There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up. Proverbs 21:20
The wise man takes what God has given him and uses it wisely. He spends some and uses it for himself, his family, and his friends. He also saves some and puts it away for future use as well as for lean times. Today let's take a look at the acts of the wise man who saves for his future and the foolish man who simply swallows everything God grants to him.
We are told that precious treasure and oil are in the house of the wise man. Whether he received these things from the practices of industry and frugality - or whether he received them as an inheritance from godly, thoughtful parents - the wise man knows how to save. Precious treasure is an interesting word as it has two connotations. The first is from how the word is used to refer to things like gold, silver, and other commodities. He saves money, food, and other valuable things so that he will have access to them in the future. Why does he do this? Because a wise man knows that since the world in which we live is fallen and affected by sin - there will be times of shortage and leanness. Throughout all human history there have been both abundance and famine in our world. Joseph knew such things from God Himself when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh. He did not waste time in the purcuit of gluttony and over-indulgence. Joseph was a wise man and saved and stored much so that when the famine came he would be ready. His foresight and obedience to God saved all of Egypt, saved his own family, and made Egypt rich beyond their imaginations.
There is a second way this word "treasure" is used. The word can also mean "temple treasures." These spoke of treasures that were given so as to build up and maintain the worship of God in the temple. In the dwelling of the wise there is provision stored up not only for physical welfare - but for the spiritual welfare of the home as well. There is little more foolish among mankind than to think this world is all that there is. They live ignorant of God and ignorant of their responsiblity to Him. The wise man stores up for both the physical and the spiritual. There is in his house a physical inheritance - but also a spiritual one as well. He lives godly and rears his children to love and honor God. He makes sure that the Word dwells richly within their hearts - desiring for them to walk with God and know Him intimately.
Not only is there treasure within this house of the wise, there is also oil. When speaking of oil - this could speak of the olive oil that was used in almost every aspect of a Jewish family. They needed this for food preparation - for spiritual worship for annointing oil - and for medical reasons like softening wounds and helping them heal. There was also the idea of savings - because some oils were very expensive. Mary offered a container of very expensive oil as she annointed Jesus with it in preparation for His crucifixion and burial. This alabaster vial was worth a whole year's wages. When one of the prpohetic students of Elisha died, his widow was in debt and in danger of haring her chidlren sold into debt slavery. Elisha answered this by having her collect numerous vials which later were supernaturally filled with oil. This she sold, paid her debt, and even had plenty to kep her and her children alive and well. This kind of oil would signify that a family was preparint for their future - for the needs of their children and grandchildren. On a spiritual note - oil was a picture of the Holy Spirit - so one could even consider this the way that a family cherished the work of the Spirit in their lives and encouraged it in themselves and in their children.
The foolish ones don't save any of these things - either physical or spiritual. Theirs is a consumer mentality. They swallow up whatever they receive with no thought of the future. They live by their lusts and desires - and therefore do not even consider anyone except themselves. The end of such a life is that they are broke, both physically and spiritually. The saddest example of this is the prodigal son. He took a large inheritance and wasted it on the party life. In the end he was broke. His so-called friends abandoned him and left him to fend for himself. This was only after he abandoned any kind of spiritual preparation for the future by rejecting his father and his father's God. He was left with nothing - except the grace his faher would give him in the end.
If we are wise we will realize we live in a fallen world. This will necessitate preparation for our future - both physically and spiritually. We will face famines physically that will require that lay up wise stores for that day in order for us and for our families to survive. But there is also a need to prepare spiritually - for there will also be a day when we will face being ready for the judgment of God. Oh to be wise and understanding so that our preparations will have our homes and lives filled with treasures both temporal and eternal so that we will be well provided for when the day comes that we need them. May God, in His grace, work in and deliver us from a life lived for self and for the moment. May we be ready for anything - famine in life - and fatal spiritual thinking in eternity.
Four things are small on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise: the ants are not a strong people, But they prepare their food in the summer; Proverbs 30:24-25
Here is a section in Proverbs that urges us to look at the glory of God in nature - as well as the lessons that He wants to teach us from what He has made in the animal kingdom. God has the writer call our attention to four animals that are small, yet exceedingly wise. Therefore our job is to look at these animals and glean what we can from their habits and their actions. This is also a kind of shot at the "bigger is always better" mentality that exists in our world. The saying should be "wiser is better." Since that is true in almost every situation, why don't we apply ourselves to learning from the ants, shapharim, locusts, and lizard for a few days.
We are first called to look at ants. This is kind of funny, because among the boys that I hung out with as a child, we all looked at ants. We were amazed at them as they worked hard - and as they marched on in their single line to and from a food source until they had gathered every last bit of it and taken it to their home. This is what we are called to see from the ant their wisdom in preparing food when it is a season to do so - and preparing it for a time when there will be no sowing and reaping because winter has come and the growing cycle is dormant.
We are reminded of a previous proverb in chatper 6:6-8 telling us to go to the ant and learn from her ways so that we will not be sluggards - so that we will not be lazy and undisciplined in providing for our families. The wisdom of the ant is that he prepares when he can for a time when he will need what he has prepared. This makes the ant exceedingly wise.
In this life we need to be wise in preparing for the future as best we can. That meant for me getting life insurance to put my wife's heart at ease in the event I die before her. That meant learning to manage our finances, paying off debt, and then seeking to stay out of debt. It meant living within our means - and when possible and within the will of God - working hard at additional things to provide additional funds for things like our children's education and paying off our home early. Please understand that the example of the ant is that he works HARD when he can to provide. That is the other exceedingly wise thing we should learn - that it is godly to work HARD to provide for your family. This also should remind us of this responsiblity in spiritual things as well. Are we "working hard" spiritually for our families - growing in the Lord, studying the Scriptures, praying, being a godly example? Your children need to see this EARLY in our lives - because there will come a day when they will decide which direction they are going in life. Know this, they will far more follow our example that they will what we've told them to do - especially when these two things did not match up in our lives.
I want to relate a passage I read from J. Vernon McGee on the ant. He wrote about the emperor Hadrian, who was a wicked ruler in the Roman empire. It was related that he said the following when he was dying,
"No more crown for this head, no more beauty for these eyes, no more music for these ears, and no morefood for this stomach of mine. But my soul, oh, my soul, what is to become of you?"
The reason I share this is because wisdom prepares now for something that you cannot prepare for in the future after it has come. The Word of God lets us know in Hebrews 9:27
that after we die physically there will be a judgment. Jesus informs us in the gospels that we will be judged for every idle word that we speak. Romans informs us that if we want to live by the Law, we will be judged by it - and that no one is ever made righteous by the Law. Instead they are made painfully aware of their heart of rebellion and their sin. So the question for us is also this. Have we made preparation for the future by drawing near to God and running to His remedy for our souls in the gospel of Jesus Christ? There is no other way for men to be made right with God. There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. There is no other way, truth, of life - except Jesus Christ - and He is the only way to come to the Father except through Him. To delay in this is foolishness of the ultimate kind. Be exceedingly wise like the ant - and while it is a time to work - work hard. While it is a time to grow spiritually - apply yourself wholly to this task. Finally, while it is the day of salvation - repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prepare plans by consultation, And make war by wise guidance. Proverbs 20:18
Some think that living a godly life means relying on the Holy Spirit to the point where you make no plans at all - you are simply led by the Spirit to do whatever is next on the Spirit's agenda. But, as with all extreme positions, this runs contrary to the whole counself of Scripture and what God has to say about planning. Here we have a verse in Proverbs that promotes planning - but not from a fleshly standpoint - but rather from one that urges us to be wise and to consult with others as we make plans.
Planning can be a blessing or a curse. What is key in determining which you are going to experience is your attitude and desire in what you plan. The word "prepare" means to establish, set up something, to be firm, or to prepare. It has the idea of being steadfast in a direction or being founded. The idea here is that our lives are not to be flighty, but truly focused and set in a clear direction based upon Scripture. The word "plans" gives us even a more clear direction and understanding of the idea of planning here. The Hebrew word here is "mahashabah" which means a purpose, a thought or an intention. This gives us an interesting line of thought - which is this . . . God wants us to think. He wants us to think about our lives - to consider things - to take the time to reason biblically about the purpose for which we are doing things and the intent behind them. When you consider planning from this perspective it takes on a whole new mindset. Godly planning would involve prayer - consulting with God and with the Scriptures about the plans that are being made.
The last word that is used in the first part of this passage is "consultation." This is the Hebrew word "esah" which means to get advice, discernment from others, or to seek out the judgments of others. This means seeking out advice, counsel, and not just relying on how you think about a matter when making plans. Finding wise men and women who can help you grasp not only Scripture, but also good biblical sense is so important when making plans. But too often the one thing we forget when reading a passage like this is that we ned to consult with God in prayer. Without this important step, we will most likely make unwise plans.
The second half of this passage is interesting in that it tells us that we should "make war by wise guidance." When I read this I see two things that immediately impress themsevles on my mind. First is a physical reality - war in the physical realm. Adam Clarke made a marvelous comment on this when he said, "Most of the wars that are undertaken are wars of injustice, ambition, aggrandizement, and caprice, which can have had no previous good counsel." James 4
counsels us that the reason for the wars and conflicts among us are too often nothing more than a desire to get when we cannot get what we want through godly means. This is why a war should never be entered into without wise counsel.
The second meaning I see here has to do with spiritual warfare - its reality and its engagement. When we engage in doing God's will - even to the point of planning and setting a purpose in doing what God wants - we need to understand that we are going to face spiritual warfare. The evil one is not going to sit still when believers are planning an attack against his kingdom and his territory. That is why we need to make war - spiritual war - with wise guidance. Our enemy, the devil, is a wiley foe. He will oppose us openly as we preach the gospel, seek the salvation of the lost, and labor to see disciples of Jesus Christ raised up and eventually sent out to do additional damage to his interests. That is why we need wise consultation with God. We need to know we are doing His will, acting according to His Word, and are laboring and fighting by His Spirit. When we do this we are sure to prevail and to bring glory to God.
Planning is not an ungodly thing. Instead it is an opportunity to draw near to God - draw near to other wise saints who know Him - and to set our hearts and purposes according to His heart and purpose. Rather than be a trip into selfishness and self-driven goals and 5 year plans - it is to be a time to engage with God Himself and with His most precious people who seek His face. This can be even a time of reviving and realigning ourselves with Him - His purposes and plans - and even His power as we come into agreement with what He wants done and how He wants to accomplish it.
Prepare your work outside And make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house. Proverbs 24:27
This proverb addresses the need to make provision for oneself and one's family - before we begin to seek for personal comfort. This is spoken of from the view of an agricultural society - but the principles will work everywhere. This principle is often lost on our society which is tempted daily by commercials which tell us what we just absolutely have to get . . . immediately. Therefore this particular proverb may be a good one to not only read and consider - but also to apply to the problems that seem to be multiplying in our nation.
We are told here to begin life by working hard - by seeking a proper support for ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. Please read and focus on "proper support" here - rather than the worldly standards that are set before us. Proper support means that we can provide food and clothing for ourselves and our family - as we look to the Lord to bless our efforts and our obedience. In the day in which this was written, this meant getting outside and preparing your fields or your flocks. It meant plowing the ground, obtaining seed, and then planting the seed and working the fields. This involved a lot of hard work - but we should realize that work was not part of the curse - weeds were. But regardless of whether there are weeds or not - God wants us to work - and work hard at what we do.
The instruction here is to FIRST prepare in the field - then you can build your house. For some this means building a business. For others it may mean working hard at a job and doing what is necessary to develop either their education or other marketable skills. But for all of us it means delaying gratification until we know that we can provide for ourselves and a family (if we have one - or - want one). Here is wisdom - delaying gratification - delaying all the perks you want in life - and even delaying marriage until you can provide for a wife.
Our society says, "You deserve it NOW!" But the facts are that we don't "deserve" anything for which we do not work. Never in Scripture is a "living" promised to us if we do not work hard. There is no instruction to governments to provide housing, provide transportation, provide health care, or provide food for those who are not working for it. There is no "poverty index" in Scripture that it is sinful for us to let others fall below. In fact - the facts of the Bible say that we should NOT feed those who can work - but will not do so. There should be little or nothing provided for the able-bodied who do not want to work hard. What has happened in the United States is that we've so "over-promised" a certain level of prosperity to everyone (politically - and unfortunately even religiously at times with the health, wealth, prosperity movement) that they have come to expect it. The think they are entitled to it - whether they work for it or not. The result has been a very poor work ethic - and a total lack of understanding of how business and how life works.
The proverb here says, 'AFTERWARD' you can build your house. The idea here is that a house is a luxury. One of the things that speaks volumes to me is watching a movie or show that reminds me how hard it was for the early settlers in the United States. They worked very hard to prepare the land - cutting down trees and pulling stumps. They worked very hard tilling the land and removing stones from it. They plowed, planted, and worked the land with tremendous effort and diligence. Then they would work even harder to build a house - after the land was planted. Until this was done, they lived in tents and in the wagon in which they came to the area. The reminder to me is that hard work is a fact of life.
We do ourselves and our children a great disservice to teach them a life of luxury. We are hurting them by not giving them work to do - and at times "hard" work to accomplish. We are undercutting the foundation of our society by not inclucating a work ethic into them. We are not preparing them for reality - and we are making them easy pickings for the political hacks who get their power by promising freebies. What this had led to is a society that is rotting from within because of a lack of work ethic - and an abundance of expectations that are demanded from the rest of society. God's way is to work hard at your outside work. God's way is to learn a work ethic that labors at what is good and what will provide for yourself and your family. Then when you have established such important, foundational things - then build your house - enjoy a little luxury . . . or maybe it would be better stated that you are then able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer And
gathers her provision in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8
Ants are good teachers for us when it comes to avoiding laziness and a lack of discipline in our lives. The father here uses ants to teach his son a lesson about avoiding the sin of laziness.
Having told his son to go to the ant and observe her ways - he says that wisdom is with these little creatures. Their great wisdom is how they work hard without having to be supervised. They have no chief, officer, or ruler watching over all that they do - making them work. The ant knows that there is a time when gathering won't be possible - so he works hard when he can. He also knows to store things up - to prepare for the times when there will be no food.
The lessons for us are numerous. First, we need to have a self-driven work ethic. This is an ability to work hard - even when no one is looking. It means that when we know what to do - we do it. We don't need someone looking over our shoulders - or standing over us making sure that we work hard. We are motivated from within to do that. When I talk to the businessmen in my congregation my heart aches for them. They say that it is so difficult to find people who want to work. They tell me that most of the people they interview have great expectations for what they will be paid and how they will be treated - but almost no work ethic to do what they should do. What is even more sad to me is that they tell me that this is the case whether they are non-christians or christians. That is an indictment that we should not have laid at the feet of the church. We should have a work ethic driven by a desire to honor God.
The second lesson is also important for us to grasp. We need to be wise in how we deal with our money - setting aside funds for times when things are lean. History warns us that these time will come. Over and over again there have been lean times for humanity. The wise who store up for those times are ready, while those who simply spend all that they get - are unprepared for such times. I am not saying that we should be like the foolish farmer who stored up an abundance - and was not rich toward God. But I am saying that just like there are those examples, there are also others where God wanted His people to be wise in setting aside things for a lean time. Joseph was such an example - and his wisdom in setting aside the blessings of God - kept an entire region of the world from starvation and devastation.
A wise man knows the value of hard work - and of frugality. Both are character traits that God encourages us to embrace. Even though such things are mocked by the world around us, we should continue to speak in praise of them - and more importantly practice them to our future preparation and blessing.