Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Proverbs 23:4-5 Know when to stop

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, December 22, 2018

4 Do not work hard to acquire wealth.
  Know when to stop.
5 When your eyes see riches, they are gone,
  for suddenly they sprout wings,
  flying like an eagle into the sky.

Just as we should avoid being slaves to our appetite, we should also run from the lust for riches. If God gives us a gift, he will see to it that we have the means to take care of that gift. He only asks us to trust in him. That gift for some might simply be life. We should not squander our wages or time but work to sustain our lives. That gift for others might be a family. With every new baby, God will bless the family with help and income so that they can manage. For someone else, God may have given the gift of management or administration, which is one of the spiritual gifts Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 12:28. His plan might be to bless his church through such a person, who might have insights and training that will help preserve his people and the various gifts he gives through the church.

In his Large Catechism, Luther preaches an invaluable lesson about wealth and trust:

    43 Reflect for yourself or make inquiry and tell me: Those who have employed all their care and diligence to accumulate great possessions and wealth, what have they finally attained? You will find that they have wasted their toil and labor, or even though they have amassed great treasures, they have been dispersed and scattered, so that they themselves have never found happiness in their wealth, and afterwards it never reached the third generation.
    44 Instances of this you will find aplenty in all histories, also in the memory of aged and experienced people. Only observe and ponder them.
    45 Saul was a great king, chosen of God, and a godly man; but when he was established on his throne, and let his heart decline from God, and put his trust in his crown and power, he had to perish with all that he had, so that none even of his children remained.
    46 David, on the other hand, was a poor, despised man, hunted down and chased, so that he nowhere felt secure of his life; yet he had to remain in spite of Saul, and become king. For these words had to abide and come true, since God cannot lie or deceive. Only let not the devil and the world deceive you with their show, which indeed remains for a time, but finally is nothing.
    47 Let us, then, learn well the First Commandment, that we may see how God will tolerate no presumption nor any trust in any other object, and how He requires nothing higher of us than confidence from the heart for everything good, so that we may proceed right and straightforward and use all the blessings which God gives no farther than as a shoemaker uses his needle, awl, and thread for work, and then lays them aside, or as a traveler uses an inn, and food, and his bed only for temporal necessity, each one in his station, according to God’s order, and without allowing any of these things to be our lord or idol.
    48 Let this suffice with respect to the First Commandment, which we have had to explain at length, since it is of chief importance, because, as before said, where the heart is rightly disposed toward God and this commandment is observed, all the others follow.
(Large Catechism, First Commandment, par. 43-48)

The wisdom of this proverb is, “Know when to stop.” If your pursuit of providing for your family robs you of most of your time with them, know when to stop. If your pursuit of a hobby or a pastime or even of an indulgence like drinking or smoking has led you into lying about it or robbing your family of the income God gives to you for their support, then know when to stop. If you have begun to volunteer or to help other people with their needs in order to avoid a difficult situation at home, then know when to stop. Receive the gifts God gives you—your income, your abilities, but especially your family itself—and appreciate them. Use the things to the glory of God and love the people as God’s forgiven children. If you’re not doing that, if you’re doing something else, then it’s time to stop. Repent of what you’ve done or failed to do, and ask God to help you glorify him, especially by loving the people around you even if they have hurt you, wronged you, or damaged your relationship. “Love is not proud…it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4,5). Love “always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7). That’s how God showed his love for you. Be a mirror of that love with your life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

Browse Devotion Archive