you do. Be proud of how you earn you living. Say how it helps other people in life. The early Hebrews proudly declared what they did. Many times their names reflected it. Wasserman brought water. People want to know how you help other people.
Another early lesson God taught the Hebrews was to make and keep relational covenants. Relational integrity was a core cause of their prosperity. God expected the Hebrews to make and honor covenants with one another above their own prosperity. The Ten Commandments are about relationships. The first five pertained to the relationship between God and man and second five pertained to the relationship between man and man.
It was because of utter trustworthiness that Jews first became successful bankers. Jews became bankers to help others. Helping others succeed enhances the dignity of individuals. Trust makes commerce possible.
Relationships can lead to transactions and transactions can lead to wealth, but the relationship needs to be formed first. Dale Carnegie wrote about how to win friends and influence people. His advise? Take a genuine interest in them. People know when you interest in them is insincere. To get the things you want, provide what other people want. Build relationships with no thought of personal gain. One approach? Play golf….it allows people to have long conversations with people while self-interest is disguised. I’m just sayin…
Mary K. Ash was a saleswoman and encourager who helped others to succeed. According to Lifetime Television, Mary K. Ash (1918-2001), founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, was the “Most Outstanding Woman in Business in the 20th Century.” As of 2014, her company had approximately three million sales consultants and wholesale volume in excess of $3 billion.
Mary worked for years in sales before she started her own company. In response to the unjust way in which she and other women were being treated in the marketplace, she decided to start a company that would encourage women to achieve their fullest potential. She said, “If you ask me, ‘What is the common denominator among women?’… it is the fact that most of us, most women, don’t believe in their own God-given ability. So what we do is try to show them how great they really are.”
She credited the success of her company to its decision to “take God as our partner.” She based her founding principle on the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). She redefined business terms like “P&L” to mean “people and love.” She taught her sales consultants to keep “God first, family second, career third.” She benefited from helping others become successful.
So for the Christian today…part of the path to prosperity is as follows:
- Work to extend the network of you connectedness to many people.
- Your path forward is to learn to develop relationships.
- Meet people outside of a business context.
- Force yourself to learn how to meet strangers and sincerely get to know them.
- Help others to succeed.
- Find joy in serving others.
- Exhibit the character traits of honesty and humility.
- Keep your word…even if it costs you.
- Play golf🙂
We understand God was systematically teaching the Hebrews how to live and prosper. There is compelling evidence that what God taught the Children of Israel in these early days still works today.
In Rabbi Daniel Lepin’s book Thou Shalt Prosper…The Ten Commandments of Making Money, he identifies the core principles that were ingrained in the Jewish culture during this formational time of their history. He states that Jews are disproportionately successful today and good at business because of what God planted in the Hebrew culture in those early days. As evidence he states that of the Forbes top 100 wealthy people in the world, 60% are Jewish. Additionally though Jews are only .01 % of the world population, in Germany today 85% of the businesses are in Jewish hands. We cannot ignore this.
Rabbi Lepin goes on to state it is a myth that Jews are more wealthy because they are generally smarter than the rest of the population. Though they have a high value for learning and education, for the most part they are successful today because of principles in their culture and not because of super intelligence.
God taught the Hebrews early on that work and money are good and godly things, and in fact holy. He taught them an intrinsic value for work and the reward for work. It was considered virtuous and holy. The occupation of business was considered both noble and worthy. It was noble for a person to provide something for others and appropriate that they would be compensated for it. It means you are attending to the needs of others. When you receive money…it is testament of having pleased another human being.
In the Biblical worldview, the quest for profit and wealth is positively moral. The Torah describes gold as good. It is kosher to ask God for money. It is an opportunity to bless others. According to Genesis 12:2-3, Abram was blessed to be a blessing.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
God continued to train the Hebrews to think as free people. People who are free work for themselves and their loved ones. They benefit from their own labors. Only when people are free will they be motivated to be creative, work longer and produce more. They take responsibility. Wealth created in a free society does not stay with a few powerful kings, nobles and lords or dukes. Instead it expands to touch all mankind and all are lifted.
After coming out of Egypt, God taught the Children of Israel to self govern themselves. As slaves they did not have to hold each other accountable to act in civilized ways. However before they could successfully occupy the Promised Land they had to learn to take responsibility for themselves and others. God met with Moses and gave him the laws that they would need to govern themselves. He was fashioning them in to the people that would one day be a blessing to every family on earth. Free people need to self govern.
The first of the Ten Commandments was to worship the one true God and have no other gods. The concept of one God was essential for people to understand and mange the world. It was also important for an effective government and a successful economic system. Only people who fear God will govern themselves. No amount of government control will restrict sin, selfish ambition and greed. The economic system God built for the Hebrew people could be used for evil ends if submission to God was not the first commandment. Moses cautioned the people to always remember that it was God who blessed and prospered them:
But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. Det. 8:18
Herein is the starting point for your Biblical and practical financial prosperity. He gives you the ability to produce wealth. Thank Him. Don’t apologize for it. Ask Him for insight into the ability he has given to you personally. Always remember it comes from him.
It is not easy to lean how to live as free people. It was a long, hard road for the children of Abraham to learn how to live as free individuals. After a desperate famine they found themselves enslaved to Egyptian masters. They were resigned to live as slaves in Egypt and did for 400 years until God raised up Moses to deliver them from slavery.
Although once out of physical slavery in Egypt, they still had to break out of the slavery mindset that had been engrained into their thinking. Oddly enough they repeatedly thought about Egypt and stated they wanted to go back.They were so entrenched in the mindset of slavery they constantly grumbled against Moses and God instead of advancing with God. Because of their stubbornness to change, God let a whole generation die in the wilderness.
You see…it was easier to be slaves. No decisions to make. No need to push ahead and do anything other than what they were told. For the children of Israel (and us today) it was easier to be full of fear than full of faith. Wow! Slaves can passively submit to their masters and as long as they obey them they will be fed.
God had to pull them out of this kind of thinking and teach them to govern their lives and steward the earth. He confronted this slavery mindset with his plan for them. During the 40 years in the desert they had to look to God rather than human masters. After that first generation died off, the next generation represented a group that had never lived as slaves. They had no memory of anything to go back to so they had to advance with God and experience his prosperity. He molded a people that would not long for the past.
Harold Eberle likens it to the Spanish expedition to conquer the Aztec empire in the 1520s. After landing in Mexico their general, Hernando Cortes, had all the ships burned so his men had only one option: move ahead and fight. This is what God is saying to the Christian today. Move ahead and fight…in your finances and every area of your life. Time to burn some bridges with your past and move ahead to create some new things that will be a blessing to you and others.
Though the United States has many challenges today, it was started on the foundation of honoring God the Creator. It was sown into the government and culture. The basic image of God in which man was created was the expression of God’s creativity. The closer man gets to God the more creative he will be. Regardless of how revisionist historians have attempted to change history, this was a basic foundation in America. True creativity requires liberty.
The American form of government released initiative by protecting it and its rewards. American innovation is not the result of Americans being smarter. It has been simply the result of human initiative being promoted, honored, and protected. Now consider this: Chinese Americans are as innovative as any other Americans, but Chinese in China are not. China is prospering and growing economically, but virtually all of this growth is the result of copying what others are doing, not by innovation.
As America grew, immigrants from all over the world flocked there. Why?…so someone could redistribute wealth to them? No. They came for the opportunity to work and be rewarded by it. Socialist redistribution of a forced nature is theft. People can give willingly and freely to whatever cause they choose, but the moment it is forced freedom is lost. Your income is yours . It is your property, given to you by God.
Next we will take a closer look at how God got the slavery out of the minds of the Children of Israel after he got them out of slavery in Egypt.