Friday, June 13, 2008

Wealth and the Christian

Learning to Taste the Gravel Early
Topic: Wealth and the Christian

The problem of dishonesty in work and labor is a difficult one to address because it is often the case that the first one "lied to" is the liar himself. He is dishonest in his work and labor, and in order to do this most effectively, he must be dishonest first with himself. Remember that the truth about yourself is not seen by looking into your own hearts; the truth is found by looking into the mirror of the Word (Jas. 1:24-25). The Word of God is the only solution to self-deception.

That said, honest work belongs to the Lord. "Honest weights and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are His work" (Prov. 16:11). This means the Lord identifies with honest work. The weights in the bag are His; the nails in the wall are His; the repair job is His—provided it is done honestly.

If God identifies with honest work, and honest business, then why is there any problem? Why is there any lure to dishonest work? We live in a fallen world. Sin is attractive, at least at the beginning, and this can include Christians. "Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel" (Prov. 20:17). Learning honesty therefore means learning to taste the gravel early.

The simple do not learn this, and listen to the call of a foolish woman. "'Whoever is simple, let him turn in here'; and as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, 'Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.' But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell" (Prov. 9:16-18). Again, there is a sweetness at the beginning of dishonesty and deception, but the end is a calamity. Often people learn how "sweet" it is to be dishonest in early life, in their school work, but the end is hell. It is a "sweet deal" -- all the benefits, and none of of sweat.

Dishonesty comes to a bad end because a sovereign God hates it. "Diverse weights and diverse measures, they are both alike, an abomination to the Lord" (Prov. 20:10). The word abomination here refers to something disgustingly wicked. This sin is right in there, in God’s sight, with sodomy (Lev. 18:22), bowing down to idols (Deut. 7:25), or witchcraft (Deut. 18:12). "Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord, and dishonest scales are not good" (Prov. 20:23). A dishonest man is therefore a wicked man. "The wicked man does deceptive work, but he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward" (Prov. 11:18). The wicked man cuts corners.

It should not be surprising that dishonesty frequently involves "tomorrow." "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips" (Prov. 27:1-2). Not completing work on time is dishonesty. Not completing it on time the way you said you would, or with the quality you promised, is dishonesty. If you are good for it tomorrow, then let another say so. This is something they can do based upon your past performance, not upon your promises. The future is infinitely malleable, and that is why dishonest workman are constantly saying that they will get to it "next week" for sure. No question. And then when they are a no show again, and you finally catch them on the phone, the appeal again is to "tomorrow." But this is understandable. There are only two ways to go -- into repentance, or into tomorrow (which always has its own tomorrow).

Dishonesty has a big mouth and brags. "Whoever falsely boasts of giving is like clouds and wind without rain" (Prov. 25:14). Although this is a proverb concerning claims of generosity, we may apply to other forms of "giving" as well. This person is all hat and no cattle, all foam and no beer, all gong and no dinner. He is clouds and wind without rain. People boast vainly of how much they will give, how much they will earn, how much they will do, how much they will accomplish. But when we come to count it up, not much is there. Other forms of bragging show up as well. "'It is good for nothing,' cries the buyer; but when he has gone his way, then he boasts (Prov. 20:14).

When dishonesty begins, the end is perversion. And of course, another form of dishonesty corrupts the courts directly. "A wicked man accepts a bribe behind the back to pervert the ways of justice" (Prov. 17:23).

Posted by Douglas Wilson - 6/12/2008