God created mankind to work. Work is not a result of God’s curse upon mankind. In the Garden of Eden, before the fall of man, God commanded Adam to “dress and keep” the Garden of Eden. God also brought all the animals to Adam so that he could name them. Throughout Scripture we find admonitions for hard work.
“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; we shall not stand before mean men.” Proverbs 22:29
Yet, only a mere 4 verses later, we are met with this command…
“Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.” Proverbs 23:4
This leads us to a consideration of the question, “Why should we work hard?” and “What are we working hard for?”
The Desire for Riches
Definition – Labor
- To be exhausted
- To be tired
- To expend considerable energy to a task
- Hard physical work
Now, these things are not bad. Again, remember that we have been commanded by God to work and we should work hard. However, this verse contains a command of something that we should not work hard for! Riches!
Definition – Riches
- Having a great deal of money or assets (Those things which we deem to be useful and/or desirable.)
- To accumulate
- To get abundance
- Having a considerable greater number of possessions which would imply status and honor.
The definition of “riches” suggests several questions…
Who determines what is useful or desirable? Because the Lord is our Shepherd, He should determine what is useful and desirable for us in our lives.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1
Who determines how much we should accumulate? Read Luke 12:16-21. Too many people allow others to determine how much to accumulate. We call that the “Keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome! We should allow God to determine how much!
Should our status and honor be determined by the possessions that we have? No! God should determine our status and honor.
“By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.” Proverbs 22:4
All of things brings up another, very good question, “What is our focus upon?”
Notice the focus of the foolish man that we read about in Luke 12:21…
“So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
- Not on being rich toward God.
Read 1 Kings 3:5-14. God was pleased that Solomon’s focus was on desiring an understanding heart that could discern between good and bad. As a by-product of this, God would bless Solomon with all those things that he could have focused upon such as riches!
God then, in Proverbs 23:4 adds, “…Cease from thine own wisdom.”
“We are not to be guided by human wisdom, which places priority on being successful in this world, making a lot of money, and earning a measure of independence.”
“And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
“For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
“But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Luke 12:29-31
The world focuses on “things.” Often Christians follow the world’s leading and in so doing are easily caught in the vicious cycle of having to work harder and longer to provide for the “necessities” of life. It seems that the harder people work, the less they have; the less they have, the harder they have to work! In so doing, Christians don’t have enough time to attend church and they don’t have the time to serve the Lord through their local church!
Could it be that many individuals find themselves in this type of situation because they have the wrong focus? They are focused on “things” instead of God!
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
Labor not to be rich…Instead seek ye first the kingdom of God…
The Deceitfulness of Riches
Proverbs 23:5 asks the question, “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?”
“Pursuing wealth is like chasing the wind. A man can never get enough of it and it is hard to keep. Wealth is hard to acquire and a man must leave it all behind when he dies.”
1 Timothy 6:17 tells us that riches are “uncertain!” I’m sure that Job, the greatest man in the east, would agree with us on that point. Within the space of one day, Job lost everything – all his possessions. And, you could say that it all happened according to God’s purpose and plan for Job! Yes, even in the best of circumstances – being in the will of God – riches/things/possessions are terrible items in which to put our trust. They can be gone instantly. Besides that, 1 Timothy 6: 7 tells us…
“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
So, what is the answer. How is an individual to get off the roller coaster of working longer and harder with little to show for it and no ability to serve the Lord? It won’t be easy but at some point they need to see the foolishness of riches, confess their wrong focus, and then place their focus upon the Lord!
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34