The Greedy and the Gracious

by Tom Wacaster (originally written July 2015)

Other than Jesus Christ, Solomon was the wisest man ever to live. This was due to God’s gracious gift granted to the young king who sought not money, or power, but divine guidance. Too bad he did not follow his own advice. In fact, there are dozens of passages in the Proverbs that are ‘out of character’ with Solomon’s overall life. This is why I think Solomon wrote these Proverbs in the early years of his life; before time and treasures had time to corrupt his thinking and corrode his trust in God.

There are two verses in the eleventh chapter of Proverbs that captured my attention this morning; two verses that set forth a contrast between those who are greedy and those who are gracious.11:24: “There is that scattereth, and increaseth yet more; And there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth only to want.”11:25: “The liberal soul shall be made fat; And he that watereth shall be watered also himself.”

If I were to give a subtitle to this article it would have to be, “How NOT to make more money!” The subtitle might well capture the attention faster than the contrasting words, “greedy” and “gracious.” If you are expecting to find the secret of how to become a millionaire in these two verses you likely will be disappointed. But if you are seeking wise advice as to how to best use your money, you will not be disappointed in the advice Solomon gives. Consider the wise advice of Solomon contained in these two verses.

My first preaching work was in a small farming and ranching community in south-central Oklahoma. Several of the men in that congregation were farmers, and they understood the need to invest money in seed in order to generate a great harvest come fall. The farmer who is stingy at the time of sowing will have a meager harvest at the time of reaping; but the farmer who invests the time and energy to scatter the seed far and wide will be more likely to reap a great harvest, and profit thereby. The same is true in the business arena. “Those who have the money are the ones who make the money” is a well-known proverbial saying, is it not? I don’t think Solomon was all that concerned about teaching his son about the principles of farming, or even business for that matter; though there is sage advice throughout the Proverbs addressing both of those areas.

Solomon wanted his readers to understand an important truth regarding how we should use our material blessings. The New Testament clearly teaches that we are to be generous with what God has given us. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need” (Eph. 4:28). Solomon was well aware that generosity is essential to pleasing God: “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, When it is in the power of thy hand to do it” (Pro. 3:27).  If I choose to be greedy rather than gracious, I face a real danger of losing what I have in this life and losing my soul in eternity. Jesus once spoke a parable to this effect, as recorded in Luke 12:13-21.

In the mid to late 1800’s a man by the name of George Müller decided he wanted to do what he could to help the orphans in Bristol, England. The amazing thing about Mr. Müller is that he never really had a lot of money. When he launched out in his endeavor to help orphans all he had was some small change. Nor did he own much with regard to material possessions. With what meager resources he had, he sought to feed, house, and cloth as many needy orphans as possible. He began his endeavor with one small house, and within twenty years he had built five building, housing a total of 1,722 orphans. Through all this, Müller never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five homes cost over £100,000 to build. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God. For example, on one well-documented occasion, they gave thanks for breakfast when all the children were sitting at the table, even though there was nothing to eat in the house. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with sufficient fresh bread to feed everyone, and the milkman gave them plenty of fresh milk because his cart broke down in front of the orphanage. Truly, the story of George Müller is an example of the Proverb from Solomon: “There is that scattereth, and increaseth yet more.” 

Now let us look at the greedy; those who “withholdeth more than is meet.” I don’t think Solomon was discouraging the wisdom in setting aside a little for that inevitable “rainy day” that comes our way from time to time.  Return to the parable Jesus told of the covetous rich man, as contained in Luke 12:16-21: “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:  and he reasoned within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have not where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said unto him, Thou foolish one, this night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Here was a man who “withholdeth more than is meet.” This imaginary (and no doubt true to life) man had what one preacher called “I Trouble.” His use of the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my” speak volumes about the man’s heart. Literally, he withholds more than “what is right” (NKJV). He had taken that portion that should have rightfully been used to help others, and he hoarded it in order to build greater barns in which to gather his increase. God will not bless such a man, and such a one tends to find that the abundance that God gave to him ends up being squandered in reckless living. In the end, the man in the parable found himself losing what he sought so desperately to hold on to. Albert Barnes wrote: “Much that pertains to dress, to accomplishment, to living, to employment, to amusement, to conversation, will appear, when we come to die, to have been like the playthings of ‘children;’ and we shall feel that the immortal mind has been employed, and the time wasted, and the strength exhausted in that which was foolish and puerile” (Barnes, Commentary under 1 Cor. 14:20). I think that is a fitting summary of what Solomon wanted to convey to his readers.

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