Which one is worth more?

How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. ~Proverbs 16:16 NKJV

Gold Rush

In January 1848, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold along the American River, northeast of present-day Sacramento, California. When Sam Brannan, a storekeeper in Sutter’s Creek, brandished a bottle filled with gold dust around San Francisco in May 1848 shouting, “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” the stampede to the gold fields was on.

When the book of Proverbs mentions getting wisdom or understanding, it is referring to godly wisdom – practical advice from the Lord about how to live your life well. You can obtain this by studying, meditating on, and memorizing scripture. The Bible contains all of God’s wisdom you need for daily living.

By contrast, consider how truly difficult it is to acquire gold as you read this account by Sheldon Shufelt of Windham, New York, who was one of those gold rush treasure-seekers. He wrote to his cousin in March 1850, describing how dangerous and what hard work it really was to get gold:

We pitched our tents, shouldered our picks & shovels & with pan in hand sallied forth to try our fortunes at gold digging. We did not have very good success being green at mining, but by practice & observation we soon improved some, & found a little of the shining metal.

It is found along the banks of the streams & in the beds of the same, & in almost every little ravine putting into the streams. And often from 10 to 50 ft. from the beds up the bank. We sometimes have to dig several feet deep before we find any…

Many, very many, that come here meet with bad success & thousands will leave their bones here. Others will lose their health, contract diseases that they will carry to their graves with them. Some will have to beg their way home, & probably one half that come here will never make enough to carry them back. But this does not alter the fact about the gold being plenty here, but shows what a poor frail being man is, how liable to disappointments, disease & death.

There is a good deal of sin & wickedness going on here, Stealing, lying, Swearing, Drinking, Gambling & murdering. There is a great deal of gambling carried on here. Almost every public House is a place for Gambling, & this appears to be the greatest evil that prevails here. Men make & lose thousands in a night, & frequently small boys will go up & bet $5 or 10 & if they lose all, go the next day & dig more.

1 Timothy 6:8-10 and 17-19 helps clarify what the Lord considers truly important for a follower of Jesus:

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

Which one is worth more – the uncertainty of riches, or the godly wisdom with which the Lord is eager to supply those who simply ask? As you study God’s word today and pray, ask him to help you store up true treasure. Seek to be rich in good works.

Shufelt’s letter is part of the collection of the Library of Congress: A letter from a gold miner, Placerville, California, March 1850.


What are you asking?

Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God. ~Proverbs 30:7-9

PrayingThis passage is attributed in Proverbs 30:1 to Agur, the son of Jakeh. The writer declares that he has asked God for two specific things. But interestingly, he then asks for four:

  1. that God will not refuse his requests
  2. that the Lord would keep deception and lies out of his daily life
  3. enough financial resources to be comfortable, without being wealthy, and
  4. enough food to be satisfied, without going hungry

Was Agur right to ask God for these things?

Others in the scriptures have been invited to petition God, with the assurance that their prayers will be answered. In 1 Kings 3:5, for example, the Lord told Solomon to ask boldly for whatever he wanted:

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

And in Mark 11:23-24, Jesus explains to his disciples that when they approach prayer properly, they can ask God for anything:

“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Agur’s second request also aligns with the Lord’s will. In Psalm 34:12-13, the word teaches that lies have no place in the life of one who would serve and please God:

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.

For his third and fourth requests, Agur focuses on two very practical matters: Food and finances. His prayer might be paraphrased, “Lord, please supply me with enough – not too much, and not too little.” In Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, Solomon muses about both topics, concluding that God does, indeed, supply people with their daily needs:

Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Jesus, too, addressed the daily needs of people. In Matthew 6:11, as he taught his disciples how to pray, he encouraged them to ask for provision:

Give us today our daily bread.

And in Luke 12:22-31, Jesus explains that your heavenly Father already knows all your needs – and is prepared to meet them:

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

What is it that you are asking God for today? If your requests are similar to Agur’s, it would seem you have good reason to expect that your prayers will be answered in the affirmative.

Better than gold

I, Wisdom [from God], make prudence my dwelling, and I find out knowledge and discretion. The reverent fear and worshipful awe of the Lord [includes] the hatred of evil; pride, arrogance, the evil way, and perverted and twisted speech I hate. I have counsel and sound knowledge, I have understanding, I have might and power. By me kings reign and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges and governors of the earth. I love those who love me, and those who seek me early and diligently shall find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness (uprightness in every area and relation, and right standing with God). My fruit is better than gold, yes, than refined gold, and my increase than choice silver. I [Wisdom] walk in the way of righteousness (moral and spiritual rectitude in every area and relation), in the midst of the paths of justice, That I may cause those who love me to inherit [true] riches and that I may fill their treasuries. ~Proverbs 8:12-21 AMP

Gold is trading at an all-time high price today – about $1,100 per ounce. Here are a few other ordinary items that weigh one ounce, give or take a little:

  • a CD – or the CD case, if you prefer
  • a single slice of bread
  • a typical letter, in an envelope with a stamp
  • one AA-size battery
  • Five U.S quarters

Each of these items weigh about the same as one ounce of gold, but all of them combined don’t add up to one percent of the gold’s value. And yet this passage assures you that the fruit of wisdom is better than gold – even better than refined (more pure and more valuable) gold.

So just how valuable is wisdom? This passage concludes with a promise: Those who love wisdom, rather than temporarily valuable things like gold, will inherit “true riches,” and their pockets will be filled with priceless treasures. This is hinting at the ultimately more valuable gift of eternal life.

In Revelation 21:21, as God describes the New Jerusalem, he mentions almost casually that the main street is constructed with pure gold. Apparently, heaven is full of things we consider precious today. But in eternity, they aren’t worth much.

Are you more in love today with gold, or wisdom?

Your money’s no good here

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death. ~Proverbs 11:4 NASB

The phrase “day of wrath” – or something near to it – occurs about two dozen times in the Bible. This verse in Proverbs offers a simple truth: Your money won’t do you any good when you settle your accounts with God.

Consider a few of the many references to this concept, starting with Ezekiel 7:19::

They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be treated as a thing unclean. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath. It will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs, for it has caused them to stumble into sin.

Zephaniah 1:18:

Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath.” In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.

Romans 2:5:

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

Revelation 6:17:

For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

Looks like that fancy car, expensive house, those stock certificates, real estate investments, and even hard-earned cash isn’t going to be of much use on that day. But there is one thing that will deliver you from death: Righteousness.

The apostle Paul explains in Philippians 3:8-9:

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith inChrist – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Righteousness that delivers from death is not found in our good works or good intentions. It is given to us by God as we place our faith in Jesus Christ. And Romans 3:21-22 clearly states that this righteousness is given through faith in Christ:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith inJesus Christ to all who believe.

The only thing that can prevent anyone from experiencing eternal separation from God is faith in Jesus Christ. Who will you pray for today who hasn’t yet placed their trust in Jesus? Who will you tell today about the good news of eternal life in Christ?

Give me only my daily bread

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.. ~Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV

Proverbs 30 begins by attributing the entire chapter to Agur, son of Jakeh, and explaining that this “inspired utterance” was originally for a man named Ithiel. But, like all scripture, there is truth and meaning here for us, as well.

Agur’s prayer says, “keep falsehood and lies far from me.” He entreats God, asking that he would be disciplined to tell the truth, rather than dealing in lies. Agur is, apparently, interested in maintaining his integrity.

The he turns his attention to the subject of wealth. Agur is anxious to avoid poverty – but not because he might be hungry. Rather, he does not want to be tempted to steal, which would dishonor God. At the same time, he does not seek great financial prosperity, concerned that he might acquire too much, and reject God as a result.

In contemporary American culture, telling the truth is still looked upon as virtuous, and telling a lie is not. Being truthful is a mark of good character.

But what about wealth? According to our culture, there is no limit to the acquisition of wealth and possessions, and it’s all healthy. If you don’t have enough, simply borrow some money to buy more things, the culture says.

Since we’ve been financially blessed almost beyond measure, shouldn’t the North American church have a Biblical understanding of how money works? Romans 12:2 says, in part:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

And Hebrews 13:15 reminds us:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Are American Christians allowing the secular culture to dictate our attitudes about money? How does – or should – Agur’s prayer inform your perception of money and wealth?