Well, this is what I believe will be the last week of our series on the subject of WISDOM, and I hope that you all have gleaned things that will greatly enhance your lives.
We have seen just how important wisdom is in our lives. We have learned that it is indeed the principal thing - that is, the top, first and best thing that we can acquire in our lives. The problem is, however, that many people do not see wisdom this way. They believe that all of these other things are what we need to “get” but they miss the fact that when we get wisdom, all of these other things that our hearts desire come as a by-product of obtaining God’s wisdom.
So, we have learned what wisdom is, what some of her primary characteristics are, and then we moved into many of the various practical areas that we desperately need His wisdom in. We looked at:
Then most recently, we have moved into talking about Wisdom in Relationships, and we have learned both how to build and how to maintain the relationships in our lives. Because I do not want to re-preach these last two teachings, I will simply encourage you (highly encourage you, I might add), to go back and listen to both of these teachings - particularly, the last one on how to maintain these relationships. The reason is because the devil and his cohorts devote their time to dividing God’s people. They are constantly trying to destroy our marriages, split our churches and divide Christ’s body in order to render us completely ineffective. So, I went into a lot of practical principles from the Book of Proverbs that show us exactly what to do when we are tempted to be offended by our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is not one person who cannot be ministered to in a great way from the things we learned last week. So, either go to our website and listen to the message or get a hold of my notes that I sent out this week.
COME AND GET IT!
Now, while we have certainly not gleaned all there is to know about wisdom during the past 10 weeks, I felt like the Lord was ready to transition us into a new focus in the weeks ahead. But before we do, I want us to conclude our series on WISDOM this week by answering the question we all should have by now - How do we grow in it? How do we get it?
Now we have certainly dabbled in some of the “How To’s” throughout this series, but let’s give a week’s worth of attention to this wise question - HOW DO WE GET WISDOM?
Let’s look again at our golden text for this series in Proverbs chapter 4: Proverbs 4:5-8 says, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
So, we can clearly see that we are encouraged (even commanded) by the Lord to GET wisdom, right? So, let’s wind this series up by talking about how we get it.
Now the first thing we need to understand is this - when the Word of God tells us to get something, what can we conclude? We can conclude that it can be “gotten.” You see, the Lord is not going to tell us to get something and not make it available to us. No, in fact, we see here in the Book of Proverbs that wisdom is on every street corner, crying out for you to come get her. So, wisdom is available to come and get it.
For example, when a mother yells out the door to the children at supper time, saying, “Come and get it!”- what do the kids know? They know that dinner is on the table and they are about to eat. Likewise, when the Holy Spirit says, “Get wisdom!” we know that wisdom is on the table and available to whosoever will. Amen!
No, it doesn’t matter how educated you are. There are no disqualifications. The Lord says, “If you want it, you can have it!”
You see, the Hebrew word for “Get & Getting” here in these verses literally means “to buy.” Therefore, we can see that in order to “Get wisdom,” we will need to “pay the price” for it. What does this mean? It means it might cost us something. We might have to lose our dignity and pride. We might have to throw some things on the altar that stand between us and our apprehension of wisdom. The bottom line is that we generally get the things that we desire with all of our hearts.
GETTING WISDOM VS. GETTING OLDER
Now it stands to note here that we do not simply “get wisdom” by “getting older” either; no, we get it by paying the price for it. Many people believe that wisdom simply comes with age, but that is simply not true. Wisdom is earned! I know a lot of old people who are fools. (They don’t go to church, of course😊).
Now it is true that getting older certainly gives one more of an opportunity to gain wisdom. And why? Because of the accumulation of experiences that we will have through time. But my point is that if we do not ever learn from those experiences, we will not grow in wisdom. Therefore, while most people learn from some of their mistakes, they never truly acquire all of the wisdom that they can because they don’t learn from all of their experiences.
Isn’t this the epitome of foolishness, church? To continue doing the same things and hoping for different results! No, if we want to get different results in our life, we cannot continue to act, think, respond, react, etc., the same way that we have been! Proverbs 26:11 says, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” So, what does a wise person do? He learns from his mistakes and stops doing it.
But here is another very important point - Most Christians get precious little wisdom in their lives because they are only drawing from their own experiences. I want to encourage you today not to just learn from your own experiences; learn from other’s experiences. My father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, says it this way: “You don’t have to learn from hard knocks.” Wisdom will not only learn from her own hard knocks; she will learn from others failures and shortcomings as well. Amen! (We will delve into this more in a moment)
OUR NEED FOR WISDOM
Now let’s turn over to the Book of James and take a look at a passage of Scripture that will explain this very thing about just how easily accessible wisdom is.
If I could summarize how we get wisdom, the key is found in one very simple word - ASK! Yes, wisdom comes simply by asking for it.
In James 1:5, after he encourages his readers to count it all joy when they fall into various trials, he says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
So, the context of this verse is the need for wisdom in the particular trial you have fallen into. In other words, the need to know what to do when you are in the midst of tribulation. But let’s not just limit it to the trials we go through; let’s view this as how we get wisdom in general.
The first and most important part of this verse is the first thing James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom…” What if one does not realize that they lack wisdom? Then they won’t ask for it. In other words, if we are deceived into thinking that everything is okay or we are just satisfied with what we currently know, we won’t seek something more.
And this is more of a problem than most realize: They don’t see how much wisdom they lack. Therefore, they do not hunger and desire more of it. In their pride, they are wise in their opinion and are “know it all’s” in so many ways. That, my friends, is the number one hindrance to getting wisdom in our lives; the deception that we don’t lack it - for we will not seek for something that we do not realize that we are missing.
But, church, when one does realize that they lack something, then the desire for it can enter in.
So, that leads me to another step to obtaining wisdom in our lives: The first key to getting wisdom is that we have to want her! Now this desire to get her first comes by realizing our need for her.
Now I say “her” because, if you noticed, wisdom is referred to throughout the Book of Proverbs in the feminine like it is an actual female entity.
So, men, how did we “get” our wives? In most cases, we had to pursue them. We courted them and won them over by various expressions of love and honor. We took them to nice restaurants. We bought them flowers, jewelry, etc. We did these things to win over their heart and to gain their love and trust.
And to all of you single ladies out there, let me give you a good word of wisdom: Do not pursue the man; let him pursue you - because if he is not willing to court you, then he is not worth having. Amen?
But my point is that wisdom is gained in the same way. We have to court her - showing her that she is the most precious and valuable thing to us. We pursue her until we obtain her, and then we marry her.
What this means is that valuing wisdom is vital. This requires a heart that esteems her, truly seeing her as the “principal” thing - that is, the first, best, and top thing in our lives. For until we place the appropriate value on her, we will not gain her. Amen?
ASK OF GOD
So, once we realize that we lack wisdom in our lives and have a need for more of it in various areas, what are we to do? James says that we are to “ask of God!”
While the Greek word used for “ask” here does simply describe a petition; it also denotes to “desire, crave and to beg.” So, the kind of asking that is being described here is a wholehearted kind of petition, not just some passing, flippant request that is half-hearted. This is important.
But notice that James said that we are to ask of God. The word that is used for “of” here is the Greek word para and means “to come alongside of.” So, this describes the proximity of our request from God, which is right by His side. Therefore, it denotes that we have drawn near to God and ask.
This has so many shades of meaning, all of which are vitally important to understand: The truth is many are asking amiss. They are doing things independent from God (i.e. doing their own thing) and they have not come alongside of Him. This is the best way to receive from God, church - learning to draw near to Him and walk with Him on a regular basis. Entering into His presence through worship to where He is near and you have His ear! This is coming boldly to Him in the full assurance of faith!
And James goes on to explain to his readers why that is - to be completely persuaded that when they ask they will receive: It is because our God “gives liberally and without reproach.”
But what if the God that we come to is not the God who gives liberally and without reproach? In other words, what if we are making this request of a God that we are not convinced will give (number one) to all (number two) liberally and (number three) without reproach? Then the last part of James 1:5 might not happen for you (i.e. “it will be given to you”). In other words, your lack of understanding of who He is might impede your receiving from Him.
You see, when we come to God, our view of Him does impact how we receive from Him. If we see Him as a harsh, critical and condemning Judge, it will be impossible for us to approach Him in the full assurance of faith because we won’t be sure of what He will do or say. But if we see Him as a good, liberal, and non-condemning God, there will be confidence that when we ask, we will receive.
God desires to give us wisdom, church! But we must ask for it from Him! As James goes on to say in his letter, we have not because we ask not (James 4:2).
But we have to ask. We have to have enough spiritual where-with-all to ask Him for counsel, direction, and understanding when the various situations come up in our lives. Let me give you a few examples:
But there is something oh so important to do after we have asked Him for wisdom; we have to then listen for the wisdom.
Many fail to do this – no, not only because they are not open to God speaking directly to them the things they want to hear, but because they are not open to how He might answer their cry for wisdom.
Again, we might ask God for wisdom regarding these mountains we seem to keep going around and then we get prompted to turn the television on and we are watching some preacher who is dealing with a certain issue that we see in our lives. That might be just how the Lord gives us the wisdom we have asked for.
This is why James goes on to say in James 1:6-8- “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Now in the context here, the thing that is to be asked for in faith is the wisdom (see vs. 5). So, when we ask for wisdom in this double-minded, doubtful fashion, we are not to suppose that we will receive it from Him. Why? Because we can only see the Lord communicating to us in a certain way and we miss that He might decide to respond to you through another person.
Now that leads me to another point about how to get wisdom: It is not just going to come directly from God to you. Yes, asking God is important in its own right. However, getting wisdom does not only come from asking God; it also comes from asking others. In other words, we get any and all kinds of wisdom by both asking and observing those who have it.
We can see from the Book of Proverbs that those who walk with wise men will be wise and that those who listen to counsel and receive instruction from wise people will be wise in their latter days (see Proverbs 13:20 & 19:20). Therefore, surrounding ourselves with wise people is a big part of us becoming wiser.
Now this will require humility on our part- because one of the major reasons why so many do not grow in wisdom is because of their pride. People’s pride does not like to admit it doesn’t know something that someone else does. Pride chokes on those three words, “I don’t know.” But wisdom confesses it freely. Therefore, humility is a big key to acquiring wisdom. (I will include a listing of the proverbs that talk about pride vs. humility at the end of this article)
And really, who cares what people think? But we should care about what people know - So, pick their minds and learn from their expertise and experience, and don’t worry about what they might think about you by your questions.
You see, even the Master Himself listened and asked questions during His life and this resulted in Him increasing in wisdom (Luke 2:46,52). So, if Jesus needed to both listen and ask questions of others who had some wisdom, then you can bet the bank you and I need to do that too!
Proverbs 11:2 teaches us this when it says, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 26:12 also says, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” In other words, the guy or gal that thinks they are wise already is more hopeless than a fool because at least a fool, in many cases, knows their stupid! It is the same with a religious person: there are not many others who are harder to convert than them because at least the grossest of sinners know they are a sinner. A person who is “religious” (from the negative sense of the word) thinks they are alright. Therefore, the need for salvation is not as apparent to them.
This is why Proverbs 3:34 says, “Surely He scorns the scornful but gives grace to the humble.” Of course, this Scripture is quoted by James in James chapter 4 in relation to God resisting the proud and how we submit and draw near to God. But I want you to notice how being given even wisdom comes through our humility.
But not only can we ask others; we can simply observe them, considering their ways.
CONSIDER THEIR WAYS
So, let’s look at this other way to get wisdom in our lives through other people and things: It is simply by opening our eyes and considering them.
In Proverbs 6:6-8, Solomon gives us an interesting tip: He says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.”
So, Solomon shows us that one way to become wiser is by simply considering something even as minuscule as the activity of ants. Isn’t that amazing how the Lord has dropped just enough wisdom is those little insects that has them store up their food in just the right season?
This teaches us that we can get wisdom simply by observing the things of nature. But do you know what else we can get wisdom from considering? Other people! Yes, being wise comes from considering others - simply sitting there and watching what something or someone else does.
People that become “experts” at things or “skillful” in others (Both good one-word definitions for wisdom) generally become this way through observing and considering others. In other words, they become skilled in that particular trade by sitting under someone like a trainer or mentor.
For example, one way in which we can do this in our lives is say, we want to become more skilled in plumbing: What’s the best way to become a good plumber? It is by observing one who has been there and done that in the area of plumbing - to ask them questions, watch how they come to conclusions, etc. Some who simply desire to become more skilled in fixing their computer might simply watch a “How To” video that walks you step by step through how to fix the issue.
Now, what does the fool do? They might have been having engine problems with their car, yet without any understanding, experience or observation of what it takes to fix engines, they just blare on, saying “I’ll do it myself.” What happens more than half the time that someone decides that they are going to just learn on the fly? They usually spend much more time than they would have if they would have just “considered” what they were doing first by maybe “googling” it or calling an expert.
But us guys are notorious for this kind of foolishness; am I wrong? We don’t ask for directions, bless God! And we spend a half an hour driving around, trying to find the place that was just 10 minutes away. When if we would have just taken two minutes to stop and ask someone, we could have gotten there in 15 minutes. I say this to our shame, gentleman! LOL!
Have you ever heard the quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (Benjamin Franklin)? What that means is that it is better and easier to stop a problem from happening than to stop or correct it after it has started. That is so true, isn’t it? Oh, how much time and money has been wasted simply by not giving some forethought before action.
But, again, learning by considering other people and things is a critical part of obtaining wisdom. In short, you could say that wisdom comes by simply using our head for more than a hat rack! It is thinking before speaking. It is considering before doing. It is meditating before acting. It is judging before deciding. It is ASKING! Amen!
Verily, verily, I say to you - when we seek, we find. When we knock, it is opened up to us. When we ask, we receive.
THE WORD OF WISDOM
Now that leads me to another very important part of acquiring wisdom: I just made the point of how important considering others is to becoming wise. Well, do you know who some of the best people are for us to consider, observe and, therefore, learn from? The people in the WORD!
Yes, the Bible teaches us that it itself was written for our learning (Romans 15:4) and gives us these various stories as examples (1 Corinthians 10:11). That means that the triumphs and failures of these men and woman of God in the Bible were recorded for us to learn by.
Again, we don’t have to have a bunch of unnecessary trials and tribulations to learn to be holy, to look to God, etc. Many would have you believe that! There are people who get up and even “testify” that God put them in their wheelchair because they weren’t living for Him. Church, that’s a horrible testimony. A good testimony is this - I read the Word and saw how I needed to be living my life. Then I applied its principles and look what the Lord has done! Glory to God!
I repeat - He does not want His children learning through hard knocks; He wants us learning from all of these stories in the Bible, through their hard knocks. No, I do not have to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years to learn to trust in God’s Word. Nor do I have to fall into sexual sin like Samson or David to find out that obeying God’s Word is better in the long run. Amen?
So, considering the examples in the Word of men who failed and succeeded. This is one of the ways which His Word makes us wise. But His Word has the power to make us wise in various ways.
In 2 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle Paul told his son in the faith that the Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation. And, oh, how we need wisdom in the area of salvation, church! It’s found in God’s Word!
This is why we have learned in this series that if you want to be a wise person, then it is imperative that we become “Word people”- that is, making His Word the priority in our life by reading, meditating and studying it regularly and then purposing in our heart to be doers of the Word that we are hearing.
Now let me interject this one point, however: Just don’t spend time in the subjects that your heart is already geared towards: Study the whole counsel of God! Sure, you might need to focus on healing because of your need for it, but just know that if you ignore other areas of God’s Word, you won’t be feeding your faith in that area, and will be deficient in it. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16); not just our pet parts of the Bible.
Now we have learned already that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so this is a very important part of growing in wisdom; it is growing in the fear of God - that is, learning to truly respect in our hearts what He has said and His perspective concerning things. Therefore, if we truly “fear” God, then we will respect what He has said in His Word. This is why things like obedience are inexplicably intertwined with the fear of the Lord - because if you truly honor someone, you will respect and revere what they have said and hold dear.
So, these are very simple and basic ways to get more wisdom in our lives:
Church, if we will do just these things right here, we will begin to grow in wisdom and see God’s blessings poured out in our life in abundance. Wisdom is for all of us! So, let’s go GET it!
PROVERBS ABOUT HUMILITY VS. PRIDE
Proverbs 3:34 - “Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.”
Proverbs 11:2 - “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.”
Proverbs 13:10 – “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.”
Proverbs 14:3 - “In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.”
Proverbs 15:25 – “The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, but He will establish the boundary of the widow.”
Proverbs 15:33 - “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.”
Proverbs 16:5 – “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.”
Proverbs 16:18-19 – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
Proverbs 18:2 – “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.” (“but delights in airing his own opinions”
Proverbs 18:12 – “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility.”
Proverbs 21:4 - “A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin.”
Proverbs 21:24 – “A proud and haughty man- “Scoffer” is his name; He acts with arrogant pride.”
Proverbs 22:4 – “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.”
Proverbs 25:6-7 – “Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of the great; For it is better that he say to you, “Come up here,” than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.”
Proverbs 25:27 – “It is not good to eat much honey; So to seek one’s own glory is not glory.”
Proverbs 26:12 – “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
Proverbs 27:1 – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:2 – let another praise you)
Proverbs 28:25 – “He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered.”
Proverbs 29:23 – “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.”
Proverbs 30:32 - “If you have been foolish in exalting yourself, or if you have devised evil, put your hand on your mouth.”
Wisdom, The Principal Thing - Part 10: HOW TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS (WISDOM IN RELATIONSHIPS)
So, last week, we continued our series on the subject of wisdom by looking at another practical area that we need God’s wisdom in - the arena of relationships: We looked at how important it is that we learn how to build relationships.
We learned that our being in fellowship with one another is extremely important to God and to us. We saw from Proverbs 14:4 that in our relationships with others is where more strength comes to see increase in our lives. However, with the strength the ox provides, it also provides more mess. So, while there will always be “poop” we have to deal with in relationships, we need to esteem the good that comes from our connection with people more than the problems they bring with them.
Then, we learned the importance of choosing our friends wisely. We saw that we should not be deceived into thinking that we are strong enough to have a good influence on people without them having a bad influence on us. The Bible teaches us that “evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
So, who should we be hanging out with? The Bible says, the wise. Yes, he who walks with the wise will himself be wise (Proverbs 13:20). Therefore, we need to find people to associate with who will provoke us unto love and good works, enabling us to become sharper in character, rather than duller. We looked at various things that we should be looking for in friends and also what kind of people we should not be associating with.
We then looked at how to make friends by looking at things that we can implement into our lives that will make us more desirable fellowship for others. We also looked at a lot of “don’t do’s” that might irritate people we would like friendship with.
So, as promised this week, I want us to move on into looking at how we maintain / keep these relationships we have built. This is going to be a very practical message on how to resolve the conflicts that come up in even our God-ordained relationships.
So, as I mentioned last week, relationships must be built. They do not necessarily build themselves. In other words, you will have to work at making them all they can be. We looked at Proverbs 24:3-4 which says, “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” and we saw that you do not build a home by just haphazardly beginning the building process. No, you sit down first and draw out the plans, right?
Well, did you know that just as many people build relationships, there are also those who destroy them. And how do they do this? Through a lack of wisdom.
Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” How many of you know that this is the epitome of foolishness – to build something, and then turn around and tear it down with your own hands. But people do this all of the time in the area of relationships: They spend time working on a particular relationship and invest a lot of time, effort and energy into it, and then they turn around and pull the whole thing down through fights, quarrels and contentions. This is unwise.
So, that is exactly what I want us to look at this week - how to not do this, how to not only build good, healthy relationships, but also how to keep them in that same condition.
Now we talked last week about just how important relationships are in everyone’s life, particularly the life of a member of Christ’s body. So, if that is so (and it is!), then don’t you suppose that the enemy of our souls is going to do his best to destroy those relationships? You can bet the bank he will! Therefore, we need to always remain cognizant of the fact that we are going to have even more opportunities in a church setting like ours to have relationships grow sour and to have division. And why? Again, it is because we have an enemy who wants us separated from each other.
WHY STRIFE IS SO BAD
So, let’s begin by talking about why strife, contentions and quarrels are so bad in the first place:
We’ve just seen that one major reason is because they divide us from other parts of the Body that we need to be joined to. And that is reason enough to resist contentions itself, but here are some other reasons why strife is such a bad thing. Strife is bad…
One major reason we should avoid strife like the plague it is, is because God considers it an abomination. Now that is some pretty strong language, isn’t it? He hates it! It is abominable to him! Therefore, if we love God, we should hate it too! Amen?
You see, the things we esteem like eating good food or living in a comfortable home are fine and all, but if strife and contention are present, those natural things are just not worth it. In other words, we would be better off to have less than desirable food to eat or to live on the corner of a rooftop than to have a spirit of strife in our home. And why?
So, all of this is plenty enough reason to keep our relationships free from strife, quarrels and contentions. Amen?
Now let’s move on and talk about what actually stirs up strife because in diagnosing it, we can help find the cure for it:
WHAT STIRS UP STRIFE?
You see, there are several proverbs that talk about certain things that “stir up” strife. So, let’s look at them. What stirs up strife? First of all, Proverbs 28:25 says, “He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered.” Proverbs 13:10 teaches us, “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” Let’s look at a couple of other translations of this nugget of wisdom:
So, the first thing we need to understand is that any and all strife comes by pride - meaning, if there is strife present, I can guarantee you that there is some pride present. Yes, when two individuals get into strife, there has to be pride present in at least one of the individuals, but in my experience, it is usually in both. Why? Because very rarely do you see one of the parties humbling themselves and admitting things they did wrong in the situation that caused the conflict.
But the main reason that all strife is a result of pride is because usually the contentions and quarrels that arise are based on hurt feelings. “I am just so angry because they did such and such to me,” they say. Well, why are they so angry? It is because someone did something to them. That is pride because the root of pride is self-centeredness: It’s all about what they did to us.
Now this is important to understand when it comes to us being the one who is tempted to be contentious with others: We need to check our own hearts and see where any pride is resident that would cause the strife in us. Then, we ought to be the “big boy or girl” in the situation and take the high road of love by humbling ourselves in the quarrel.
Regarding the other person in the conflict, the Book of Proverbs gives us some specific things that show how strife is stirred up around us:
So, we can see here that it is a wrathful, hateful, angry person that generates strife! In other words, it is a man or woman who has been poisoned and is full of hate and anger that tends towards stirring up strife! Therefore, this helps in how we respond to others who are contentious against us.
You see, anytime a person is ugly towards us it for this very reason: because they are currently, at that moment, not knowing how loved they are by God. Yes, hurting people hurt people! God did not create us to be mean-spirited, angry and hateful. So, when we are, it is because we are operating outside of our God-created value. Therefore, when someone else is hurting us know this - that is not who God created them to be, and all they are doing is hurting themselves, and they are doing it because they are already hurting themselves. This will help us to be more compassionate towards them and to more readily forgive them.
WHAT COVERS STRIFE
Now staying along the same lines, let’s talk about some truths that the Book of Wisdom gives us that squelches the strife that tries to be stirred up:
Either way you look at it – whether this describes you yourself avoiding strife or you being a peacemaker and actively helping other people’s contentions to cease – extinguishing strife is a mark of honor in God’s eyes.
So, if I am loving others what am I not doing? I am not telling others about what the person did. And what am I doing? I am making it a point to cover their transgression (not covering up sin so that it cannot be appropriately dealt with, but covering up just the simple embarrassments and unnecessary awareness of it).
Consider the example of Noah’s children, with one of them dishonoring him in in Genesis 9:20-23. The dishonorable son, Ham, saw his nakedness and “threw him under the bus,” telling his brothers about it, while the more honorable sons, Shem and Japheth, went in to his tent backwards and covered him with a blanket, not even looking upon his nakedness.
Proverbs 11:12-13 says, “He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace. A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”
Proverbs 12:20 says that “counselors of peace have joy.” So, church, this is a sure-fire way to live a blessed, joyful life; it is to be a faithful person who conceals a matter and holds his or her peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Why is that? It is because our Heavenly Father is a peacemaker and we are imitating Him!
HOW TO REACT TO OFFENSES
So, now let’s look at some specific ways in which we are told to react when it comes to those who irritate, hurt or anger us:
Many do not like these words because they fear being taken advantage of. Regarding this, Proverbs 20:22 says, “Do not say, ‘I will recompense evil’; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.” When we take matters into our own hands, we take them out of God’s hands. Friends, He can justify and defend us far better than we can on our own. Therefore…
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR BROTHER OFFENDS YOU
Now while these are practical, wise steps of how to react and how not to react, we need to look ahead at the New Testament and see what the Lord Jesus told us to do when our brother offends us:
Did you know that the Bible gives you and I some practical steps of what to do when a fellow believer sins against us and offends us? It sure does! In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus gave His disciples the steps to reconciliation when one of His sheep offends another. So, let’s take a look at what the Holy Scriptures have to say so that we can learn how to properly handle these times of being hurt and disappointed by our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus said, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
First of all, notice that Jesus began in verse 15 by saying, “Moreover.” The reason Jesus started off with this word was because He had just taught the Parable of the Lost Sheep which emphasized the importance of restoring someone who had left the sheepfold, seeking to reconcile the wandering Christian. Understanding the context here will make clearer what He went on to say in these verses we will be covering:
Jesus then says, “…if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This is the first step we are to take when someone sins against us - we are to confront them about it. And it is important to see that Jesus said that you are to do this between you and them alone. Oh, how many offenses would be averted if people would just put into practice this one simple step!
You see, most Christians do the exact opposite when someone hurts them: They will either internalize it - never dealing with the hurt - or they will go to someone else about it saying something like - “Guess what so and so did to me!” You see, the first and best rule to go by when someone hurts us is to confront them about it without ever mentioning it to anybody else. This is so important to do because, as I am sure many of us have learned, many times when someone has done something to hurt us they did not even realize what they did, much less intend to do it. Therefore, if we would just confront the person who hurt us, then many perceived hurts and offenses would be resolved immediately. But how many people have held on to their hurts for years when the person that hurt them was oblivious to the fact of what they did simply because this offended person never followed this first step? When, if they would just have gone to the person, they could have resolved the issue on the spot instead of holding on to it for years.
On top of that, many times the things that people do to offend us are so small and petty that if we would be forced to deal with those things in this way (by confronting them), we would be too embarrassed to mention to them what hurt our feelings. What I am saying is that oftentimes the things that we get hurt over are really just silly. They are not big enough to even be worth confronting someone over. And let me tell you: if someone does something that upsets us and the prospect of confronting them about it seems ridiculous, then I can assure you that the fact that we are offended is indeed ridiculous.
For example, say someone in our church does not acknowledge you before or after the service, looking right at them and does not say hello, good morning, etc. What have we seen these Christians do? Well, certainly they do not go to them and say, “You know, you looked right at me this morning and did not say anything to me and I was wondering why…” Why would this layperson not do this? It is because they do not want their fellow church member to know that they were so sensitive and easily offended by something so petty. No, what usually happens is they internalize their hurt feelings and allow the devil to cause them to speculate as to why they did not say anything to them. They start thinking things like “they must not like, respect, or value me”- speculating as to why they didn’t give them what they felt was their due attention. On top of that, they then go to others and begin to defame that person, saying things like he does not care about them, etc. Maybe (just maybe😊) they were not intentionally ignoring them. Perhaps they had something on their mind and did not consciously shun them.
But what if we, first of all, began giving our brothers and sisters in Christ the benefit of the doubt instead of having a speculative imagination and judging their motives? And then, if we are either certain that what they did was intentional and/or we cannot get past the hurt we experienced, what if we just confronted them about it? I can guarantee you that just putting into practice this first step would solve most of the issues we have with other Christians.
Then Jesus said that step number two is, if they will not listen to you and you cannot resolve it with them by yourself, you are to take one or two more and let them, in a sense, act as arbitrators between you and the one who hurt you.
Now this does not mean that we go to one or two of our brothers and sisters in Christ just to tell them what a low down dirty scoundrel the person who hurt us is. This getting others involved is strictly for the purpose of having someone come in who will have an objective viewpoint of the situation. In other words, bringing others into the quarrel is not to get somebody else offended and upset with the person who offended you; it is for the purpose of having someone else hopefully resolve the dispute.
You see, sometimes when we have a dispute with someone else, we might think they have done us wrong, but they might disagree with our viewpoint. This is when a third or fourth party might be necessary to be an objective judge in our dispute. But, again, this is only for the purpose of seeking reconciliation with our sinning brother or sister.
But then, there might be situations where the sinning brother will not hear the arbitrators either. This is when Jesus said that we are to take it to the church that both parties of the dispute attend and let them hear the situation in order to make a judgment.
The important point is that we see the order here? First, we go (by ourselves) to one who sinned against us. Second, we let one or two know for the sole purpose of helping to resolve the situation. Thirdly, we take it to the church and let those who are spiritual authorities in our life make a judgment in the dispute.
But do you know what most people do? They do the exact opposite! They take it to the others in the church first and do not even consider confronting the other believer. According to Jesus’ teaching, this is the wrong process.
You see, we need to understand that when we are offended, the first thing the flesh wants to do is tell someone else. Our flesh just loves to “vent” by telling our friends the sins of others - especially when that sin affected us personally. But love does not do this: As we have seen, love seeks to cover sins, not expose them. Love will only inform someone else of the sins of another when it is genuinely seeking the restoration of the sinner.
But so many err in this way as well: They will go to others and start off by saying, “I am only telling you this so that you can pray for them, but…” Now, while this can be done out of genuine love for someone, my experience is that it usually is not. These are not gossiping about the sins and shortcomings of others because they love them so much, but because their flesh just loves to uncover and expose the sins of other people. We need to be very careful about this. Whether we are a witness to or a victim of the sins of another, we should more often than not, keep it to ourselves and pray for that individual.
But I want us to now turn our attention to what Jesus said to do if that offender will not repent after all three of these steps have been taken. He said, “let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
What does this mean? Well, first of all, notice that Jesus said “let him be to you”… This basically implies to “let them be that way.” In other words, it means just to let it go - to forgive them and forget about it. We know this because just a few verses later, when Jesus concluded His teaching on what to do when our brother sins against us, Peter immediately asks the question, “Well, how many times do I have to forgive my brother?”
But what did Jesus mean by saying that you are to let him be to you “like a heathen and a tax collector?” Well, it is important to understand that this does not mean, “Fine, if you want to be that way, then you just gained an enemy, buddy!” No, letting them be like a heathen or a tax collector to us does not mean that we treat them like an enemy as some have mistaken this statement to mean. We are called to love our enemies and Jesus Himself was called a friend of tax collectors and sinners. So, it should be fairly obvious that this statement is not a license to be unloving towards the one who sinned against us. What this statement means is that we need to treat them like we would a lost person - forgiving them for their sin against us and seeking to see him or her reconciled into right relationship with God. It means to let the problem go and continue to seek the restoration of our brother.
You see, we are commanded, if it is at all possible, to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18). So, if we have done our best to seek reconciliation with someone and they still will not repent, the only thing left to do is to forgive them and forget about what they did to you - especially another Christian.
I can assure you that it is not worth holding on to, my brothers and sisters! It is not worth becoming embittered and resentful. This only keeps you in bondage and hinders God’s best from being accomplished in your life. So just let them be that way! Let them act like they are! If they have taken something from you, give them a little extra! This is what Jesus taught us to do, is it not? It is just not worth it, and I can assure you, God is able to add it back to you in fullness and abundance when you walk in His ways - which are love and forgiveness. Amen!?!
THE REMEDY FOR STRIFE IN US
Now there will invariably be times where we do not head off strife at the door. So, what do we do if one of those arrows have penetrated our heart and the angry emotions are rising up? Here are some good words of wisdom from Proverbs:
Proverbs 15:18 says, “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays (i.e. to diminish & put at rest) contention.” So, this proverb simply states that being slow to let ourselves get angry and getting control of those unruly emotions will actually diminish contentions in our life.
This is an important way to squelch anger - Operating in that last fruit of the Spirit called “self-control.” You see, impulsive people tend to open the door to strife quicker than others, and the Book of Proverbs has much to say on this:
Proverbs 17:14 also says, “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore, stop contention before a quarrel starts.” How? By checking those emotions at the door and taking control of our actions. Someone will say? “Yeah, but I cannot do that! It just comes all over me and cannot control it.” That is simply not true because if it is you, you can control it. If you truly cannot control it, then it is demonic and not you. Demons control people; Christians control themselves. But in most cases, those who say they cannot control it in the case of going off on another believer in church, on the other hand can control it with their boss at work. Why? Because people do what they think they can get away with.
But there are some good and practical ways that we can be “slow to anger”:
One of them is found in Proverbs 19:11 which says, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” In some translations of the Bible, anger is often spoken of as “being kindled” as though anger can be compared to fire. I believe the example of anger as fire is the most accurate because anger, if not dealt with when it is small, can get out of control and not only burn the one who is angry but also others in their vicinity. We must learn to control the anger that is kindled in us from time to time and not let it get out of control. And in this proverb, we are told a very practical way to quench this anger that comes from time to time in our life. When you stop telling others how someone else upset you, you are being discreet about the hurt. When you practice this discretion, Proverbs 19:11 says, that it “makes you slow to anger.” In other words, it will quench that emotional slide of anger. If we compare this proverb to the example of a fire being kindled, then James 3:5 will mean a little more to us. It says, speaking of the tongue, “...See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” The tongue is the fire-starter of anger. If we can control our mouth, we will control our anger!
Proverbs 15:1 teaches us that “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Simply knowing how to say things is a key to extinguishing strife. Many have unnecessary points of contention because of how they have responded. So, the lesson here is - don’t just blurt out the first emotional response you have but think about what you are about to say and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Another important factor is when to approach someone about an offense. It’s good to find a time that is appropriate for bringing up the matter. Ecclesiastes 8:5 says that a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgement. Now these are not fail-proof ways to avoid angering someone, because some will simply not like what you are saying to them even though you package it perfectly. But this will extinguish many contentions before they are even kindled.
Along these same lines, Proverbs 30:33 says, “For as the churning of milk produces butter, and wringing the nose produces blood, so the forcing of wrath produces strife.” Many times, strife is produced by someone “forcing” their wrath and anger. In other words, if we keep forcing the issue – not letting up – and keep bringing it up, we are going to produce strife unless we are dealing with a very spiritual person.
THE REMEDY FOR STRIFE IN OTHERS
But there are other times where someone else comes to us about another issue between them and another person. So, how do you deal with that?
First of all, know this: Proverbs 17:4 teaches us that “An evildoer gives heed to false lips; A liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.” If we listen eagerly to one with a “spiteful tongue” the Bible calls us a liar. So, we don’t want to be labeled as a “can” that people feel they can dump their trash in. Why? Because that makes us a “trash can.” It’s tight but it’s right!
But someone will say, “Well, how I can keep someone else from telling me these things?” Here is a good way: Either stop them and say something to the effect of, “Okay, let’s stop right here and pray for them, because if what you are saying is correct, they need prayer.” And then take that person by the hand and start praying for the other person. Another thing you can do is stop them in “mid-slanderous sentence” and say, “Well, if you feel this way, we need to go to that person right now and confront them.” Usually those people will not want to do either one of these two things and they will not see you as a good sounding board any longer.
Another good word of wisdom regarding someone coming to you with their issue is this: Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Why? It is because as Proverbs 18:17 goes on to say, “The first one to plead his cause seems right…”
So, what this means is that there are always two sides to every story, and if we only hear one person’s side (particularly when they are worked up emotionally over it), it is easy to get sold on their viewpoint. Therefore, we need to be truly objective and not let the first word be the last word and get swayed.
But be careful about getting in the middle of someone else’s quarrel unless you are invited to be the peacemaker in the situation because as Proverbs 26:17 says, “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.” Church, this is how you get bit!
Now while I see God’s best solution to any rift in relationships as at least one of the parties simply deciding to give the other party the “better land” as Abram did with his nephew Lot when they had strife between their herdsman (In other words, one of the parties deciding to just “eat it” and agreeing to be wrong in order to keep the peace), the fact is very few people will actually do this because, bless God, they are going be right!
But what do we do if we reach this impasse? What if there does not seem to be any possible resolution?
WHAT IF THERE IS NO POSSIBLE RESOLUTION?
In some situations, like say a marriage where you are covenanted to be together, it is good to call some sort of cease fire: Proverbs 18:18 says, “Casting lots causes contentions to cease, and keeps the mighty apart.” Some other translations describe this “casting of lots” as flipping a coin or drawing straws. In many cases, it might be best for the two parties that cannot come to an agreement to simply flip and coin and let “fate” decide, both parties being resolved to let the “casting of lots” determine what they will do.
In other situations, where something has to be done to deal with the contention, you might have to “cast out the bondwoman”: Proverbs 26:20-21 says, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”
Do you remember the story of Hagar & Ishmael? There was contention there between Hagar & Sarah, so what did Abraham do? He cast out the bondwoman! Proverbs 22:10 says to “Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease.” So, I say that to say if there is no possible reconciliation, that sometimes someone has to go. But if that is the case, both parties should attempt to do so peacefully and graciously.
So, what you have just learned are some very practical ways to deal with contentions. Church, do understand that it is impossible that offenses will not come. The Master taught us this. We live in these fleshly bodies and, therefore, will have “feelings” that will come up that are contrary to the truth. This is when it is important for us to apply these truths and keep ourselves in love and out of strife. Amen!
So, let’s continue looking today at the Wisdom of God with part 9 of our series entitled, “Wisdom - the Principal Thing.”
We have learned the value that wisdom has, and looked at all of the benefits that she brings when we obtain her. We have learned what wisdom is and what it is not, seeing that wisdom is not “knowledge” or “understanding.” Rather, we saw that wisdom is being skilled in the arena of life. We have studied what I consider to be wisdom’s primary characteristic - that it always looks ahead - and how one can become wise.
Then, we started looking at various practical areas and have studied how the wisdom that descends from above teaches us to be wise in these areas:
So now this week, I would like us to move on to another practical area that we need God’s wisdom in – the area of relationships:
Did you know that the Book of Proverbs has a lot of good, sound wisdom about how to both build and maintain good, healthy relationships? It absolutely does! So, I believe both this week and the next we are going to look at the myriad of Scriptures that teach us how to have a better relationship with our spouse, with our friends, with our children/parents, and with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. So, there is no one here that will not benefit from the wisdom we will hear over the course of these two weeks.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS
Now I want to begin by us looking at Proverbs 14:4, where we see a very comical truth about how important relationships are to our lives:
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”
You see, we need the ox to carry the load. The farmer cannot till the ground himself. He needs the oxen’s strength to get the job done. However, along with the oxen comes some messiness. Now the word “trough” here describes a manger or a feeding trough, but this word can also be used to describe the stall or the stable that the animal is kept in. So, in other words, with the oxen comes the oxen’s mess (i.e. poop).
So, yes, with people come problems, and the more people we have in our church family, the more potential for problems we will have. However, the more people we have, the more strength and ability to increase we will have.
So my point is - we need each other! While we might be tempted to think that we would be better off not having any relationships because of the chance of getting hurt, we cannot live isolated lifestyles.
The Bible teaches us that two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9), that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), and that we are the body of Christ and as a body we need to be connected to each other (Ephesians 4:16). Some have strayed from the truth in thinking that they are okay if they just worship on their own. That’s a lie, saints! Never is it okay for us to isolate ourselves.
In fact, Proverbs 18:1 tells us that “a man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” That makes it pretty simple, doesn’t it? When someone isolates themselves, it is because they are being self-centered - only thinking about themselves - because if they were thinking of others, they would be inspired to get out and be a blessing in other people’s lives. Also, we need to understand that this isolation also opens us up to be devoured by the devil because, as 1 Peter 5:8 teaches us, he is like a roaring lion that is seeking to pick off his prey that has left the pack. So, never is it wise to withdraw from the fellowship of others – it is us going down the path of becoming easy prey for the devourer and is also us openly defying the Master’s commandment to love one another. Amen or “Oh, me”!?!
But one of the main reasons why people do not heed these sound, biblical instructions is because they have been so hurt by people. They have had other believers treat them wrong, disappoint them, and not meet their expectations. But what they have experienced is the mess that it is in the stable, which is unfortunately part of what comes with the things each person has to contribute to the strength of the church. My former pastor used to say that if you find the perfect church, don’t join it or it will not be perfect any longer😊 However, a wise farmer just learns to live with the stink that comes with the livestock because he or she knows that the benefits they bring to the body far outweigh the “stank” they bring.
Likewise, we must learn that we need each other. I might do things that stink to you, and you might do things that stink to me, but there is something good that we all can bring to the table and an increase in the body that we have to offer. Amen?
So, turn to your neighbor on your right and tell them, “I need you.” Then turn to your neighbor on the left and tell them, “And you need me - all the ‘stank’ and all!”
So, understanding how important relationships are to all of our lives, let’s begin this week delving into this subject and learn “How to Build Healthy Relationships.”
Now one thing is apparent regarding relationships: they must be built. They don’t always just happen automatically. They must be cultivated and worked at. Even in the marriage relationship, you have to work at it. Very rarely, does a couple come together and have no problems in their relationship.
But here is the key point: it is worth the work. And not just in our marriage relationships, but in every relationship of life. They are worth working for.
But where many fail is in how they try and build relationships because they do not properly cultivate them. In other words, they do not use godly wisdom in this area.
Proverbs 24:3-4 says, “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
How do you build a home? Do you just haphazardly begin the building process, or do you sit down first and draw out the plans? You see, this principle can be applied to many areas, but think about it regarding building relationships. Relationships must be built through wisdom. They have to be established by understanding. They are furnished and decorated by knowledge.
So, yes, good and healthy relationships are built by wisdom, knowledge and understanding. So, let’s look at some of the knowledge, understanding and wisdom available to us in the Book of Proverbs that will help us build good friendships:
The first principle of relationships that needs to be addressed is in the choosing of relationships. You see, many people – even born again, Spirit-filled believers – make unwise decision on who they associate with.
Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
We don’t ever need to be naïve in thinking that we will change those we hang around with. Many have been deceived into thinking that they can marry an unbeliever and they will convert them. No, it doesn’t work that way. This Scripture tells us that the way of the wicked will lead us astray, not we will lead them aright.
No, this Proverb is telling us that what is most likely to happen is they will change you. You see, the Bible tells us not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Why? It is because “evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). In fact, 1 Corinthians 15:33 begins by telling us not to be deceived about this either.
You know, whenever the Bible tells us not to be deceived or ignorant concerning something, that is exactly what we see most people tend to have the least amount of light concerning. For example, Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 12:1 that he did not want us to be ignorant concerning spiritual gifts. Well, guess what most of the Body of Christ is ignorant concerning today? You got it - the gifts of the Spirit! James also said in James 1:16-17 not to be deceived because every good and perfect gift comes down from our good God. Well, guess what most of the church today is deceived about? Right again: Most are ignorant in what God is the author of and in what His true nature is.
Well, here in 1 Corinthians 15:33, the Apostle Paul said not to be ignorant about the fact that having fellowship with evil people will corrupt our walks. So, don’t be so arrogant that you think you are the exception to this rule.
Now does this mean that we are to withdraw from the world and live like a “monk?” Of course, it doesn’t! The salt is meant to get out of the salt-shaker and the light is meant to be seen by the world. But simply letting our good works being seen by all men is a far-cry from us spending time with the ungodly for pleasures sake. In other words, being around people for the true purpose of discipling them is different than hanging out with them just for fellowship. That is where we need to make a distinction.
And I am not just talking here about the “Christian” versus the “unbeliever.” We even need to choose wisely what “believers” (I use that term loosely) we associate with. Did you know that the Bible teaches us to not even keep company with anyone named a brother or sister who is sexually immoral, covetous, an idolater, a reviler, a drunkard, or an extortioner? (See 1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
Therefore, we need to follow this word of wisdom by choosing our friends carefully. We need to find other believers that we are currently evenly yoked with where we are, or ones we would like to be at the place where they are. Why? Because just as it is true that a little leaven leavens the whole lump from a negative sense (1 Corinthians 5:6), if we desire to become wiser and to grow from those who are ahead of us in the Lord, we can be positively affected by our fellowship with them. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; whoever walks with fools will suffer harm.”
ASSOCIATE WITH WHO?
So, what kind of friends should we be looking for? First of all, and as I just said, we should look for those that we are evenly yoked with. That is the first and most important part of those you befriend. I believe, as a general rule, you will feel closer to your spiritual family than even your natural family if your blood & kin do not believe like you do. And our brothers and sisters in Christ are those who become these friends that stick closer than our natural brothers and sisters.
But the Book of Proverbs gives us some other qualities we should be looking for in friends:
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
So, look for people who truly will love you all the time - in the good times but also in the bad times. In other words, look for people who do love well. Not only will they love you, but you can learn from them how to love better yourself.
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Look for those who will truly be a friend to you, not just flatter you and tell you what you want to hear. No, find those who will tell you the truth and tell you what you need to hear, not just what you would like to hear.
Verse 5 said that “open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” In other words, it is better to have a friend that will call you out on something you are doing wrong than one who will love you but not tell you what you need to hear.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
Look for those who will make you a better person, who will challenge you to be all that you can be in the Lord. Don’t “play” with those who do not provoke you to be a better person than you currently are. You know, it works that way in sports - you become better as you play with and against those who do well themselves. Likewise, it is that way in life: We need to associate with “iron” in order to provoke ourselves unto love and good works.
Now here are some other Proverbs that talk about who we are not to associate with:
Proverbs 14:7 in the CEV says, “Stay away from fools, or you won't learn a thing.”
In other words, don’t hang out with foolish people. Why? Because they will not add to you. I know we are reiterating this point - but we need to have friends that will sharpen us, not make us duller.
Proverbs 24:21 – “My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those given to change.”
The CEV says it this way - “My children, you must respect the Lord and the king, and you must not make friends with anyone who rebels against either of them.” In other words, do not associate with people who do not honor and respect the Lord. That is the spiritual side of it. But also, do not associate with people who do not honor and respect our leaders.
You see, it is one thing to not agree with the things our leaders do, but it is another thing to disrespect their office and position. The Bible specifically tells us to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) And you can still honor those in leadership even if you know they are doing wrong things. You do this by simply respecting the position they hold.
So, in short, we need to have “honorable” friends - that is, those who are respectable and treat others with dignity and respect. Honor is a lost art in our modern-day society.
Proverbs 20:19 in the NASB says, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore, do not associate with a gossip.”
This Proverb expressly says, “Do not associate with a gossiper.” And as we have seen, there are a lot of negative things said about the “talebearer.” But the truth is - one reason we do not want to associate with gossipers and slanderers is because those that gossip to you will most likely gossip about you. Therefore, it is simply unwise to fellowship with a gossiper. Slanderers are not good friends to make.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS
Now someone will say, “I need friends, but haven’t been able to make many.” Well, if that’s you, then you need to apply the following principles of wisdom into your life:
Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
This proverb seems to say that in order to have friends, you yourself must be friendly. In other words, don’t just sit there waiting on someone to befriend you. You see, we like people to approach us and make us feel welcome, loved and appreciated, but if we are not doing the same ourselves, then we have no right to get upset that others are doing that to us. “Well, they are a ‘so and so’ and they should be doing that,” someone will say. But we cannot afford to live our lives expecting people to do things for us. And do you know why? Because people will disappoint you and you will, therefore, live in constant offense living like that.
A good rule to live by is this: when it comes to people, expect nothing and appreciate everything. In other words, don’t expect people to treat you a certain way. Just be thankful when they do. That way they can be gracious to you and are not doing things out of some debt you perceive they have.
I once heard of an elderly woman who got offended with her children and grandchildren for never calling her. Well, my question is, did she ever call them? No, of course, she didn’t! That’s just fleshly self-centeredness, saints, and it is foolish (i.e. unwise)!
No, we ought to aggressively be friendly to others. How? By loving people - being a good listener, being helpful, being caring and compassionate. Fulfill others needs and see your needs fulfilled as a result. This is the law of sowing and reaping.
But, as Proverbs 18:24 went on to say, there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and His name is Jesus! So, even if we have done everything we can to make friends, know that He is the only friend you and I truly need! Sure, as we are making the point of, it is good to have other people in our lives and there certainly are benefits to being surrounded by fellowship, but He is all we really need, and He is the best friend you and I could ever truly have.
Proverbs 22:11 says, “He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.” The CEV says, “The king is the friend of all who are sincere and speak with kindness.”
So, this Proverb shows us how to have friends that we want to have: We need to be sincere and transparent, and also let our words add to people. You do understand that very few people do this, don’t you? Very few are actually pure of heart and are void of pretense and ulterior motives. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be either. Also, we need to use our words to edify others, to encourage and build them up.
Proverbs 25:25 says, “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Trey’s Translation would say, “Good news from an unexpected place is awesome!” You see, what people desire is good news, not bad news. But so many are quick to share all of the bad news. If we want to be desired, we need to be a refreshing cup of cold water by exceeding people’s expectations with good, kind and gracious words. Amen?
But the fact is, what most do is build themselves up. Almost all of their conversations revolve around themselves. Let’s not be that way, church! Again, let’s swim upstream and be kind, gracious and considerate. This is how we build good relationships.
The first half of Proverbs 19:22 says, “What is desired in a man is kindness…” This is what people truly want from others - love. They desire people who are loving, faithful, kind, etc.
Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.”
So, what is your gift? What is something that God has put in you or something you have cultivated in your life that blesses people? Use it to bless them. But be cognizant of whether what you are doing or saying is truly “blessing” others. I say this because many people think that they are “blessing” with their stories, jokes, or their own presence, but people are just tolerating them. We need to have “room awareness”, church - knowing what truly is or would be blessing others.
Now we are not talking about “buying friends” here. I am simply talking about implementing new character in your life to be more of a loving, caring, kind person. If you are this way, you will have more friends than you can handle. I guarantee you.
Now here are some other “Don’t Do’s” if you want more friends:
What these proverbs are saying is - Don’t be annoying and obnoxious. Don’t wear out your welcome. In other words, be considerate. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and not just look at things through your own filter. To everything, there is a time and a season, so know how to discern both time and judgment. In short, don’t be Job’s friends!
Some people need to simply learn when to be quiet and stop talking. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.” That means that we need to be quicker to listen to what’s on someone else’s heart than we are to share what’s on our heart. Amen? This is loving our neighbor as ourself and it is also what will make our neighbor love us in return.
Jesus set a good example for relationships: He had the 70, His outer group; He had the 12, His apostles whom He spent three years teaching and training; and He had His inner 3, the ones He spent the most time with and included in the most important parts of His life.
Church, relationships are important, and there is wisdom in how to build better ones in our lives. There is wisdom for our marriage relationship, for our friendships, for our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, etc. So, let’s put these things into practice and build better relationships. Amen.
So, let’s continue our series on “Wisdom - The Principal Thing.” Today is part eight in this series, and I hope that you have been growing in this area because, as we have learned, wisdom is described by the Bible as the “first, top and best” virtue that we could ever possess. But it is our responsibility to get it. It is not going to just fall on us like an apple out of a tree. No, we are told in the Word of God to “get” it. Therefore, we cannot say, “Well, God just sovereignly decided to endow that person with wisdom and that is just not my gift.” No, any one of us can apprehend as much of the wisdom of God that we want. So, let’s get it!
Let’s first of all read the Book of Proverbs on our own, personal time and spend some of our prayer time inquiring of the Lord for His wisdom. Then, let’s be open to the instruction that the Lord is giving us here on Sunday mornings and do more than just listen to the sermon and not give it any more consideration. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them so that your progress in wisdom is evident to all (1 Timothy 4:15)!
Well, most recently, we have been getting into more of the practical areas of wisdom, talking about wisdom for holiness, wisdom in the Word of God, wisdom is our words, and last week, we talked about wisdom for the body:
We began by looking at both Romans 12:1 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, learning that our bodies are considered to be living sacrifices and the temples of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what we do in our bodies and with our bodies is important to God. We saw that we are all called to glorify God in our bodies, which obviously is first loving God and then loving others with all of our strength. But we can also glorify God in these temples by having them adorned properly. So, we looked at some ways to do this:
One very general way that we talked about doing this is by simply asking the Lord - “How can I better glorify you through this, Your temple?” And then we listen to what He might tell us. For some of us, He might say, “Set your alarm a little earlier and get up and spend some time with Me.” To others, He might say, “Stop drinking as much coffee.” Still others, He might encourage to start back going to the gym and exercising. There are various things He might tell us if we simply ask Him, but the main point I left you with last week was to just ask. Learn to live a Spirit-led life, not just in the spiritual things, but even in the natural things. This way the Holy Spirit is calling the shots with what we do with these temples.
But what we spent most of last week’s message emphasizing is what He has already told us in His Word. In other words, we looked at the Holy Scriptures and gleaned from the wisdom that God has already given us.
The first thing we learned is that the condition of our outward man reflects the condition of the inward man. What I meant by this is that a healthy life internally tends towards a healthy life externally.
We looked at 3 John 2 and saw that our physical health is oftentimes determined by how healthy we are on the inside. We looked at Proverbs 14:30 and saw that just as a healthy physical heart produces life to the body, likewise a healthy spiritual heart will produce health in the body. We saw that things like envy, jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc. are rottenness to the bones, but not because God is punishing us - rather because it is just a spiritual law that out of the heart flow the issues of life. In other words, when we are not taking care of our heart, it will produce death in our lives.
We looked at a couple of other proverbs and saw that a broken spirit produces death in our bodies. However, having a strong, fighting spirit can actually sustain our lives (Proverbs 18:14). Even having a happy heart can produce health in our bodies like medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength, but if the enemy can get us sick on the inside, he will have no problem destroying our temples.
So, we learned some of the ways that the Bible teaches us to keep our spirits strong and healthy: We looked at 1 Timothy 4:6-8 and saw that just as eating healthy and exercising regularly yields life to our mortal bodies, being nourished by God’s Word and being a doer of it produces life both on the inside and on the outside.
We saw that God’s Word works like medicine in our bodies, producing life to all of our flesh (see Proverbs 4:20-23). But just like it is in the world today, it isn’t our Heavenly Father’s fault if we don’t take the medicine He has provided us with in the prescribed way He told us to, right? He has already told us what to do and now it is our responsibility to do what our good and great Physician has prescribed for us. Therefore, God’s Word works both like eating good, healthy food and also like taking potent, beneficial medicine.
But we ended last week talking about the importance of “exercising” the Word that we are partaking of. This too is extremely important. And we saw how the Book of Wisdom describes the effect it has on our physical health.
We saw how the fear of the Lord and departing from evil is mentioned as a catalyst for living healthy (see Proverbs 3:7-8 & 10:27): We have seen that the fear of the Lord is simply us respecting and reverencing Him, His people and His things which results in us departing from evil. Again, if we honor the Lord, we will not yield to the things that He says are wrong. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is essentially us honoring the things He has said and applying them to our lives. No, not when we feel like it either; this is how we live our life because of our respect for Him. So, it’s a lot like exercise. Our flesh might not want to do it, but hey, does our flesh like to exercise either? Usually not.
And finally, we saw that one of the other ways in which we “exercise” the Word that we are feeding on is by speaking it (see Proverbs 12:18)! And make no mistake about it - this is one of the primary ways that we walk in the health God has for us to walk in. So, as we learn to speak what God says, declaring out of our mouth God’s medicine, it will both promote and bring healing in our bodies! Amen!
So, we saw that God certainly wants us to live long and healthy lives. I am a firm believer that if we cooperate with both the natural laws of physically eating right and exercising as we are led by the Spirit of God and also eat right and exercise in these spiritual ways, then we will walk in the physical health that God says is ours and accomplish glorifying God in our temples in another way. This is wisdom for our bodies. Amen.
So, this week, I want us to look at wisdom in our finances: Now this topic of how we handle our money has many great examples of wisdom contained in it. So, let’s look into this subject and find out what God’s Book of Wisdom has to say about this area of our lives:
THE BLESSING OF THE LORD
Let’s begin in Proverbs 10:22: Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.”
This is an area that the church as a whole needs to have some mind-renewal on. You see, many in the church today believe that poverty is a blessing, but that is simply not true. In the Bible (which is what we are to base our beliefs on), poverty is described as a curse, not a blessing. We see this in Deuteronomy 28:15-68, where the curse of disobeying God’s commandments and not obeying His voice is vividly described.
In fact, as this verse says, God’s blessing on Abraham and His descendants always produced financial prosperity. That’s right - you can look at biblical accounts of those who walked with God and are, today, heroes of the faith, and they were multi-millionaires. Go study the lives of Abraham, David, Solomon, etc. and you will find that these guys were super wealthy but, most importantly, for the majority of their lives, they were super godly too. So, for us to think that prosperity is evil in and of itself is just simply untrue. Money is a tool, saints! It is as simple as that! It is only the misuse of it that is evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Amen!
No, it’s the decisions that one makes in whatever financial and material state they are in that yields godliness. This is what the Apostle Paul describes in Philippians 4:11 as learning contentment. But contentment does not mean that we are ok with whatever our state is in regard to not wanting to prosper. Contentment simply describes being independent of circumstances to where we have learned to walk in peace and joy in both the barren times and the prosperous times. So, no, just being poor does not make us more spiritual and having an abundance does not automatically cripple our walk with God.
But the fact is that God wants us blessed in every area of our life, which also includes our finances. But here is the great part: Not only does God’s blessing make one rich, but He also adds no sorrow with it!
The Hebrew word used for “sorrow” here describes “pain, hurt, toil, labor and hardship.” The NIV says, “without painful toil for it.” The CSB says, “and He adds no painful effort to it.” So, in essence, God’s blessing will make a man or woman rich, minus all of the hardships, toils and labor. Glory to God!
You know, there are many people on the planet that have “stuff” but also have “sorrows.” In other words, they lack peace, joy, happiness, contentment, etc. They work tirelessly for their money and do not ever enjoy the fruit of their labor. This is not wise.
In fact, in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 Solomon said, “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. 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. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.”
He said in Proverbs 23:4-5 - “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” In other words, it is unwise to spend all of our days trying to simply accumulate more wealth because the day will come when all of our natural resources will cease – some simply through this ever-changing world and the rest through death.
But this is what God’s blessing will do for us: It will cause us to see even our businesses, finances, etc. blessed! The Lord will bring the increase. No, not just that we can drive bigger cars, live in bigger homes, etc.; but so that we can have more resources to be a blessing to others and establish His covenant here on the earth (see Genesis 12:2 & Deuteronomy 8:18). Amen!
But this needs to be said here: Possessing great wealth does not make one truly prosperous. Like we said last week, true prosperity starts on the inside. It begins with having a heart that is full, that loves God and is abounding in the fruits of righteousness. That is true prosperity, church!
Let’s look at a few verses from Proverbs that reiterates this truth:
However, this blessing of the Lord is not just an automatic thing or else we would all be blessed in our finances. The fact is, many born-again, Spirit-filled Christians struggle in the financial arena. And the reason for this is they have not learned how to cooperate with both God’s spiritual laws that govern prosperity and the natural laws that work together with it.
Like we made the point of last week – there is a natural side to walking in divine health. Of course, the spiritual things are the most important, but that does not mean that nutrition and exercise don’t play a part in being physically prosperous. Likewise, there is both a spiritual side and a natural side to seeing God’s blessing on our finances.
So, let’s look at these principles that govern us receiving God’s best in our finances from the Book of Proverbs. We will do so by first looking at the spiritual side:
Now I would assume that all of us are educated on the importance of putting the Lord first in our finances, and one of the primary ways in which we do this is through giving to the Lord tithes, offerings, etc. But what I want to emphasize to you today is not what we give, but how we give it.
You see, the Bible gives us a lot of wisdom regarding the heart behind our financial giving. It stresses to us the importance of giving willingly, with the purpose and intent on being a blessing, as an act of worship, etc. Therefore, it is not just about plunking some dollars in the offering; our heart motivation is key. Let’s look at a couple of Scriptures from the Book of Proverbs that address this:
Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
Now that’s a pretty awesome promise, isn’t it? Now our “barn” might be our bank accounts and our “vats” are synonymous with our businesses. So, how many of you would like to see your bank accounts filled with plenty and your businesses overflowing with new business, ideas, etc.? I’m sure we all would!
Well, these verses teach us how to do this, and it is not through just simple giving. Verse 9 says, “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firstfruits of all your increase.” The key word in this verse is found in the word “honor.” In other words, we are to value, esteem, and respect Him, first, with our possessions. That means that when we give something to Him, we don’t do it half-heartedly. We give our highest and our best to Him. Just as the Lord had to correct the children of Israel - don’t give sacrifices that are not really sacrifices. Why? Because that is dishonorable! A verse that speaks to this is 2 Chronicles 16:9, which says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
One of my favorite examples of honorable giving is in the story of Cain and Abel: We all know the story of how God respected Abel’s offering and did not respect Cain’s offering and much debate has been made as to why. Well, I believe that Hebrews 11:4 tells us the reason why: it was because Abel gave his offering in faith. Genesis 4:4 says that Abel gave the firstborn of his flock (i.e. the first and, therefore, the best) and of their fat (i.e. their richest parts), but Genesis 4:3 said that Cain “in the process of time” gave of the fruit of the ground. The phrase “in the process of time” literally meant “at the end of days.” So, I believe the problem with Cain’s sacrifice was that it was not a sacrifice at all. He came to sacrifice to God when it was convenient for him. I believe he offered to God what he had left over and what he could spare, unlike Abel who gave the first and the best. You could put it this way: Abel gave sacrificially and honorably, while Cain gave conveniently and dishonorably. This was the big difference between Cain’s offering and Abel’s offering.
But Solomon didn’t just say to honor the Lord with our possessions; he also said to honor Him with the first-fruits of all our increase:
This giving of “first-fruits” is generally used interchangeably with the tithe, but this could not be totally true because there was a distinction made between them under the Old Covenant. You see, the tithe is just “the tenth” of all our increase wherein the first-fruits is the giving of the first harvest totally. When you tithe you are giving ten percent of every bit of increase that you get - whether that be the first, second, third or last harvest - but with your first fruits, you are giving the first lump sum of increase that you have.
Let me explain: A good example of what the Bible means by “first-fruits” would be say for instance I was unemployed and then God gave me an awesome job. Well, in our day and time, since most of us are not farmers, the salary that I receive from that job would be my increase from the Lord. So, the “first-fruit” of my increase would be my first paycheck, right? So how could I honor the Lord through the principle of first fruits? It would be by me giving my first whole paycheck to the Lord. Tithing would just be giving of ten percent of that paycheck.
You see, tithing and first-fruits are similar but they are not the same: First-fruits can almost be best described as “the annual tithe.” It is first of the year, month, season, etc. as opposed to the first 10% of every single increase.
Let me give you another couple of examples of first fruits: Say I had asked the Lord to help me eliminate any and all debt in my life, and then a brother or sister in Christ approached me and said that the Lord told them to give me $500 a month until I paid off all my debts. My “first fruit” of that would be the initial gift of $500. Say that I was believing the Lord for the money to buy a new car and someone sent me a check out of the blue for $250. What would my “first-fruit” be of what I was believing the Lord for? Of course, it would have been the first harvest of $250. Do you understand what I mean by first-fruits? It is simply defined as the first, and consequently, the best harvest!
The Bible has much to say about the giving of first-fruits. It was instituted in the law as a commandment but, just as we said about the tithe, it is not a commandment anymore. It is now a principle that we should willingly abide by in order to honor the Lord. And do not allow your heart to condemn you through this either. This is, again, not anything that we have to do now. It is simply a principle of giving that honors the Lord and releases even a greater harvest in our lives.
So why do you think that God has given us the principle of giving our first-fruits? It is because God wants us to recognize where the harvests come from. He wants us to be thankful for what He has given us and for us to show Him that our hope and trust is fully in Him. You see, this type of giving requires a lot of faith - especially when you need that initial harvest to meet your needs. But as the old saying goes - “You can’t out-give God!” He will make sure you have all the grace you need when you put that kind of faith in Him.
Now Proverbs 11:24-26 says this - “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. The people will curse him who withholds grain, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.”
Isn’t this interesting? Verse 24 indicates that there is one who scatters and see increase in their lives, but then there is another who withholds more than is right, and it leads to poverty. In other words, just because one sows does not automatically mean they will reap. Sure, some do, but this verse says that there are others who withhold more than is right. Now that doesn’t mean that they didn’t give at all; what it indicates however is that they didn’t do the right thing in their giving. So, what is right? It is to give honorably, and as verse 25 goes on to say, to be “generous.”
Generosity is the key, saints! That is why 2 Corinthians 9:6 encourages us to sow “bountifully” (i.e. with the purpose of being a blessing) as opposed to “sparingly” (i.e. stingily).
LENDING TO THE LORD
So how do we honor the Lord with our giving? One of the best ways that the Book of Proverbs says that we can give to the Lord is by giving to the poor:
Proverbs 14:31 teaches us this when it says, “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.” So, we see in this verse that one who honors the Lord will have mercy on the needy.
Some question this, saying, how is giving to the poor giving to the Lord? Well, didn’t Jesus say that whatever you have done to the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40-45)? Therefore, we don’t just give to the Lord by giving to the church or to other ministries; we also give to the Lord by giving to the needy. In fact, we are told in Proverbs 19:17 that, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” So, again, we see the way the Lord takes personally how we treat the poor.
Therefore, it is unwise to forget the poor, but rather, they should be our focus. Proverbs 22:9 says, “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.” A “generous eye” describes someone who is focused on being generous. Their whole mindset is - “how can I bless someone today that needs it?” In this proverb, Solomon says that this person will be blessed.
So many think that if they give alms like this that they are losing their money, but we need to renew our minds to this truth: If we give to those in need then God will not allow us to run out! Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses.” It is just this simple! If we give to the poor there is no way we will lack! But, on the other hand, this proverb says that if we hide our eyes (i.e. “are not focused on being a blessing to those in need”) we will have many curses. One of those negative consequences is this: Proverbs 21:13 says, “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.”
So not having this generous eye has consequences that we do not want. God is very serious about this! He has compassion on those who are in need and He uses His body to meet those needs. We need to get our focus off ourselves and onto those that have it worse than us. This will not only cause our needs to be met, but it will also create in our hearts joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Now if all there was to prospering financially was giving, then many of us in here would be millionaires by now. But the fact is - we live in this world and there are rules to prospering in this world too. So, let’s now look at some of the natural principles of wisdom that will help us in our finances.
DILIGENCE VERSUS LAZINESS
Now this first one might be too simple for some of you, but I guarantee you that it is extremely important in the whole grand scheme of things. The reason I believe this is mainly due to the fact that there is so much in the Book of Wisdom about the importance of hard work. In studying Proverbs, you will find many Scriptures that talk about the fruit of laziness.
In fact, you will find one word that Solomon uses as the antonym for laziness: it is diligence. Let’s look at a few of these Scriptures that differentiate between being diligent and being lazy:
So, evidently “diligence” is a vital key to seeing success in the financial arena. So, what is it? A dear friend of mine once had the Lord give him His definition of “diligence.” The Holy Spirit said, “Diligence is an energetic drive to achieve by action what you believe.” Did you hear that? It all spawns from faith. What do we really believe in? And, therefore, what are energetically pursuing as a result of what we believe. Say, if I truly believe that exercise is important, I will, in fact, exercise. In other words, it will produce action, diligent corresponding actions. Amen?
And this works in all aspects of life. I once had the Lord show me why some experience God’s blessings more than others:
It was very early in my Christian walk and I was noticing how I was experiencing much more of God’s promises in my life than others that had been in this walk longer than I. So, this propelled me to ask Him why. I had learned that God was no respecter of persons, so what He would do for one, He would do for another. But as I made that point to Him, He said to me, “I am not a respecter of persons, but I am a respecter of faith and diligence.”
It took me years to realize why He had used those two specific virtues, but I saw that they described Hebrews 11:6 to a “T” which says, “But without faith it is impossible to please God for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
You see, God is seeking a people who believe Him and will seek Him diligently with their whole heart. This kind of heart is what positions one into the place of reward after reward.
So, my point is that it works that way spiritually, but it works this way in other things as well – for when we truly believe in something, our heart is inclined towards it, and we are diligent in our pursuance of it, we will be blessed in it.
I have noticed how the people whose hearts are inclined towards finances like this are generally the ones who do well financially. It is because they truly respect it, and there is a spiritual law that we will attract what we respect. But the opposite is true as well: what we disrespect, devalue and are not diligent concerning, we will repel.
It works this way in our vocation as well: If we are not diligent in doing our work as unto the Lord, our laziness can stunt the favor, promotions, etc. that God has promised us. How do I know this, you ask? Because I used to do it! For years in the secular world, I just showed up, did an adequate job and stayed exactly in the position that I was at. Then, through a chain of circumstances, I was put into the position where I needed to start “busting my tail” to prove that I was a worthy hire for a local bank here in Macon. Well, guess what this did? It created promotion in my life! I was promoted twice in 6 months without ever having to apply for the positions I was promoted to.
Then the Lord showed me that when he told Israel that He would “bless the work of their hands” (see Deuteronomy 15:10 & 28:12) that this implied that their hands were actually being set to something and they were working heartily as unto the Lord. Amen! You see, if our hands are not being set to something and we are not working with the utmost integrity, God has nothing to bless. So, if our hands are not working, He has nothing to increase. A hundred times nothing is nothing! But a hundred times something is a lot. Just like it was with the miracle of the feeding of the thousands: Jesus had to break the bread with His hands before it multiplied. His Father blessed the work of His hands. Amen!
Here are some more proverbs on the subject of laziness with other translations:
MORE WISDOM FOR FINANCES
Now here is another practical area of prospering in our finances that likewise revolves around diligence: Proverbs 27:23-27 says, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds; For riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations. When the hay is removed, and the tender grass shows itself, and the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field; You shall have enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household, and the nourishment of your maidservants.”
So, according to this proverb, we should be diligent to know what is going on in our finances - that is, knowing the state of our affairs. This is the first step in regards to learning to “handle” our finances; it is really “getting a handle” on our finances. And the only way to really do that is to write everything down. Therefore, when it comes to getting a handle on your finances, the key is in, first, writing down what you have coming in versus what you have going out and then disciplining yourself to make the adjustments you can clearly see you need to make to turn things around. Amen?
And one really important way of getting a handle on our finances is to, first, before we do anything else, start saving in order to have a reserve for those rainy days when unexpected expenses come up. Having a savings account is crucial for one to get out of the financial mess they are in because:
No, the Bible actually backs saving: Proverbs 21:20 says, "There is desirable treasure. And oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man squanders it." The NIV says, “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” The CEV says, “Be sensible and store up precious treasures--don't waste them like a fool.” So, wisdom is saying to us here that it is foolish to use up all of our income. Rather, we need to learn to set aside some of it if at all possible in order to save for a rainy day. Why? Because as Proverbs 22:3 says- "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself: but the simple pass on and are punished." For example, a wise person recognizes that they are going to have some major, unexpected expenses coming up, so they prepare ahead of time, saving the dollars for those “budget busters.” This is them “hiding” themselves from the “evil” day.
Of course, some will hear this and say, “But I simply just don’t have any extra to save! I am living paycheck to paycheck!” This is when we need to evaluate our lifestyle and determine one of two things: How can we increase our income or how can we decrease our expenses. For example, we can increase our income by maybe humbling ourselves and start mowing lawns on Saturday. Pray about that and see if the Lord has another avenue of income for you. However, avoid the “get rich quick” scheme. Proverbs 20:21 says, “An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.” God is not in to get rich quick schemes. Beware of promises that involve this. The flesh loves these things because they don’t take time and they don’t involve diligence. God will rarely lead us this way. We can also get rid of some expenses that simply aren’t necessary like maybe your cable bill, that fancy cell phone, the extra vehicle, etc. This would be us decreasing the expenses in our life.
The point is that we learn to live on the margin: Proverbs 21:17 says, “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” The Good News Translation says, “Indulging in luxuries, wine, and rich food will never make you wealthy.” In other words, living a luxurious lifestyle does not tend towards prosperity.
Here is the lesson here: live within your means. Don’t overspend; rather use your money wisely. Learn contentment. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’. You are where you are. As I said, stay far away from just trying to break even.
Here is another good word of wisdom regarding finances: Stay away from debt at all costs!
You see, borrowing for a house or car is one thing but taking on financial obligations one can't keep - buying beyond the ability to pay - is another. The minute a person goes into debt, he loses a portion of his freedom. As Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."
Far too many people think you can buy now and pay later. That isn't true. I have found that easy credit now makes people uneasy later. Proverbs 22:26-27 says, “Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, One of those who is surety for debts; If you have nothing with which to pay, Why should he take away your bed from under you?” It is proven that a person pays more for the use of borrowed money than he or she gets in interest for saving it. Therefore, debt is a foolish thing to get into.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE LORD IN ALL OUR FINANCES
So finally, a good word of wisdom regarding our finances is this: just ask! Ask the Lord what you are to do with the rest of your money that you have not purposed to give. You see, the truth is - everything we possess is God’s and we are simply just stewards over His things. Therefore, the answer to every question we have regarding our finances is simply “be led.” In other words, the answer to every question that arises like “what should I do with this?” or “what do I do here?” is - be led by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
But I would venture to say that very few of us that even tithe and give offerings, actually ask the Lord what we should do with the rest of our income. And the God’s honest truth is - the reason why we do not ask Him things like “Lord, should I buy this TV?” or “Father, do I switch to this company for my telephone service?” is because we still view it as our money to do with it what we please. But even if we viewed it as ours, wisdom would still ask the One who knows all things what we should do with it, right?
You see, most Christians lean to their own understanding and intellect on every decision they make. This is why we get that important nugget of wisdom from one of the wealthiest men who ever lived on this planet taught us- King Solomon: He said in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Notice the first phrase in these verses - “Trust in the Lord.” Proverbs 11:28 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage.” So, we don’t want to trust in our riches, nor do we want to trust in our own understanding of what we do with our finances. What do we want to do? We want to trust in the Lord. And how do we do this? By acknowledging Him in all our ways! You see, one of the ways in which we trust in the Lord with all of our heart is by learning to acknowledge the Lord’s wisdom in every decision we make in our finances.
But this is not our tendency: We tend to not do what Solomon says in the second half of Proverbs 3:5- “and lean not to your own understanding.” The word “lean” denotes putting all your weight on something or relying on something else for support. You see, God gave us a brain to use but here, He is simply telling us not to put our total confidence in our own understanding. We are to use our head but we are to put our ultimate trust in His understanding and not our own.
When he says, “In all your ways” this denotes not in just what we consider the important “ways” but in all our ways. Regarding financial stewardship, this would be including the Lord in every financial decision we make.
By using the terminology “Acknowledge Him” we can see that the Holy Spirit desires to be acknowledged in every decision we make and every direction we take. The word “acknowledge” here was used in Genesis when Adam “knew” his wife Eve. So, this word describes a closeness and an intimacy. This is what the Spirit of God desires to have with us.
And, last but not least, we have the promise of when we trust in Him and acknowledge Him in all of our ways. It says, “And He shall direct your paths”- not He might direct your paths, but He shall direct our paths when we trust Him and acknowledge Him. The word “direct” means “to make smooth or straight.” You see, if we were led by the Spirit of God 100% of the time we would never get food poisoning, we would never make a bad investment, we would never get ripped off, etc. When we learn how to develop that close relationship with the Holy Spirit and are aware of Him in all of our ways, He will make our paths smooth and straight as opposed to hard and difficult.
So, my point is that all of these other practical guidelines I have given you throughout this series on wisdom are not something to legalistically observe. They are just general guidelines. What is important is that you inquire of the Lord with how you need to do it personally. And this both requires and promotes personal relationship with God and communion with the Holy Spirit - which is our primary purpose and calling. Amen!