Thursday, September 30, 2021
The Bible has much to say about the wisdom that is needed for financial integrity. The following verses from Proverbs deal with the issue of honesty, both in our personal and in our business dealings. They give us several principles that require us to evaluate the way we pursue and manage money.
Proverbs10:2-5 “Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death. The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.”
Proverbs13:11 “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”
Proverbs 21:6 “A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.”
Proverbs 20:14 “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase.”
Proverbs 11:1 “The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.”
Proverbs 20:10 “Differing weights and differing measures- the LORD detests them both.”
Proverbs 16:11 “Honest scales and balances are from the LORD ; all the weights in the bag are of his making.”
Proverbs11:18 “The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.”
First of all, we are told that we are not to pursue wealth that comes from dishonest means. There’s nothing wrong with making extra money, but how we do it can be wrong. We have all been tempted by those “get-rich-quick” schemes that appeal to the greed of our materialistic nature. They can be so attractive to us that we fail to investigate their legality or even try to determine if they are ethical.
I remember the pyramid money schemes of the 70’s and early 80’s, when we were told to send $20 to each of five people, and then add our name and the names of 20 more people to a list. We were promised that in 10 days we would receive thousands of dollars in the mail. It worked for the first few people in the pyramid, but then the law caught up with those who originated it and a bunch of people got in deep trouble. We chose not to be involved. Praise God! We listened to this wisdom from Proverbs 13:11 – “he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”
Secondly, our verses give us wisdom about how we spend money. One example given is of the person who loves to negotiate for a better price, but carries it to the extreme of actually finding fault with the product or service for which he is paying. Then, after making the deal, he brags about how great the product or service is and what a deal he got. I must confess to having that tendency in my own life. I observed people close to me in my formative years who would actually get angry about not getting a better deal than someone else, or who would use their profession or their position to demand a discount. As a man of financial integrity, I have learned to respect the right of the merchant to sell his product for a fair price. If he chooses to make known through his business practices that discounts are available, I will wisely take advantage of those discounts. But never should we belittle a product or service or manipulate the merchant into giving us a better deal. That only proves that we are selfish.
Thirdly, and connected to the last point, we are told to be honest in our business dealings as merchants. Have you ever wondered how you can trust the pump at the gas station to dispense the correct amount of gas for the correct price? One of the divisions of our state government is the division of weights and scales. I have a friend who works for the state and is the district weights and measures guy. He goes around and verifies all the pumps and scales at all businesses in Western Wisconsin. Because he is doing his job, we can trust the accuracy of our grocery store’s meat department scale so they are selling us the correct weight for the correct price.
I worked in a meat department in High school and college, back in the days when there was no self-serve, pre-packaged meat. Everything was sold over the counter, and it had to be weighed and priced. I remember one of the managers of the meat department being fired from his position because he was caught using his thumb on the scale as he weighed the meat to increase the profit margin. He was cheating people for his own commissions and bonuses. This kind of dishonesty – the kind that is for personal benefit at the expense of another person – abhors the Lord. He detests it.
Finally, there is wisdom in the Bible that can make us honest wage earners. It seems like a no-brainer to most of us: don’t steal what belongs to someone else. But let’s define what it is that belongs to someone else. The obvious things are tangible- clothing, cars, boats, household goods, etc. Where it gets tough is when we think about the intangible things, i.e. TIME. Consider this scenario.
Let’s assume your boss has hired you for an 8-hour day, with two 15 minute paid breaks and a 1-hour non-paid lunch. You will be paid $15.00 per hour. You arrive for work at 8:00 AM, and during the next two hours you work hard, then leave for your 15-minute break. At 10:25, after getting involved in a Facebook debate about politics, you finally arrive back at your desk to work until noon, when you will break for lunch. During that time you take 10 minutes to go to the bathroom, which you didn’t do on your break. You leave for lunch at noon and return to your desk at 1:10 PM, and you put in two solid hours of work. At 3:10 you leave for a break and arrive back at your desk at 3:30 PM. During the next 90 minutes you again take 5 minutes to go to the bathroom, plus spend 10 minutes on your cell phone checking updates on twitter and Facebook. You then check out at 5:00 PM to go home.
Question – How much should you be paid? If you said $120.00, you are guilty of stealing. You did not work 8 hours: you actually only worked 7 hours and 10 minutes. Now, that may sound picky and insignificant, but that $12.50 adds up to $62.50 per week, or $3,250.00 per year in lost productivity for your employer.
How much integrity in our finances is enough? Of all the people in the world, Christians should be the best to deal with when it comes to business and financial transactions. Unfortunately, that is not the case most of the time. For some reason Christians can be the most demanding and obnoxious of all people when it comes to money. Maybe it’s because we have put our trust in the deal or the money with which we make the deal rather than in the God who will provide for us richly when we are honest. Let’s consider all of this carefully today.