"A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions." Proverbs 18:2.
Haha. What a perfect scripture to start the first entry in a new blog! I hope I will not be too foolish in what I post here!
What I have been praying for lately is WISDOM. Hey, it worked for Solomon, right? But seriously, I am seeking wisdom simply because I feel as though I have been so foolish in these past years. This is not going to be a diatribe on current economic conditions, but just on a personal level, this economic crisis really caught me by surprise. I know I'm not alone in this, but just because many were foolish doesn't mean I was any more wise.
So I just finished the book of Proverbs, an outline for wisdom if ever there was one. What does it tell us? First of all, we should work hard. Laziness is soundly condemned here, over and over. "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest -- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man." Proverbs 24:33-34. I have to confess, I have a sense of paralysis that descends on me from time to time. It all just seems so overwhelming. The hardest part of any journey is the first step? I feel as though I have a huge mountain in front of me, and I am reluctant to put foot on it. I am working only three days a week at my paying job these days, due to economy-related cutbacks. That leaves four days a week. I am supposed to be using this time to write -- first of all, because I have Something to Say -- but also because I really need to make some money outside my Paid Employment. A couple of days a week I have other activities, and then there is house cleaning, which can be a Never-Ending Task. I have come to feel that if I don't have an entire peaceful day ahead of me to write, I can't do it at all. That's a stupid idea. If I had written two pages a day all this time I've been waiting for Time to Write, I'd be done by now.
The next thing Proverbs emphasizes is saving. "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has." Proverbs 21:20. The interesting thing is that I didn't think I had any extra money to set aside before. Only when my income was severely cut did I realize that I could get by on less! It's not the big things that count, it's the little ones. Before, I'd say, "Oh, that's just a ten cents," or even, "That's just ten dollars, what difference does it make?" Now I am recognizing the truth of what my mother always used to say: "Mind the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves." My mother was English, so of course you might want to translate that "pounds" into "dollars." I kind of like it as it is because I can see and hear my mother saying it.
The third thing is giving. This is mentioned dozens of times in Proverbs. "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered." Proverbs 21:15. "He who gives to the poor wil lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses." Proverbs 28:27. Now I have to tell you, I love giving. I have been on the edge financially for a lot of my life, and I know what it feels like when suddenly a gift comes to you, money or car repairs or whatever it may be. It is such a feeling of joy and lightness when that burden is lifted. I love to bless people in this way. And the need out there is such a gaping hole, it can never be filled, with so many people out of work, or salaries severely cut back. My own children have suffered some of these burdens, and there are so many things I wish I could bless them with.
I know there is a lot of prosperity teaching out there, and if you spend a lot of time in the Old Testament you do get the idea that prosperity is the sign that you are okay with God. I was really caught up in that for awhile. Then I almost reluctantly crawled back to the New Testament, because I knew exactly what I'd find there. It's not that God has anything against blessing his people with money. He loves for us to be happy, and he loves for us to be able to be a blessing. But it's not what we are called to. In the New Testament we are called to sacrifice more than we are to abundance. And it is true that there are tons of spirital benefits to not being rich. You know that road less traveled that I love so much? Well, we are just more likely to seek that road in need than in abundance. When we experience abundance, we might give God the glory for it, but when we are in need (or on the edge of it), we seek God's specific provision for our needs, and we recognize that provision when it is given us.
And too, the soul that is hungry is more likely to be a seeker than the soul that is full.
God does promise to meet our needs. Matthew 6 tells us not to worry about our physical needs, for food, clothing, etc. He says God already knows that we need all these things. And it says he will provide them, but there is a caveat! Matthew 6:33 says, "BUT SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, and all these things will be given to you as well." So I guess what we need to do is figure out how we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
1 Timothy 6 kind of sums up the New Testament teaching on prosperity: "But godliness with contentment is great gain. for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.... Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides for us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."