It is impossible to get up in the morning, turn on the news in this country, and avoid the conflicts which rage through our nation. This country was formed 241 years ago. I have been a citizen of it for over half a century and can fervently say that I've never seen it more divided than it is today. Surely, the American Civil War revealed Americans at their most divided, with the Vietnam war running a close second. But, I'm talking about national division in my adult lifetime.
From my perspective it began to reach a boiling-over point about 9 years ago. Even though the majority of Americans supported President Obama's election, as time went on liberal, "progressive" actions and policies began to be more extreme and divisive. It became plain that sinister forces were at work behind the scenes to foster division in our country. This trend has only ramped up with President Trump's election.
One of the nexus points of division today has to do with money and work, which continue to be our blog topic today. Beliefs about money flow from beliefs about God, and there is next-to-no consensus about God in America today, regardless of what is printed on our currency ("In God We Trust"). .... Some still do, but the majority certainly do not. More often people trust in the currency itself. It's not an exaggeration to say that many worship it.
We have been exploring the topic of work and money in Proverbs because that book has a lot to say on this topic. In fact, the entire Bible has a lot to say on this topic. That is a blessing and a curse. Why a curse? Because of the many references to money and work, it is easy to develop a skewed theology concerning them. At each extreme are "austerity gospel" and "prosperity gospel". I guess I'd better define those terms. I will, but am not going to delve deeply into ether extreme this morning.
"Austerity gospel"1 , to borrow from Kevin DeYoung, is the belief that God loves us more if we are poor as church mice. When you focus exclusively on verses or stories such as Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), the truth that Jesus appeared to have no permanent earthly home, and then remember the story of the rich, young ruler, you can make a plausible case for poverty as an avenue to please God.
"Prosperity gospel" on the other hand is justified by verses or stories of Job, Solomon, David, Abraham, the promise from Malachi 3, and "ask and ye shall receive". If God is pleased with you, you will have "the Midas touch" - - everything you do will prosper you financially.
Both of these extremes are wrong.
One thing to remember about the book of Proverbs, and this is very important to remember, is that it is a guidebook of general principles or maxims, if you will. A maxim2 is "a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct." Neither maxims, nor proverbs, are iron-clad promises. This holds true for all Proverbs. Yes, they are true because they are part of the inspired Word of God. But, they are not promises. It is critically important to remember that difference.
Let's, then, go on to explore more themes of work and money from Proverbs.
That ridiculously long introduction leads us to today's text: Proverbs 21:5 (NLT)
Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.
This is just one of many proverbs to address the value of work. Unfortunately, neither of these components are "fun", lol! In our current world, working hard, which often results in achievement, is downplayed. Those who are successful through planning and hard work are often accused of getting their achievement unfairly - - by virtue of their family background, of their race, by luck ... The next accusation is that the achiever does not deserve what he or she has earned through shrewdness and hard work. This type of thinking separates people into "haves" and "have nots", with "unfairness" being at the root of why people ended up in each camp.
Excuses, such as the excuse of "unfairness", simply give people a justification for not changing their position or behavior. If you believe it is "unfair" that someone has something you do not, well, then, it follows that you didn't cause this situation, nor can you change it. The Bible calls this "bunk" (well, not literally, but figuratively.) In fact, the Bible points out some other excuses for not working, such as:
- - - following worthless pursuits . (Prov. 28:19)
- - - lying around all day (Prov. 6:10-11 and 20:13 and 24:33-34)
- - - all talk and no action (Prov. 14:23)
- - - chasing ridiculous short-cuts instead of working (Prov. 13:11)
- - - getting drunk instead of working (Prov. 21:17)
- - - stealing, which can cause you to hate yourself and others as well (Prov. 29:24)
Notice that the component of strategic planning is vital to success. Success is not born of hard work alone. This is where the expression, "Work smarter, not harder" originates.
Years ago, while studying the practices of a very successful middle school teacher, I read about how excited she was when her nationally-acclaimed mentor came to visit her classroom. The thing he complemented her on most was how organized her classroom was. Organization alone does not make a great teacher, but it is hard to be great in that profession (or any other) without it.
I don't know about you, but I keep lists, which (usually) keep me on track. If I don't, I tend to bounce around from thing to thing, not getting many things done. So, "working hard" without a focus is not productive. Deep thinking and strategic planning are the fuel in the engine of hard work.
Today, I plan to work on strategic planning for my home-based business. I'd better get to it! After all, as The Message translation puts Proverbs 21:5 - - -