Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Luke 12:13-21; 1 Timothy 5:1-7; Proverbs 4:1-9; Nehemiah 9
Jesus is asked a question which could easily embroil him in a messy family dispute. The man in the crowd is not simply looking for advice, but wants Jesus to argument his case. Jesus has the wisdom to avoid getting involved, but also discerns and addresses the underlying problem. He warns those listening to be alert to greed, particularly the desire for more and more material possessions. In the parable, the rich man uses ‘I’ or ‘my’ ten times in three verses. Greed breeds selfishness, leading to foolishness. The rich man becomes focused on this world, forgetting its temporal nature. How often do our concerns for money and gadgets draw us away from God and his concerns?
If we marvel at Jesus’ insight, we should be motivated to seek such wisdom ourselves. Proverbs 4 calls on us to get wisdom and understanding. The verb translated ‘get’ refers primarily to purchasing – using one thing to buy another. Bruce Waltke translates the second half of verse 7: ‘In exchange for all your acquisitions, get insight.’ Instead of storing grain that will eventually rot, or using our possessions for ourselves, we should use what we have to gain wisdom. Instead of being rich in this world, we should seek to be rich towards God (Luke 12:21). Yet as we gain wisdom, we are provided a splendid crown to grace our heads.
Proverbs 4 echoes much of what has been said earlier. Here, the father uses his own experience to exhort his son to pursue wisdom. He is passing on the same wise counsel given to him by his father. We worry about our sons and daughters as they head off into the world with all its opportunities and dangers. Yet how much time do we spend encouraging them to pursue wisdom and develop understanding? Ultimately, that is what will lead to their protection and success.
In verse 7, the author breaks the cycle of imperatives. He may have anticipated the listener asking, ‘Where do I start?’ His answer is funny in its bluntness and simplicity. Derek Kidner’s commentary paraphrases this verse this way: ‘What it takes is not brains or opportunity, but a decision. Do you want it? Come and get it.’
We can come up with all sorts of reasons why it is difficult to develop wisdom, or hard to know how to make good decisions. Proverbs 4:7 cuts through all the excuses and tells us to ‘Just do it!’ Read the words of God handed down to us. Find someone who can teach you. Most importantly, get to know God who provides wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:6).