Getting Rich . . . Redefined

November 25th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 4-5 (NLT)

4 Lazy people are soon poor;
      hard workers get rich.

5 A wise youth harvests in the summer,
      but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Getting rich is the obsession of our nation.  Getting rich quick is even better.  The television tells us all the time to call this number or visit that website to learn how to make millions of dollars from the comfort of our own homes with no education or skill required . . . no real work required either, for that matter.  What the people who spend their money on those programs don’t realize is that they are definitely participating in a “get-rich quick” scheme, they’re just not the ones getting rich from it.

To us, the life of a filthy rich person would look something like this.  Four or five European sports cars in a garage attached to a ten-thousand square foot mansion overlooking the marina where the yacht is anchored.  Daily visits to the spa.  Weekly flights to the international city of the latest whim in the private jet.  Hundred-dollar steaks for every meal and virtually any clothing possibility imaginable right at our fingertips.  No school . . . what can knowledge bring that money hasn’t already purchased?  No work . . . something better suited for the other half.  Now that’s what I call rich!

But rich is a relative term.  When Solomon used the term “rich,” as he did in this passage, just imagine his personal schemata for defining wealth.  Take everything I described in the previous paragraph and translate it into Solomon’s ancient culture.  Insert “palace” for “mansion” and “chariots” for “sports cars”.  Consider all the bells and whistles of the modern technological era; in Solomon’s time, they had their counterparts . . . except in his case, they were actually bells and whistles (humor intended, but probably missed.)  Seriously, imagine the richest man alive today with all the comforts and extravagant luxuries imaginable.  Now, multiply all that by a hundred– that’s how stinking rich Solomon was!

In our terms, he would have owned ten private jets and a hundred high performance cars.  His house would have dwarfed any mansion we’ve ever seen.  Take all the stuff in a wealthy person’s home and plate it in pure gold.  Yeah, that was Solomon.  He had so much gold that silver became worthless in his kingdom. Yikes!  Simply put, Solomon was the richest of the rich in all of history.  He made the millionaire Donald Trump look like . . . well, me.

So when he said that “Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich,” I wonder what he meant?  Did he mean that everyone who works hard will rise to the level of wealth that he lived at?  Does a scripture such as this one promise each of us the abundance of limitless earthly riches?  Doubtful.  Why?  Because a perusal through the writings of Solomon reveals that he considered many other things to be indicators of true wealth.  Wisdom.  Enjoying the labor or one’s hands.  True love with a spouse.  Children.  And yes, the blessings of material possessions as well.

But possessions are not the only measurement of one’s wealth and hard work does not guarantee us an overflow of something that can easily derail our hearts into idolatry.  No, God is not calling us to obsess for something that will take His place in our lives.  Instead, He is calling us to reshape our personal and cultural definitions of “rich.”

As a history teacher, I have some perspective on what wealth means in our world in the present and in the past.  What we consider rich, as defined earlier in this thought, is not what most people in our world would consider rich.  We define riches by luxury and ease while most of the world defines riches by provision and necessity.  While we think of private jets, they are thinking of clean water and safe shelter.  We dream of designer clothes and expensive shoes; they dream of warm clothes and steady meals.

In short, by every historical and cultural definition there is, most of us are very rich.  Even many of those considered poor here in the United States have plenty to eat, a safe place to live, and at the least cable television.  Now certainly I’m aware that there is a lot of real poverty in our culture as well.  My purpose is to point out the disparity between what many of us consider poverty and what many in the world would consider poor.

Therefore, the promise of riches to those who work hard doesn’t guarantee us a private jet, but it does guarantee us more than we will need to survive and flourish in this life.  The only difference is our definition of “rich.”  But no matter what we consider to be wealth, the onus is upon each of us to work hard and to avoid laziness.  As this passage states, “Lazy people are soon poor.”  Man, you’ve got to love Proverbs and how direct the wisdom is.  Hey, if you’re lazy, you’re going to be poor!  Could it be any simpler?

You don’t have to look very far to see this principle played out in our nation.  Laziness abounds in the lives of many and, ironically, is often most prevalent in those with the greatest thirst for wealth.  How can I get the most while doing the least?  This kind of lifestyle will not produce riches in our lives no matter how we define it.  We were made to work, to accomplish tasks, and to tend to that which needs our attention.  Just ask Adam and Eve, the world’s first gardeners.  Work isn’t a bad thing . . . it’s a great thing!

Finally, I love how Solomon references the “wise youth” in this passage.  Perhaps he knew that laziness fights the hardest against the younger generation.  But those who want to experience the riches of this life in every way . . . physically, financially, mentally, spiritually, relationally . . . will get to work when the “summer” season of life is in full bloom.  Otherwise, we will face the poverty of “disgrace” when we are found sleeping while there is a “harvest” to be gathered.  If we haven’t worked in the summer, there will nothing to receive in the harvest.  It’s that simple.

More than just dollars in our pocket, work produces strength and stability in our hearts.  Here’s our chance to experience riches beyond our wildest dreams!


~ by johndriver on November 25, 2008.

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