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Strength and Money

April 25, 2008

A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.  Proverbs 11:16

In the realm of money, a key word is “stewardship.”  Stewardship is inescapable.  Every person is a steward of his money.  He either stewards his money faithfully, or he stewards unfaithfully.  A man is either a good steward or a bad one.  Retaining riches requires good stewardship, and strength.Â

The verse above describes two realms of stewardship – stewardship of reputation and stewardship of wealth.  And since the two are juxtaposed in the text, we see that there is on some level a connection being made between honor and riches.  Essentially, the Proverb teaches that our stewardship extends to every area of labor — to property, to wealth, to spouse and children, to employment, to work ethic, to reputation, to spiritual life and service, even to relationships.  All of these areas can be considered wealth, and all can be considered “honor.”Â

A steward’s work is to maintain these.  The steward functions first as a servant.  He serves his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ in this way.  He serves his family, his church, his employer, his country.  He serves by taking good care of all that he has been entrusted with.  This should be the character of every believer.

But a steward is more than a mere servant.  The steward is the chief servant.  He is in charge of the servants.  Think of reputation as a servant.  Many have, to their own undoing, made reputation a master, but reputation in its rightful place is a servant.  And we are stewards of that servant.  According to the verse above, only a gracious woman has the power to command reputation and honor.  Other women are enslaved by it.  They are forced to keep up the facade in order to maintain the impression.  Money too is a servant.  Wealth is a servant.  Yet, so many are enslaved by it.  They live for it.  They must have it.  And whether they get it or fail at getting it, they are always disappointed.  Only a strong man can be master over money.Â

A steward is a caretaker.  God entrusts us all with money, whether it be a little or a lot.  We must be caretakers of the money given.  God entrusts us with reputation as well.  We are caretakers of the reputation God has given.  Today’s Proverb shows us one of the unique qualities of the people of God… they are good stewards.Â

With that in mind, if we follow the natural division of the Proverb, we see gracious women who retain honor, and we see strong men who retain riches.  Gracious women and strong men characterize the household of faith, which means that the household of faith retains honor and riches.  What I would like to address in this post is the real meaning of the Proverb, its spiritual application, and then an important priority.

Like Leaves on a Fall Day

The Proverb says that strong men retain riches.  This does not mean that strong men are rich.  In fact, the contrary is sometimes the case.  Some strong men are not rich, and some poor men are very strong.  For, while they might not have much, they take good care of what they have.  They are diligent to know the state of their flocks and herds, as the Bible commands (Proverbs 27:23-24).  Nor does the Proverb mean that rich men are strong.  The Kennedy family would be a case and point here.  Wealth is no sign of strength.  It may be a sign of ruthlessness, but not necessarily of strength.Â

The Proverb does mean that strong men take good care of their money.  Good stewardship requires strength.  Wealth, as they say, is hard to get and even harder to keep.  Which Aristotle said is the reason why young people don’t respect money.  They have not yet learned how difficult it can be to hold on to.Â

It is a sign of weakness when a man cannot retain his wealth.  Spendthrifts, of course, think the opposite is true.  They flatter themselves that their free and easy ways with money are a sign of manliness.  I once took a group of teen agers to Washington, D.C.  On one of our tour days, we stood in line for over an hour to see Ford’s Theatre.  At least half of that time was in the hot sun, on a day when temperatures reached up into the 90’s.  Of course, the peddlers took full advantage of our misery.  One particular robust peddler pushed a cart full of iced down water bottles up and down the line, yelling, “Ice cold watah – $1.50 – all mah ‘G’s’ and all mah ‘homey’s’ – $1.50.”  As we watched, a fourteenish boy, pants sagging, hair souped, the picture of coolness, dug the necessary coinage out of his oh-so-hip pants pocket to make his purchase, as the coolest-of-the-cool water peddlers continued his sing-song, “You a high-rolla… I’m gettin’ you one off the bottom… you mah homey… put ‘er there… lay me some skin.”Â

Predictably, there was very quickly a small crowd of Junior high boys, all dripping with kewlness no doubt, in line for the ‘dolla-fitty watah’.  Including a couple of the kewler boys from my group.  The water, which no doubt tasted cooler because it came from such a cool place, was consumed before the sun ran out.  And when we got to the corner, I noticed that a little convenience store occupied the building.  I stuck my head in the door, and asked the proprietor if he had bottled water for sale… he did.  “How much?”  I asked.  “Seventy-five cents,”  he answered.  I looked back at my group – junior high boys dripping with sweat.  “Hey guys!”  I said, “he’s got the same water inside — for half the price you just paid!”Â

Of course, not one to rub it in, for the rest of the day I repeated, “Ice cold watah – $1.50 – all mah ‘G’s’ and all mah ‘homey’s’ – $1.50.”  I’m not sure what it is about spending money that makes us feel like big shots.  I do know that a fool and his money are easily parted.  Weak men fritter away their money like leaves blown away on a windy fall day.  It takes a very strong man to hold on to money.  That’s why lottery winners rarely stay rich for long.  Most men are too weak to keep it.

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