We live in a time where we often see scandals surrounding money. From corporate stock scandals to local news stories of embezzlement, we are often reminded that an improper view of money can lead people to do awful and immoral things.
God’s word is not silent concerning any aspect of money. While the Bible may not tell you what percentage of your income to use toward housing, or what mutual fund to invest in, or how to write a proposal for a raise, the principles found in Scripture cover every arena of the financial world. God tells us how to build a work ethic, how to be givers, the wisdom of saving, and so on.
Instruction in Proverbs
The book of Proverbs is filled with such teachings. Since Solomon–the wealthiest man who ever lived–wrote or compiled the contents of this book, it is worth our time to look to this book if we want to know how to handle our money. The principles found therein are timeless.
One of those is Proverbs 10:2, which speaks to how we earn money. Solomon wrote, “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death” (ESV). The obvious emphasis of this verse is on having honesty and ethics in our work.
The first part of this verse is a clear statement to avoid trying to get money through sinful behavior. Greed can lead to all sorts of sin, and we too often see that in our world. Those with corrupt hearts see what they think is an easy way to riches, and their seared consciences do not hold them back from doing anything necessary to get, as Solomon put it, treasures. Insider trading, stealing, embezzlement, and peddling drugs or pornography are just a few of the behaviors tied to the get rich quick mindset. Gambling is also to be found in this mindset, and even our government, through the lottery, is preying on this wicked mindset.
Solomon writes, though, that gaining treasures this way does not profit. Each of us, if we were to think hard enough, might have the name of someone come to mind who obviously is much “better off” financially due to wicked behaviors. The book of Proverbs is a collection of general truths. There will be exceptions, even to this verse, but by and large, those who gain money through wicked ways will fail in the end.
Take, for example, the amazingly high percentage of people who greedily play the lottery and win huge amounts of money, only to go bankrupt a few years later. Think further of those names that are splashed across our newspapers and news websites in Ponzi schemes or insider trading scandals. They got rich, no doubt, but now they lack that “profit.” How many of our nation’s top wage-earners actually bring very little home because they are spending tremendous amounts on alimony, child support, or rehab costs?
What I find most interesting about this Proverb, though, is the second line. We might expect the verse to say this: “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but the one who works honestly will gain.” While that is a Biblical principle, and it is clearly taught elsewhere even in Proverbs, it is not the emphasis of this proverb. Instead, Solomon ended this wise saying with the words, “But righteousness delivers from death.”
The Bottom Line
In other words, true life–a fulfilled, joyful life–is only found through living an honest and righteous life. Those who gain treasures through wickedness spend their time trying to construct another scheme or trying to keep other sinful people away from their stash. Righteous people are able to live with their heads held high because they know they have worked hard and earned honestly what has been given to them as a blessing.
So, the next time you are tempted to gain money from a wicked scheme to get ahead, think long-term. Think down the road. Think about how to truly have a good life, one that only comes through righteous living.