Last week we talked a bit about paying attention to wisdom, God’s wisdom not our own, as the smart play. God leads us to be wise because it helps to keep us out of the trouble we manage to get ourselves into. And when we do get into trouble, and we all admit that we do on occasion, we were created by and serve a God of second chances. Good deal.
What then shall we make of the words of wisdom that seems to contradict what we know to be otherwise?
V2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit? I’ve met some folks along the way who would beg to differ, some shadier than others. I worked with a sales guy once that made a career out of sponging off a company until he got fired and then filed wrongful termination suits against the company. They’d settle for whatever amount, he got a decent chunk of change and moved on. I could never figure out why anyone hired him because we all knew how he operated. I also couldn’t figure out how he slept at night with such a lack of integrity. In any case, he lived in a decent neighborhood and had a nice car. Apparently he profited pretty well from his wickedness.
V4 A slack hand causes poverty would seem to make sense but I know some slackers who don’t live in poverty. I know some rich people who don’t seem to do much of anything. But the hand of the diligent makes rich? I also know some people who have worked ridiculously hard all of their lives. Loved God, loved neighbor and tried to do the right things as best they can. And pretty much lived in poverty.
What then are we to make of these things? How should we make sense of it?
I think part of the answer is how we read the text. When we think of profit, what do we automatically thing of? When we think of poverty, what are some of the things we think of? When we think of rich, what is our immediate response?
Money, lack of money and money. Right?
Now add God into the idea of profit. What comes to mind then? Is it money, lack of money and money? Probably not. I’m pretty sure God’s economy is not centered on money. Certainly you can be unwise with money and you can be wise with money. But I’m pretty sure this part of Proverbs isn’t talking about money.
The trouble is we overlay our worldview onto writings that are several thousand years old written in a very different language. In the time of writing Proverbs, God’s economy is not centered on the profit and loss sheet. God’s economy is not centered on the idea of more money and more stuff. Instead, God’s economy is centered on being the central part of people’s lives.
For example, in V3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, has been used to say that people in poverty and living in food insecurity must be doing something wrong. They must be unwise and if they only worked harder God would reward them. Clearly they’re not righteous or God would not let them go hungry. How many times have you heard that? How many times have you felt that?
I get that there are exceptions. I’ve heard the stories of people with a smart phone and fancy car buying food with food stamps. I know this happens, I’ve seen it too, but I’d say that most people I know are working pretty hard to put food on the table. So let’s not use these verses against people in poverty.
Instead, we are called to look at our own poverty. Our own SPIRITUAL poverty. That’s the economy that God is concerned with first and foremost.
Let’s go back to V4 again and read it from the perspective of faith in God rather than faith in money. 4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. If we don’t work on our faith lives we end up spiritually bereft, don’t we? If we just let our faith life consist of an hour in worship on Sunday morning and ignore it the other 167 hours in the week, how strong is our faith life? How strong is our connection to God?
Alternatively, if we work at strengthening our faith life by doing things like frequent prayer, reading the Bible, fasting, serving others and the like, what happens? Do our wallets get fatter? No. But our faith life gets richer. That’s God’s economy.
And I gotta say one thing. There’s a reason we’re so, what’s the word, so invested in prime time and FAITH5 and having these conversations about faith and sharing our faith and being intentional about developing our faith. It is our protection against the evil in this world, it is our protection helping our kids be protected from the evil in this world. Because we found out earlier this week that even kids confirmed in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) like us, can commit horrible acts of violence. Because if you did not know, Dylan Roof was an ELCA Lutheran. Went to confirmation camp int 2007. N Now, I don’t know his pastor personally but we’re in the same couple of the same FB groups, Pr Tony Metze and St Paul Lutheran in Charleston, in no way shape or form am I saying they did anything wrong or did anything less than the best they could do, because sometimes you do everything and you do the best and it’s not enough but… We still gotta do our very best. We still gotta do everything that we possibly can. Because no kid is born racist. Ever. They learn it somewhere. I’m suggesting we gotta get God in front of that kid before somebody gets racism in front of that kid. It is the only thing that we can do. We gotta do it as as community of faith and there’s an ELCA congregation in Charleston, SC whose heart is broken today. And will be tomorrow. Pr Tony said this is the hardest thing he’s ever done in 30 years of ordained ministry. We’ve got to learn something from that. And again, I’m not saying they did anything wrong, I don’t think they did. They’re just in the middle of a horrible situation and we’ve got to do everything we can to not ever be in that horrible situation.
Things like what our confirmation class has a summer assignment. Nice pastor, right? Giving a confirmation assignment over the summer. It’s this. Take pictures and video clips of where you see and experience God this summer. When we resume confirmation this fall we are, and when I say we I mean some young person that can do this easily and quickly, we are going to put together a slideshow of where they’ve seen God over the summer. Places and times they’ve seen Christ’s love brought to life.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the rest of us. If you have a camera, click the pic. If you don’t take pictures, make a note. Make seeing and experiencing God in Christ Jesus a priority. And be rich, rich in faith.
That’s what then.