Back in the day, entertainer Jack Benny was famous for being frugal. In one comedy skit, a thug held him up at gunpoint, demanding, “Your money or your life!” Benny’s l-o-n-g pause had the audience in hysterics, before he finally confessed, “I’m thinking it over.” Too funny.
But when we ask the Lord the same question—“Which is worth more: our money or our lives?”—he doesn’t hesitate for a moment. Our hearts, our souls, our minds and the wisdom they contain—all matter a great deal more than cold, hard cash.
How much better to get wisdom than gold,
to get insight rather than silver! Proverbs 16:16
How much better…
We’re not talking a specific number—“wisdom is 93% more valuable than gold”—but increasing our store of wisdom is clearly “worth more” (JUB) than increasing our bank accounts. Wisdom is “preferable” (HCSB) because it’s more useful, more shareable, more long lasting, and “more precious” (DRA).
Cash is easily spent, never to be reclaimed. Yet wisdom can be freely given away without losing an ounce of it. How comforting is that?
More good news: Thieves can’t break in and steal your wisdom. Nor can you lose it somewhere in your kitchen. Whatever wisdom you possess, it’s yours to keep. Forever.
…to get wisdom than gold,…
Gold goes up and down in value, based on the whims of the marketplace.
Wisdom only increases.
So, how do we “acquire” (NET) wisdom? How do we “gain” (CJB) or “receive” (VOICE) it? By spending many fruitful hours in God’s Word, for starters. Tucking his truth in our minds, like seeds in fertile soil. Drinking up his living water. Basking in the warmth of his love.
A few semesters at the School of Hard Knocks helps too. At least, that’s how it works at my house. I learn everything the hard way. I learn when I fail, not when I succeed. I learn by foolishly trying things my way, before humbly doing them God’s way.
(Hands up if any of that sounds familiar. Bless you.)
We can also gain “skillful and godly Wisdom” (AMP) by sitting at the feet of those who are wiser than we are. Listening intently to them, instead of offering an opinion. Nodding in agreement, rather than looking for something to argue about.
In a culture that worships money, those who worship God are called to seek something higher, something finer. As the old hymn says, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be his than have riches untold.”
Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.
…to get insight rather than silver!
As Eugene Peterson puts it, “Choose insight over income every time” (MSG).
Insight is wisdom applied. It’s “knowledge” (GNT) and “understanding” (ASV) in action. It’s “good judgment” (NLT) and “prudence” (DRA) put to practical, everyday use.
Who needs “some silver prize” (VOICE), when we can have the deep satisfaction of pleasing God? “Well done, good and faithful servant!” is sweeter than any supervisor’s praise or bonus added to our paycheck.
“But, Liz, we need money to pay for groceries, for utilities, for gasoline at $3.68 per gallon.” Got it. This isn’t a matter of either/or, of choosing money or wisdom. God is merely helping us see which one matters most.
Now it’s your turn
- The CEV translation sums up this verse, “It’s much better to be wise and sensible than to be rich.” How might you convince a teenager of that truth?
Thanks for taking a moment to Post a Comment below. Can’t wait to learn from your wisdom!
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Hope to squeeze in two short studies this week, so we can get back to our weekly Wednesday visits. I’m learning tons from our study of Proverbs and pray you are too!
Your sister, Liz
The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil. Yet so much of this world seemingly “turns” on the acquisition of wealth. As an animal activist I find that almost every atrocity committed against animals is done out of greed. Horse-slaughter, wild-life trafficking, puppy and kitten mills, dog fighting, horse and greyhound racing – the list is endless. How much better would our poor, sad, sinful world be if people were more intent on getting wisdom than wealth.
You are so right, Christina. Only God can turn our hearts and minds away from loving money and toward loving him!
I think back to my teen years and how omniscient I THOUGHT I was. Explaining something to me as a teen would have been impossible. I only pray God grants me the wisdom to reach my son now and in his teen years. The only way to reach anyone in a positive manner is with the Lord. But its easy to reach people in a negative way with even a glance. I want God to use me and I need to be like Him in so many ways for Him to able to use me. Street smarts can help make us who we are but “God smarts” make all the difference
“God smarts”–love it, Jaime! And yes, that’s why I posed the question about convincing a teen, because of the difficulty. :>) Now that my children are 25 and 26, I can say that they really DID listen to what we taught them, whether or not they acknowledged it at the time. It’s a matter of infusing our words with love, then living out what we’re teaching them. Well, most of the time. Sigh.
I think teenagers learn by watching adults. I could talk to my teen until I’m blue in the face, but I know he watches everything Russ and I do. He watches us struggle financially; he watches us pray about God providing for us (and He does!); and my teen watches us tithe, no matter what. I think our struggles and examples have helped my teen become more conscious of his financial choices. God is good!
SO right, JuneBug!
Liz, you are amazing. Thank you for sharing your insights. I’d much rather have wisdom than money! Plus, who says that God blessing you with wisdom isn’t a prerequisite to him blessing you with money. Why would He bless someone with a lack of understanding with riches when they don’t have the wisdom to know how to manage it?
Sadly, I can think of many examples of people who are blessed with riches and not with wisdom. Alas, when the cash runs out, they are left with nothing. As you say, I’d much rather have wisdom than money!
Before I dig into God’s Word, I ask Him to give me understanding of the passage I will read and then I ask for the wisdom to be able to apply this to my life today.
I can’t go to a store and buy this understanding and wisdom–it only comes as a free gift from God. How awesome is that?
It IS awesome, Cynthia. A gift for the asking!
I’ve been thinking about your question regarding teens. The stuff gold buys is pretty important to them — getting the right electronic device, having the right clothes, glasses, accessories (I didn’t even know what an accessory was when I was a teen!). Picturing all their most important possessions, bought with their “gold,” on a balance scale, then picturing wisdom on the other side. How does the scale tip? How many iPod Nanos does it take to counterbalance the wisdom that pushes you into the Word of God every day? How many Underarmor shirts are as valuable as the wisdom God gives to say no to a friend offering weed at a party?
You’ve really captured the challenge perfectly, Michele. Alas, even as we mature, those electronic devices and clothes have great appeal. Please, Lord Jesus, help us desire your wisdom above all things!
How funny–I had just finished a conversation with a co-worker about this right before I read it! I am saddened by seeing the amount of debt people accumulate–and how the world encourages it by the message of instant gratification. Part of wisdom is to be a good steward, and it’s difficult to be a good steward by accumulating debt! And isn’t ironic that student loan debt is astronomical as well? But wisdom and education are not that same thing. Education is important, but not at the cost of never being able to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor. Wisdom can be found without paying in dollars.
I love this conversation via posts. I have two girls that just turned 20 and we are right in the middle of this entire conversation. I have tried to help them to understand that God will give you your needs (not wants) and provide IF you put Him FIRST before the worldly wants (money). I love the thoughts you all post and Liz your insight to these are so Godly given for me. Thank you all for your “talks” with me and for me.
You asked how we might “convince” a teenager that getting wisdom is better than getting rich… I don’t think we can ‘convince’ teenagers of much… 🙂 but we need to teach them and show them the Word of God, so that they might ‘believe’ His truths and learn to follow Christ and His Word. Being obedient to God is the most important thing we can teach them, as well as doing that ourselves.
Awesome words Liz!
God has blessed me with my firstborn who is “wise beyond years” in his walk with the Lord. He, in turn, has been a great example for his younger siblings. It has little to do with my “teachings,” except for being open in my struggles and failures and God’s infinite patience and grace. Praying them all through. Liz, this is an awesome post, as always.
There’s probably nothing more convincing that someone faithfully walking out their own convictions. The polar opposite of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Do as I do, because life is better this way. How do I treat gold and silver? What priority to I place on wisdom and insight? The teenagers in my life will see that…and take note.
That being said, it wasn’t until I traveled overseas that I fully understood just how rich our culture is in stuff while at the same time being so very poor in spirit. And I will never forget traveling to a small coastal town in Mississippi to help with the rebuilding effort the year after Katrina completely devastated the Golf region. Some of those people had lost everything, but not their spirit…and their stories were amazing. For that reason, I think encouraging teenagers to volunteer and serve (either here or abroad) is a great way to reveal the truth of this verse. Sometimes you just can’t know things until your perspective has been changed.
“If only people would realize that moral principles are like measles…They have to be caught. And only the people who’ve got them can pass on the contagion.” ~ Aldous Huxley