There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.
The Israelites in Nehemiah’s day were facing major financial problems. It would be easy to blame those problems on their circumstances–after all, they could not control the famine, or the taxes. But they had also failed to follow God’s principles about spending, saving, and indebtedness. So when that famine came, when those taxes were due, they were not prepared. In Genesis 41, we read about another famine. Remember the story? Joseph was in Egypt, and he interpreted a dream that Pharaoh had. He told Pharaoh, “There are going to be seven years of famine throughout the whole world, but the famine will be preceded by seven years of bountiful harvest. We need to set aside a portion of the excess so that when the famine comes, there will be food for everyone.” That is what they did, and sure enough, when the famine came, no one went hungry. That is a principle that the Jews in Nehemiah’s day had failed to live by: they had no cushion for emergencies. Proverbs 21:20 says, “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.” In other words, the foolish person is the one who spends every last cent of his paycheck, who does not set aside some of his current income for future needs. If you disobey this principle, when that time of emergency comes, you are going to be forced to make some bad choices. You may be forced to sell your house for less than you paid for it. You may be forced to liquidate investments.
The way the Israelites handled their emergency was they went into debt. They mortgaged their homes. They mortgaged their property. They even mortgaged other family members. Today, there are many people who are mortgaging their futures because they have not prepared for financial contingencies. Many Christians have become slaves to Visa and MasterCard. Credit cards are convenient crutches when we run into a time of financial difficulty, but eventually we pay the price. We mortgage our future by spending years in debt. That is why Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”
Why does God tell us to set aside something? It is not only to meet our own individual needs, but to take care of kingdom projects that come along as well. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul was talking to the Corinthians about a special offering he was going to collect when he got there. He said, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” This verse has nothing to do with tithing; Paul assumed that the Corinthians were going to give 10 percent of their income to the weekly needs of the church. No, this was a special offering Paul said, “I want you to have this money set aside so that when I arrive in Corinth, it will already be there, ready to give.” If you spend everything you make, there will not be money to invest in God’s work. But when we follow Proverbs 21:20, it not only provides for our needs, but it also provides for God-given projects in the future.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Avoiding The Dollar Holler” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org