23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24, NKJV)
This stern warning against pride in personal wisdom, power, and wealth is set against the backdrop of God’s wisdom, power, and richness. Paul wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Human insight is nothing before the Almighty’s wisdom. Only the boastful would make such a foolish claim. Concerning human power, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). Pride moves people to think they are stronger than God. Riches are temporary, and “perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14). Pride in material abundance can lead to neglecting eternal riches (Lk. 12:15-21). By contrast, we can “understand and know” the Lord (Jer. 9:24). We understand He is sovereign (Lord), and accomplishes what is gracious, just, and righteous in the earth. Humility glories in God’s accomplishments, not ours. By doing so, God assures us of His favor (delight).
18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18–20, NKJV)
The human lot in life is labor. Solomon sees work as a blessing from God, not a burdensome punishment. “It is good and fitting” to work and to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor (v. 18). Solomon sees the increased fruit of labor (“riches and wealth”) as a heritage in which a person can rejoice (v. 19). God designed work to keep us busy as we produce the wherewithal to provide for ourselves and others (v. 20; Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:8). But beware. The temptation to love money is strong – Loving money leads to ruin (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Do not turn labor’s increase into the covetous endeavor and purpose of your life. Wealth does not define your life’s value and purpose (Lk. 12:15). To make that mistake (and to leave God’s will out of your life) is tragically foolish (Lk. 12:16-21). Keep a contented outlook on labor and its reward. Work diligently. Trust God (not riches), be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:6-8, 17-19).
16 A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. (Psalm 37:16–17, NKJV)
We use the wrong measuring stick when we measure success by material prosperity. The “prosperity gospel” promotes riches as if they measure God’s presence and approval. More than one religious movement tells us the strength of their bottom line shows God’s approval of their teachings and practices. This is a purely material assessment of spiritual things – a completely futile and false standard of what God accepts (1 Cor. 1:26-31). The poverty and itinerant life of God’s Son, Jesus, disproves such human wisdom (Lk. 9:57-58; 8:3). True, righteous men and women can be wealthy. With God, Jesus said, it is possible for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom (Matt. 19:23-26). The trouble is, riches become a great temptation to leave God out of the picture, and not to become “poor” for the sake of the kingdom (Matt. 19:20-22, 27-30). The riches of the wicked will not save them. God has not promised to make you wealthy. His word says to measure success according to righteousness. May we learn to be content with “a little” from a glad and grateful heart, instead of running after prosperity at the expense of righteousness. Godliness with contentment is great gain, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. 11 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem. (Proverbs 18:10–11, NKJV)
Where do you run where there is danger? What protection do you seek in the hour of uncertainty, doubt, confusion, and loss? The righteous run to the power and integrity of the Lord. Like a strong tower, He will not leave or forsake those who put their trust in Him (Hebrews 13:5-6; Psalm 27:1; 118:5-9). Yet, the one who trusts in riches runs to his wealth in time of trouble. Here, the rich man is set in contrast to the righteous, and since it is the love of money and not money itself, that is the root of all kinds of evil, we conclude this describes the covetous man who puts his trust and hope in his wealth (Luke 12:15-21; 1 Timothy 6:9-10). The “strong city” and “high wall” of the one who holds money in high regard (“in his own esteem”) will eventually fail (Matthew 6:19). Choose wisely and lay up treasures in heaven by trusting and obeying the Lord Almighty (Matthew 6:20). When trials and dangers come to your life, you will run for safety to where your heart has put your treasure (Matthew 6:21). What will you find there, eternal salvation or eternal sorrow? Put your trust in the Lord and not in uncertain riches (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23–26)
The kingdom of Christ is a spiritual realm (John 18:36). It is not defined and evaluated by worldly metrics. The kingdom (the church, Matthew 16:18-19) is not entered based on one’s wealth (verses 23-24). Gold and silver do not give a person ready access through Zion’s gates. Nor is God’s approval manifested by the wealth of a church, although that is the conclusion many draw. This is what men expect, but the kingdom of God is not defined by human expectations (verse 25). Rich people often expect to be given places of honor due to their wealth. That’s how it is in the kingdoms of men. But, only when the rich person humbles himself is he fit for the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:20-22).
16 And this also is a severe evil— Just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored for the wind? 17 All his days he also eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and sickness and anger. (Ecclesiastes 5:16–17, NKJV)
Laboring for the wind. That is what Solomon said a person does who hoards wealth. He should know; he was extremely wealthy (Ecclesiastes 2:8). He observed that riches never satisfy the soul, yet they certainly increase problems (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12). Solomon observed how misfortune takes away the miser’s storehouse (5:13-14). Like Solomon, you will not take one bit of your earthly wealth with you when you die (5:15). Why then should you make the abundance of earthly riches your motive and aim in life? It is truly tragic to watch the money-driven person trying to catch the wind, deceived in the hope that by tearing down his barns and building bigger ones, his soul’s longing for contentment will be satisfied (Lk. 12:18-21). Genuine contentment comes from being “rich toward God,” regardless of the amount of money and things one possesses (Luke 12:21-23, 31; Hebrews 13:5). Be rich toward God. That perspective enables you to lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew. 6:19-21). “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage” (Proverbs 11:28).
18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:18–20, NKJV)
Jesus was a poor man. He was often sustained by the goodwill sharing of others as He preached the gospel of the kingdom throughout the regions of Judea, Galilee, and beyond (Lk. 8:1-3). As Jesus was about to cross over to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, a scribe said he would follow Jesus wherever He went. Jesus challenged his willingness to sacrifice to follow Him. How very different from the Prosperity Theology preached by the positive attitude preachers of today! They preach physical health and material blessings if only you will claim it for yourself in the name of Jesus. (We wonder why Paul didn’t make such a claim when Jesus denied him healing in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10?) No, we are not entitled to health and wealth. Whatever blessings we have, let us use them to honor God and help others (1 Tim. 6:17-19). And above all, may we sacrifice everything it takes to follow Jesus where He goes (Jno. 10:27-28; 14:6).
4 Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! 5 Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4–5, NKJV)
Wealth is not the panacea many believe it to be. Riches are perishable; they come and go. For example, billionaire Donald Trump has filed for corporate bankruptcy four times since 1991. Solomon (himself vastly wealthy) advises not to work yourself to death trying to be rich because earthly wealth is temporary. The wise person understands money can be used for good or evil, just as one’s attitude toward it can either be thankful and generous, or covetous and miserly. Content with food and clothing, and thankful for much more than that, lay up treasures in heaven. The imperishable riches of eternal life are laid up there for the faithful (1 Pet. 1:4-5).