As I write this I am looking at the stock market reports on the news. It dropped another 300+ points Friday. It would seem that the rest of the world is suffering as well. This is not good news for all of us. We depend on wealth, commerce, and the economy to serve as God’s conduit of provision and stability. Even in ministry, we are dependent upon the success of our constituency to provide for stabilization. We all turn upon economic news.
Turbulent times and uncertainty cause us to rethink a lot of things. . . . theological things. These are things that we did not expect or desire, but, in God’s providence, we do our best to follow his guidance. We look for his direction in times of uncertainty. It is during these times that we often find our attendance to God’s will has wavered, staggered, and strayed off course. Upon realization, we have to decide a some things by asking a couple of key questions: 1) In whom do we trust? and 2) Who or what are we following?
The Bible speaks to us during such times. Often, its exhortation cuts like a knife.
Proverbs 18:11 tells us that “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.”
The word “imagination” here is not positive. It describes a result of a worldview that has strayed off course. In our own imagination, we often get sidetracked, thinking that wealth, stock markets, 401ks, savings accounts, and the like are the provider of our protection and stability. Looking at this “high wall” we think that we are secure from threats and hardships. We believe this wall provides for our “strong city,” securing all our assets, plans, and hopes. After all, it is a “high” wall, isn’t it?.
It is under this imagined protection that we turn off course. With our supposed securities intact, we then give our left over allegiance to the Lord. But it is at this time that we find we have broken the first commandment—“You shall not have any other gods before me.” Sure, many of us don’t have golden idols on our mantle and we don’t literally bow before the alter of another God, but, nevertheless, we have become polytheists. No, strike that. We have become “henotheists.” While polytheism is a worldview that worships many gods, henotheism has one main God with many other smaller gods that often come before the main God depending on the need. As Christians, we can worship Jesus, but have a stronger allegiance to these lesser gods—the “wall” of wealth and the supposed protection it provides.
The next proverb is very important. Proverbs 18:12 says “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.”
In order to have honor, we must be humbled. What is the price for humility? It if was bottled up at Walmart, how much would you pay? Would you take out a loan to purchase it? Would you deplete your 401k? Would you invest in such an item? We should. In fact, as Christians we should be willing to give everything we have for such an item. Humility cancels pride. In our imagined “strong city” we become haughty. Another translation says “proud.” The LXX uses the Greek work hupsoutai, which means “to life up, raise high, or exalt.” We exalt in our situation. We need to be humbled. For some of us, the problems with the stock market could be God’s way of humbling us. Yes, the price is great, but the result, if you allow it to do its work, is greater wealth than anything the world’s economic adventures could possibly provide.
It is only in this humbled state that we can return to a previous verse in Proverbs that I intentionally failed to mention. We have already seen verses 11 and 12, now lets turn back and take a look at verse 10.
Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”
Here we are introduced to the true strong tower—the name of the Lord. Our imagined city will crumble and fall, but the Lord’s name gives us true protection and true wealth. The Lord tells us through the Psalmist, “Every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine” (Psalm 50:10-11). If you will allow me some liberty here, let me pin this on our calendar: “Every dime you have in the bank is mine and your retirement as well. I know all about the stock markets for I control every move they make.”
If you are like me, you see what is going on and you don’t feel safe. You fear for your future. You begin to find that another god has been running a black market of hope in your heart, promising safety that it does not have the ability to provide. It is only in the Lord’s name, in his purpose and direction, that we can find true safety in times of turbulence. He owns it all and he knows how to use it to direct our lives to true wealth in his name.
May we turn our eyes to him with great excitement during this time of redistribution of wealth trust.