Pursuing Wisdom In Wealth
Pursuing wisdom in wealth means relinquishing our desire to control and…trusting the One who holds all wisdom.
Wealth. This was my unfiltered first thought—”well I don’t have it, I’m not overly concerned with acquiring it, so I’m not sure I really struggle with knowing how to interact with it wisely.” (Which already shows a lack of self-awareness of the privilege and ease of life which I have been afforded. But that is a topic for a different day.) Proverbs speaks about wealth almost as much at it speaks about wisdom, yet you may find yourself just like me, skimming over those verses rationalizing to yourself that in order for those admonitions to carry weight, there has to be way more in your bank account than how it looks right now.
My perspective began to shift one quarantine evening while watching rom-coms, as a character in the film answered a question about his family’s great wealth with the response, “We’re comfortable.”
Comfort. Security. Status. Ease. All of which, at least I believe, can be laid alongside (if not tied up within) this idea of wealth. Though I wouldn’t say a prime concern of my life was to acquire money, in looking at my day to day actions and priorities, comfort has often been the driving force. Second, maybe, only to control.
It’s here that I found myself, feeling a little more offended and vulnerable than I wanted to. I may not think I struggle with a desire for wealth, but there’s no question about my craving for comfort. I don’t like being uncomfortable. I hate being put on the spot. I shut down when I have to deal with conflict in relationships. I squirm at anything remotely embarrassing, both when it relates to me or anyone around me. I avoid awkward moments like it’s my job. The number one priority in my style, both in clothes and my house, is comfort. I want it to be cute, yes, but it has to be cozy.
But ensuring my life is comfortable is far better than those people who are obsessed with money and love to collect lavish things, right? I don’t live beyond my means. I’m intentionally generous with a portion of my income. That means I’m in the clear, right? I think I’m asking the wrong questions. My desire for comfort and other’s desire for money or prestige, or material possessions are one and the same—a lack of understanding that our focus must shift. That wealth or status or comfort or materials are not evil on their own, moreover, they are more closely irrelevant. Wealth & comfort, when it is our aim, cannot provide what we are asking it to. Elijah described it like this in his message this week, “Wealth is a helpful servant, but a terrible god.” Paul, in his letter to the church in Philippi, describes contentment with life regardless of the financial or social situations in your life. He writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:11-13). This famous verse, though often used in contexts far beyond its author’s intended meaning, is actually speaking directly to this topic, reminding us that the driving force to living with or without wealth is Jesus.
Pursuing wisdom in wealth means relinquishing our desire to control and build and protect, and instead, trusting the One who holds all wisdom, and is so powerful and so good that He promises to bring about the best that wisdom can bring. That’s not a promise of comfort. That doesn’t mean prosperity. But haven’t we come to realize that those are empty promises are on their own anyway?
So how does it this look practically speaking? Make smart decisions with your money. Take care of your family. Use your means to make life better for everyone, but all through the lens of the Gospel—keeping Jesus at the very center—who is overwhelmingly enough. Nothing else needed or added. And when tempted to build a life where you find yourself thinking “if only I had a little more ______ I would be_____.” Repent. Repent and remember that regardless of the material wealth you do or do not have, wisdom is trusting that our all-wise God is transforming our lives into what we would choose for ourselves if we knew what he did.