“Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.” – Proverbs 13:11 NLT
The Proverbs are all about inner character that reveals itself in the way we live our lives. These are not helpful tips on better parenting, improving your marriage, growing your business, or how to win friends and influence enemies. No, this entire book is about a relationship with God that manifests itself in changed hearts, a new perspective on life, and reformed behavior that is motivated from the inside out. The Proverbs expose the inherent weaknesses in mankind. It reveals us as we really are: lazy, foolish, stubborn, prone to selfishness, flattery, gossip, and self-promotion. It shows what man tends to become apart from God, and it is not a pretty picture. The amazing thing is how accurate it is in its portrayal of mankind. It lays open for all to see our painfully obvious shortcomings and encourages us to seek God’s way in place of our own. But the difficulty is that we usually prefer to do things our way. We choose outer circumstances over inner character virtually every time. Take today’s topic for instance. There is something built into us that makes us long for easy money. Rather than work hard to achieve financial success, we would prefer to dream about ways in which we could cash in quickly and easily. The success and popularity of the lottery system in this country is evidence of that. People purchase tickets with money they can’t afford to do without in the hopes of winning millions of dollars, but at million-to-one odds. Their chances of winning are next to nothing, but it doesn’t keep them from trying and hoping. They look for the easy way. They see the money as the goal, when God sees hard work as the real objective for our lives. Solomon tells us, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper” (Proverbs 13:4 NLT). This is not just an indictment of the poor. While we all know there are plenty or poor people who will spend their last ten dollars on a lottery ticket when they really need gas of food, there are just as many well-to-do people who waste their time and money dreaming of striking it rich with a scratch-off ticket. They rationalize their behavior thinking that they can afford to squander a few extra dollars on the lottery. But their actions reveal something about their heart. Their hopes of winning are motivated by a desire to gain without pain, to prosper without putting in any effort. It is always about the heart.
One of the interesting things about today’s verse is it reveals the reality about easy money. When it comes to wealth gained without effort, it’s almost always easy-come, easy-go. “Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears” (Proverbs 13:11a NLT). It’s here one day and gone the other. The stories of those who have won the lottery only to end up in bankruptcy are sad, but true. There is something to the idea that what we have to work hard for we will value. What comes easy, we treat with an air of flippancy and disdain. But “wealth from hard work grows over time” (Proverbs 13:11b NLT). God’s design is that we value hard work over easy money. He is much more interested in our inner motivation. Think about the Israelites. When God set them free from captivity in Egypt, He promised to bring them to the Promised Land. Now God could have miraculously transported the entire nation of Israel directly to their destination. After all, He’s God. But instead, He chose to have them WALK across the wilderness and put in the time, energy and effort required to reach their goal. And all along the way, God revealed Himself to them, guided them, protected and provided for them. And He attempted to transform their hearts and change their behavior.
The point of all this is not to ban the lottery, but to cause us to examine our motives. This Proverbs deals with a principle inherent in all of our lives. We tend toward taking the easy road. We forget that God is all about transforming our inner character and we focus far too much on external circumstances. We think that if we can change our circumstances (more money), we will be happy. But God knows that quick-fixes produce short-term results.
Father, there are so many things in this life that can distract me from what You are trying to do in my life. It is so easy to buy into the lies of this world and look for the easy way out. It is so tempting to take shortcuts to get where I think I want to go. Keep me on Your path and following Your ways. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men