How To Reset My Financial Priorities
How to Reset My Financial Priorities – Proverbs 6:1-11 (Reset Part 4 – Financial Reset)
A recent CNBC report revealed why lottery winners go broke1. It explains:
“After winning the biggest undivided jackpot lottery in U.S. history, Mavis L. Wanczyk of Chicopee, Massachusetts, ignored much of the advice that financial experts typically give to lottery winners. She quit her job, spoke with the press and took her winnings as a lump sum. While she may be able to afford to break the rules, most winners can’t.
Lottery winners are more likely to declare bankruptcy within three to five years than the average American. What’s more, studies have shown that winning the lottery does not necessarily make you happier or healthier.”
What works? Making sure you have a set of financial priorities. Because how you handle your money says much about the way you relate to God. The problem is that we are not called to live this way as Christians. We are also not expected to live by winning on the Powerball Lottery. Instead, as Christians, we are called to live in a way where we can have the financial freedom to give, to be generous, to live the way that God intends for us.
We have spent the last few Sundays in a series entitled “Reset.” We have looked at a variety of items that we can look at to restart in our lives. First, we have looked at learning to deal with stress as we make a personal reset. Second, we have seen how we can love other people by exerting personal discipline in a relational reset. Third, we have seen how we can grow spiritually as we make a spiritual reset. Today, we look at how to make a financial reset.
Many of us here today need to make a commitment to a financial reset. I know it is hard. But how do you start? I believe that the Bible shows two very simple priorities that one should concentrate on to get that financial freedom that one needs. Within these two broad priorities are principles or actions one can take to make progress with your finances.
1. Priority #1: Empower Myself (Proverbs 6:1-5)
The chapter starts with a caution against loans. In this case, it warns against giving a loan to other people. The idea is that one should not be obligated to someone else’s responsibility. The reason I entitled this priority of “empowering myself” is because I could spend so much time helping others financially, that I don’t help myself. This proverb warns us of the danger of giving a “hand-out.”
THE DANGER OF THE PLEDGING MY HAND AND EMPOWERING OTHERS
1. The hand of the pledge (Proverbs 6:1)
“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor or entered into an agreement with a stranger,” (Proverbs 6:1, CSB)
I make an oath to pledge my money whether it is a neighbor or stranger. The idea is with people whom I don’t know. The Proverbs never forbid loaning out to the family. Although, for some families, it may cause difficulties.
2. The hand of the neighbor (Proverbs 6:3)
“Do this, then, my son, and free yourself, for you have put yourself in your neighbor’s power: Go, humble yourself, and plead with your neighbor.” (Proverbs 6:3, CSB)
The point of this verse is that when I shake hands with my neighbor in a pledge, I am giving my power away to that person in which I pledge. Your word is really your bond. If are willing and able to loan out to others, that is great. But beware that you have told the other person that you are obligated to them. It should mean that they are equally obligated to you. Many times, however, people don’t honor their commitments.
3. The hand of the hunter (Proverbs 6:5)
“Escape like a gazelle from a hunter, like a bird from a hunter’s trap.” (Proverbs 6:5, CSB)
When you enter into this kind of financial transaction, you have literally given the other person the upper hand. You have said that you are the deer and they are the hunter. You know that deer and birds don’t carry weapons to protect themselves. The hunter is in the pursuit to get what he wants. You are financially defenseless against the other person.
There is a reason they call some loans predatory.
Striking the hand (shaking hands in a pledge or commitment) means that I have empowered the other person over me.
“If someone puts up security for a stranger, he will suffer for it, but the one who hates such agreements is protected.” (Proverbs 11:15, CSB)
“One without sense enters an agreement and puts up security for his friend.” (Proverbs 17:18, CSB)
“Don’t be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans.” (Proverbs 22:26, CSB)
If I am going to help someone, it should not be as a hand-out. Instead, it should be to give hand-up. It’s like the old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man a fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” A related phrase would be this: “Give a man a fish and you risk starving your family. Teach a man to fish, and you provide for both his family as well as your own.”
The idea again is that I risk losing money that God could want me to use to help people who need help by obligating myself.
A related problem is obligating myself with money I don’t have. That’s not loaning to someone else. Instead, I loan to myself from a credit card company. Credit card debt does not empower me. Instead, it takes financial power away from me. It gives me instant gratification with the cost of long-term responsibility. That is why it is related to the man giving a loan to someone else. It is actually worse because unlike the person in Proverbs 6, I don’t have the ability to loan money out to others. I have to pay back loans to other people before I have the freedom to help others.
Strictly speaking, the admonition is not to avoid such entanglements, although that is implied, to get out of them as soon as possible.2
It is not whether I am going to get into debt. There are times when I will get into debt. The point is to get free from debt, whether it is a friend or a creditor. Financial freedom starts with getting out of debt.
2. Priority #2: Work Hard (Proverbs 6:6-11)
The first priority is to empower yourself by not loaning your money out or by getting yourself financially entangled. The second priority is related to the first: work hard. These series of proverbs show us efficient work tips observed from hard workers. The image changes from animals that are trapped to animals that work. Here, we see the work of the ant.
It is interesting that Proverbs 6 begins with a son and then shifts to a slacker or the sluggard.
“Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise.” (Proverbs 6:6, CSB)
Why the change? Did Solomon just call his son a slacker, a lazy person? I don’t think so. John Olgive, former Chaplain of the United States Senate writes:
This sarcastic bit of artistry is one of the choice pieces of biblical poetry. Dramatically it addresses the pupil not as who he is but as who he may become—a “sluggard.”3
So I think that Solomon is giving some proper financial advice and he is warning the son not to become a slacker. Solomon himself was a hard worker. He was a very effective administer, even though he was financially rich. So Solomon knows that to get your financial priorities, you have to learn to work hard. I have seen this in my own life. The hardest working man I have ever seen is my own father. Hard work is necessary in order to build your financial stability. Here, we see five effective work habits.
FIVE EFFECTIVE WORK HABITS4
1. Learn from others (Proverbs 6:6)
“Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise.” (Proverbs 6:6, CSB)
The writer of this proverb tells the lazy person to go to the ant and observe its ways. He says that watching the ant will make the lazy man wise. Why? Because we can learn from other people.
What does the ant teach us about work?
2. Be a self-starter (Proverbs 6:7)
“Without leader, administrator, or ruler,” (Proverbs 6:7, CSB)
The ant doesn’t need a boss to tell it what to do. It starts working all by itself. This shows that if we are going to succeed at work, we need to be self-starters. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you something that you know needs to be done. Get it done early. This leads to the next tip:
3. Get things done as early as you can (Proverbs 6:8)
“it prepares its provisions in summer; it gathers its food during harvest.” (Proverbs 6:8, CSB)
The ant prepares its provisions in the summer for what it needs the rest of the year. The ant knows that fall and winter are coming. Summer is the best time to get things done. He doesn’t wait until the fall winds blow to prepare. The ant prepares early. He also doesn’t wait when the food is ripe. The ant picks it at the harvest time when it is ready. He knows that if he wants too long, the food will spoil.
So, one learns to get the work done as early as you can.
4. Manage your time (Proverbs 6:9)
“How long will you stay in bed, you slacker? When will you get up from your sleep?” (Proverbs 6:9, CSB)
The writer scolds the slacker for sleeping too long in bed. Because he is wasting precious time. There are only 24 hours in a day and not all of it should be used to sleep. The reason is that whatever time you are sleeping is the time you could be working.
An Australian air traffic controller left some airline passengers up in the air. The controller overslept and arrived late to work. As a result, the control tower at Canberra International Airport opened 20 minutes late, which forced an arriving Qantas Boeing 737 from Perth to circle over the city for 20 minutes because the only person on duty at the tower was not senior enough to issue a clearance for the plane to land. Ben Mitchell, spokesman for Air Services Australia, acknowledged the error. He said, “The guy slept in.” Mitchell said the passengers were never in any danger and the plane was able to land only 12 minutes after its scheduled arrival time. Authorities have changed the roster to ensure that two senior controllers are present when the tower opens to eliminate the problem—assuming both wake up on time.
Our laziness and lack of responsibility may not leave people literally up in the air, but nevertheless, they have real consequences.5
This doesn’t discount the need for sleep. We all need to sleep. But we also need to work. This takes time management. One needs to manage when, where, and how long one will work.
5. Time is money (Proverbs 6:10-11)
“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest, and your poverty will come like a robber, your need, like a bandit.” (Proverbs 6:10–11, CSB)
Time is money. We see this in two different ways in this proverb:
1. Don’t love sleep (Proverbs 6:10, Proverbs 20:13)
“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest,” (Proverbs 6:10, CSB)
“Don’t love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you’ll have enough to eat.” (Proverbs 20:13, CSB)
One needs to sleep. But one should not love to sleep, at the expense of one’s time.
2. Wasted time steals potential money (Proverbs 6:11, Ecclesiastes 4:5)
“and your poverty will come like a robber, your need, like a bandit.” (Proverbs 6:11, CSB)
“The fool folds his arms and consumes his own flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 4:5, CSB)
The idea here is that there are a bunch of time wasters. Today, these time wasters can include watching too much television, spending too much time on social media, or as in this case, sleeping too long and napping too often. These time wasters will rob a person of potential earnings and income.
We live in a world with an enormous amount of leisure time. Because we have so much, we risk losing so much by wasting time.
Hard work ought to be the normal routine of us who serve a carpenter-Christ, who follow the lead of a tentmaker-apostle, and who call ourselves children of a Father who is still working.6
The message is simple: Take responsibility for what is yours, and do not take responsibility for what is not. The warning against pledges tells us to avoid bad commitments or to get out of them as soon as possible, while the picture of the sluggard tells us to keep commitments that are good. The knack for learning how to decide which is which is the mark of godly wisdom, for the problem facing many if not most Christians today is not idleness but overcommitment.7
1 Abigail Hess, “Why Lottery Winners Go Broke,” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/25/heres-why-lottery-winners-go-broke.html, 25 August 2017, accessed 26 August 2017.
2 Paul E. Koptak, Proverbs, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 186.
3 David A. Hubbard and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Proverbs, vol. 15, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 100.
4 Jim Erwin, “5 Effective Work Habits,” Proverbs 6:6-11, 8 February 2017, Lectionary Reflections Year A (2016-2017), Logos Bible Software Notes, Internet, Patheos, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2017/02/08/5-effective-work-habits/, accessed on 24 August 2017.
5 Jim L. Wilson and Jim Sandell, “Air Traffic Controller Oversleeps and Causes Delays,” in 300 Illustrations for Preachers, ed. Elliot Ritzema (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015).
6 David A. Hubbard and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Proverbs, vol. 15, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 101.