This profound truth from has changed my life. Proverbs states that it is both the fruit of our lips (our prayers and declarations) and the work of our hands that reward us.
From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him (Proverbs 12:14).
Amazing. This scripture alone could revolutionize your life. Pray and do. We will look at this again from another angle in a later blog when we discuss the importance of our words.
In 2 Kings 3, we have the historical account of the kings of Israel and Judah marching out into the desert on the way to fight the King of Moab. They ran out of water and inquired of Elisha the prophet about what they should do. He told them they should dig ditches and God would fill them with water. Let’s look at the story.
While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha and he said, “This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches. For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; he will also hand Moab over to you…” The next morning, about the time for offering the sacrifice, there it was—water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water (2 Kings 3:15-19, 20).
We see again that the Lord expected some action from the Kings of Israel and Judah to match his efforts. We should do things to put ourselves in a place for God to prosper us.As we have previously examined the children of Israel had manna come from heaven while they were wondering in the wilderness, but later they were expected to work, sow and reap in the Promised Land. Is God going to drop money out of heaven like he did manna in the wilderness? Not usually, this would only cultivate a lazy spirit. God helps and rewards those who take initiative.
There are times God tells us to wait, but most of the time he expects us to act.
Let me ask a question…Would you allow someone to manage your financial accounts and personal savings that is personally in debt, has never themselves saved money, accumulated wealth or managed property? I’m guessing you would not. Why then do we expect the Lord to just dump money in our laps without us ever learning the principles of finance and money management? He expects us to prepare and take action.
When Elisha encountered the widow woman who was in serious financial need he did not just write her a check…to use today’s terminology. She was a godly woman who was in desperate need, but he still asked her to participate with him in the financial blessings he was about to release. This is a picture of how God the Father asks us to participate in receiving from him today. It is interesting to note that Elisha required the widow woman to collect vessels to contain the oil that was to be poured out, and she was rewarded according to her level of participation. If she had gathered more containers she would have gotten more financial reward. Interesting. Can we be motivated to work and prepare for God’s blessing?
The Bible states the most amazing thing about Hezekiah. The simple truth of this Bible passage has revolutionized my life especially in the area of finances.
This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20-21).
Hezekiah sought his God. He worked wholeheartedly and so he prospered. After stating what Hezekiah did was good and right and faithful, we are given his methodology that was so pleasing to God. Can we do the same? First seek the Lord earnestly in prayer, then apply all of our spirit, soul and body to the task at hand…be it financial or otherwise… and then expect God’s prosperity will follow. It is a simple, practical three-step process, and I have found that it works.
In the movie “Facing the Giants” there is a conversation about two farmers who were praying for rain for their crops. Both farmers were asking God for rain but one farmer was out digging irrigation ditches while the other was sitting in his house waiting for the rain to come. The question was asked, “Which farmer has more faith?” Without getting into a huge theological discussion here, I have come to realize that God does expect us to put some action to our faith. This is a change from the way I once thought, and I would now say it is a more prosperous way of thinking.
Many years ago when I first heard the statement, “God helps those who help themselves,” I reacted to it negatively. In my passionate spirituality I said categorically that this was just an excuse to rely on human effort instead of God. I told the individual that nowhere in the Bible does it say that God helps those that help themselves. I have changed my mind and had to eat these words that I thought were so spiritual. I humbly intend to show you in these next few blogs how God does help those who help themselves.
Christians are fond of quoting and praying the scriptures about the wealth of the wicked being stored up for the righteous as stated in Proverbs 13:22. I believe these scriptures are absolutely true; however, I am not sure that God will automatically transfer wealth to his children in the last days. This expectation appears to be based on faith, but it sounds a lot like lottery thinking. As we will see when we look at Elisha’s interaction with a widow, faith without works is dead. The Lord expects us to be active participants in receiving the wealth of the wicked. It is a joint venture.
Let me encourage you to try an experiment. At your next extended family dinner ask a relative who is prosperous what was the best financial decision they have ever made. This will do two things. It will help you break out of the fear of talking about money and likely you will find out some financial information that will help you. If we ask and observe who is around us, it is likely that the Lord will provide some financial mentors for us. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but you will develop confidence and find who is willing to help you. Most financially prosperous people will take it as a compliment that you want to learn from the wisdom they have. Proverbs connects “not learning” with poverty. We must be willing to learn:
He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance (Proverbs 13:18, 1:5).
Wealth is not evil, so lose your attitude toward wealthy people! This attitude is rooted in envy and jealousy. Envy and jealousy are sin. In his book Breaking the Power of Evil, Rick Joyner says,
One of the biggest open doors that the spirit of poverty has into our lives is through our own unrighteous judgments…I once visited a state that was under one of the most powerful spirits of poverty that I have witnessed in this country. It was remarkable because it is a state of great beauty and natural resources. It had talented and resourceful people, but a spirit of poverty was on almost everyone. Another characteristic that stood out was that almost everyone I met there seemed to uncontrollably scorn and criticize anyone who was prosperous or powerful.
With every pastor of a small church whom I met (and almost all of the churches in this state were very small), the conversation would inevitable turn to criticizing “mega-churches” and “mega-ministries,” which these people obviously thought were the reason for many of their own problems…Many pastors yoke themselves and their congregations to financial poverty by criticizing how other churches or ministries take up offerings or solicit donations. Because of their judgment of others, they then cannot even take up a biblical offering without feeling guilty. They have yoked themselves by their unrighteous judgment.3
Most wealthy people have some financial wisdom we could use. Our judgments against them erect a wall that will keep us from becoming like them. Remember in the U.S., most millionaires still work 50 hours a week and did not inherit their money. They have financial wisdom. Ask prosperous people for advice. Find someone who has victory in a financial area that you are lacking and humbly ask them for help. Jesus said you would be like your teachers, so ask someone to help you with a budget or to go to see the bank manager. It is wise to ask for help.
I want to tell you about a book I believe God directed me to read a few years ago. It really helped me develop a more healthy attitude about money.The title of the book is The Millionaire Next Door. This book basically studied the wealthy in America and examined their life-styles. The main point of the book is that most wealthy people look like (and probably are) the people who are your neighbors. Its research showed that most of the wealthy were married with kids and did not inherit vast sums of money. They still work 50 hours per week, live below their means and wear inexpensive suits.
Their wealth came by working and saving and investing 20% of their income. In most cases they worked most of their lives to become wealthy and do not drive exotic foreign cars. In fact, the book revealed that most of the people who drive exotic foreign cars are not wealthy at all. In essence, as described by the title of the book, most of the wealthy look and act like our neighbor next door. 1
The statistics from the book helped me because in my mind I had this fixation that to be wealthy meant you had to be showy and vain like many movie stars and professional athletes. I changed my wrong perception of what it “looked like” to be wealthy. This truth helps us know how to have a healthy attitude toward money. Let’s be free to talk openly and honestly about money.
On the other hand some Christians have accumulated wealth and yet act as if they have nothing. I don’t believe this is a biblical and healthy approach to money either. Proverbs 13:7 says: One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. God has a better way. The Bible teaches something different about God’s blessing. We should be neither boastful nor ashamed of the financial blessings from Him.
Let’s just be honest. Money helps us do what we are called to do to expand the kingdom of God. Money is not evil unless we fall in love with it. It is a tool. We can and should learn from others who have financial courage so we can develop it in our lives.
1 Stanley, Thomas J. The Millionaire Next Door. New York: Pocket, 1996.
In order for us to develop some financial courage we will have to get over the idea that it is not spiritual to talk about money. People afflicted by the spirit of poverty find it difficult to talk about money. A lot of churches struggle to communicate financial needs or even take a biblical offering for a need or vision the church is undertaking. Jesus spoke about money a lot. There are over 3,000 references to money in the Bible. People with a poverty spirit don’t like to talk about money. On the other hand, prosperous people enjoy talking about money.
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 forefathers, as it is today (Deuteronomy 8:18).
So let’s take a closer look at this. You mean God gives us the power and creativity to get wealth, but we are not supposed to talk about it? No…it is OK to talk about money. Certainly we need to keep money in its proper perspective. To prosperous people money is important and interesting. They enjoy talking about and learning about money. They are unashamed to have a good conversation with their children and friends about the ins and outs of money. How are we going to learn about managing money without talking about it?
Don’t shrink back from talking to your children about money. Teach them to earn, tithe, give and save. As insecure parents we mistakenly tell our children we can’t afford something instead of having the courage to say “no” to things they are requesting. The truth is we could afford what they are asking for, but we have decided to spend that money on something else…maybe missions. Just tell them no, they can’t have the item instead of telling them you can’t afford it. This makes it seem like God is a cheapskate. It will be a good life lesson for them.
What if you win the lottery, so what…you still will have no wisdom to manage money. If you gain something without growing into it, you will find it slipping through your fingers.
Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom? (Proverbs 17:16).
To see this, consider what happens to people who actually have won a lottery and received the amount in one large lump sum. Studies which follow their lives reveal that within ten years they typically are financially broke, have had extramarital affairs, gotten divorced; many have become addicted to drugs and have destroyed most of their relationships with family and friends. Sadly a significant number of them will commit suicide.
I know a businessman who once said, “We will not win the lottery. If you see money falling out of the sky, it is counterfeit; don’t pick it up!” Pastors and church leaders can fall into lottery thinking with their churches. They will set their eye on the “big fish” to build their churches. They become event oriented; thinking that if they can just have the right speaker or music group it will cause the church to grow. Events don’t grow churches, consistent, diligent work and prayer does. An event will draw a crowd for a week-end but without day-to-day nurture and outreach the crowds will quickly disappear. If you build systematically, God will bring the growth. The answer is not out there somewhere; it is right in front of you with the step forward God wants you to take today.
Other pastors may think if someone in a wheelchair is healed, it will cause their church to grow. This fixation on a spectacular event can immobilize them from doing the things that will make the church grow and maybe eventually see a person in the wheelchair healed. God’s normal way is the way of gradual, sure, systematic growth and maturity.
God’s normal way of growth is the way of gradual, sure, systematic growth and maturity. God’s nature is seed time and harvest. According to Hebrews 6, it is through faith and patience that we receive from God.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (Hebrews 6:12).
Job’s patience was what helped him overcome the hardships he faced when he was attacked by the enemy. Patience is way more than just the ability to not become angry in a difficult situation. Patience is the power that will carry you through the obstacles of life into the seasons of blessing. It is notable that sometimes a wealthy person will lose all of their money, but somehow they seem to earn it all back and more. Amazingly enough this was actually Job’s experience. Let’s examine some more scriptures:
Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow…All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty…The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day…An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end (Proverbs 13:11; 14:23, 4:18, 20:21).
Can you pick up the pattern here? Gather money little by little…hard work brings profit…shining ever brighter until the full light of day…inheritance gained quickly will not be blessed. Advancement comes to those who diligently apply God’s principles on a consistent, long-term basis. Look for steady progress through diligent, consistent work. God generally advances us gradually so we can concurrently grow the maturity to hold on to what he gives us.
Listen to Russell Conwell’s analysis of getting a large inheritance written many years ago. He considered it to be a curse.
The moment a young man or woman gets more money than he or she has grown to by practical experience, that moment he has gotten a curse. It is no help to a young man or woman to inherit money. Oh, young man, if you have inherited money, don’t regard it as a help. There is no class of people to be pitied so much as the inexperienced sons and daughters of the rich. I pity the rich man’s son.
One of the best things in our life is when a young man has earned his own living, and when he becomes engaged to some lovely young woman, and makes up his mind to have a home of his own. Then with that same love comes also that divine inspiration toward better things, and he begins to save his money. He begins to leave off his bad habits and put money in the bank1.
If we are sitting around waiting for an inheritance or hoping for an insurance settlement we will not prosper. If our eyes are set on the chance that may come it will keep us from taking today’s step forward. Listen to how the Living Bible translates Habakkuk 2:3:
Slowly, steadily surely the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled, do not despair for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient, they will not be overdue a single day.
A prosperous soul will begin wherever it is and work toward advancement. Progress, God’s blessing, raises, promotions and favor are expected, but faithfulness and steady progress are the path to get there.
Do not look for the big break, the miraculous provision, the chance deal, an inheritance or the lottery to get rich quick. In a few words…the desire to get rich quick is really an ungodly lust for financial success without learning how to manage money. If we can get this concept into our minds, we will be far closer actually to learning how God wants to advance us.
Advancement comes to those who diligently apply God’s principles on a consistent, long-term basis. Look for steady progress through diligent, consistent work. God generally advances us gradually so we can concurrently grow the maturity to hold on to what he gives us. It is like a plane taking off—there is a correct trajectory of climbing that won’t stall the plane’s motor and yet gets you in the air before the end of the runway. Eyes set on the “chance that may come” will keep you from taking today’s step forward. Proverbs speaks to the trap of sitting around and waiting for your ship to come in.
He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty. A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished (Proverbs 28:19-20).
A minister friend of mine calls this get rich quick mentality “lottery thinking.” I have to agree with him, lottery thinking is poverty thinking. The people who spend the most money on lottery tickets are at the bottom of the income scale. When politicians start a lottery to fund a government project, they generally consider it a tax on the poor. The help you need is not a big sum of money dumped in your lap, but rather a kick in the pants to start moving so God can bless your steps of faith.