Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.
How long will you lie down, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
“A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest”—
Your poverty will come in like a vagabond
And your need like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6-11)
When people make the decision to come to college, they usually do it because they are seeking success. Often, what they are hoping for in the future is a lucrative career. But having an education will not help you if you aren’t willing to work hard. The general principle of wisdom is that those who work hard will earn a living, but those who don’t will be mastered by poverty.
If a young person has made it into college, they are probably smart enough to be successful. Most students at TMU are likely intelligent enough to move on into positions of leadership. And while they are here, they are learning the skills they need to make a difference in the world: how to think, how to speak, how to write, how to socialize and how to lead. At TMU, they are gaining diverse experiences and relationships. They are being taught biblical wisdom inside and outside the classroom.
By the time they graduate, TMU students have received what they need in order to make an impact on the world. But all of that means nothing if that student isn’t willing to work hard. When it comes to success, there is no magical alternative to effort.
Work hard. Don’t be lazy. Remember that abundant rewards await those who are willing to put in the effort. The man who pursues his work, Proverbs says, earns a good living (Proverbs 10:4), has plenty of food (Proverbs 20:13), is rewarded for his effort (Proverbs 14:23), and even earns the respect of kings (Proverbs 22:29).
The lazy man, however, will go hungry because he sleeps when he should be working (Proverbs 19:15). Even though he has desires like every person, he isn’t willing to work in order to satisfy them. Instead of going to work, he goes to bed. And when he is awake, he follows “worthless pursuits” (Proverbs 12:11). He is the kind of person who gets taken in by “get-rich-quick” schemes, which almost never pay off. He loves the idea of earning a big windfall through only a few minutes of effort, not understanding that the more reliable path to gain is faithful, regular work.
However, working gainfully is only one part of making a wise living. The second part is knowing what to do with your money once you have earned it. Let me show you two pieces of advice Proverbs gives about managing money.
Honor the Lord from your wealth
And from the first of all your produce;
So your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will overflow with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
A person can be as shrewd as he wants to be with his money, but if he does not begin with being rich toward God, he has failed in being wise with what he has.
Now, some people reading this post may be high school students or college students, or they might be in some other situation where they don’t feel like they have much to give. But this isn’t a question of what you don’t have; it’s a question of what you do have. All God wants is what is reasonable from what you do have. He doesn’t want you to give what you don’t have. But He does want you to be generous now with whatever you do have. Whether you’re making minimum wage at a part-time job or earning $100,000 a year, your money management needs to begin with giving back to God.
My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor,
Have given a pledge for a stranger,
If you have been snared with the words of your mouth,
Have been caught with the words of your mouth,
Do this then, my son, and deliver yourself;
Since you have come into the hand of your neighbor,
Go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor.
Give no sleep to your eyes,
Nor slumber to your eyelids;
Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter’s hand
And like a bird from the hand of the fowler. (Proverbs 6:1-5)
The “snare” talked about here is someone’s foolish decision to pledge their own goods for the sake of someone else who is in debt. We call this cosigning today. Basically, this is when someone comes to you and says, “I need to get a loan to buy this thing or pay my bills, but my credit isn’t good enough for me to qualify. But if you cosign for me, they’ll give me the loan on virtue of your credit.”
This may sound like a kind thing for you to do as a friend or a neighbor. But the danger in cosigning is that if this person can’t pay their debt, you are then obligated to do so. That’s what makes it a snare; it may not seem dangerous at first, but it can hunt you down like a fowler hunts a bird. So Solomon says, “Don’t do it.”
The point is not that we shouldn’t be generous with those who need it; Proverbs says exactly the opposite in many places. But there are wise ways to help the poor, and there are foolish ways. Making yourself subject to your neighbor’s financial decisions is not a wise decision.
In summary, the most important thing you could possibly learn is wisdom. And wisdom is not an abstract concept, but it is concrete skill in living. Skillful living starts with fearing God, moves to guarding your mind, controlling your body, watching your words, pursuing your work and managing your money. May the Lord teach us wisdom through His Word and His Spirit, for His glory.