Money, smarts and safety, one cup at a time

By Jeff Smith
Special to The PREVIEW

A smart person knows you need money plus wealth to help deal with life’s mishaps.

Growing up, we never had much in the way of savings, my dad told me later. There just wasn’t much left over for that kind of thing by the end of the month.

When I got married, we were told to put the money in the bank at the first of the month. It was good advice and you need that cushion in case the engine blows up or the roof leaks.

I am in the Bible’s “Wisdom” scriptures, in Solomon’s book of Proverbs, coffee cup in hand, trying to get more good advice on how to live.

Chapter 10 marks the end of the longer passages and begins the single, random, one-liner kinds of statements, each with it’s own theme. Solomon’s Proverbs are like a moral sparring match where I train to deal with life’s problems in the random fashion they often occur, before they occur.

The first verse in chapter 10 talked about raising kids and now.

Proverbs 10:2 —  “Wealth which comes from sin is of no profit (or benefit NAS95), but righteousness gives salvation from death.”

I think this says if I get wealth from doing wrong it won’t help me, but if I do righteous things I won’t get killed? This sounds bleak.

Solomon argues here for a profound shift in the way I should think about what keeps me safe.

I can see money as a wall against problems. Nothing wrong with that.

Instinct says more money means bigger walls, but a wise person says not so fast. If I cheat to put that money there those walls have holes.

On the other hand, a quick search of the term “righteousness” in scripture finds it is often linked to giving some of that money away, to the poor (Psalms 112.9, Matthew 6:1, 2 Corinthians 9:9,10). The Lord promises to keep alive those who do so (Psalms 41:1-3). I’m sure life can come down to that even if I don’t want it to.

Jumping over verse three I find that verse four also talks about money.

Proverbs 10:4 — “He who is slow (lazy, slothful, other versions) in his work becomes poor, but the hand of the ready worker gets in wealth.”

The Hebrew term for being “slow” or “lazy” also implies someone who deceives (Gill, BDB) or who says they did the job when they didn’t.

So, I should do right and care about those who have less, even when I don’t have much. I do the job I’m paid to do. This is smart. Many of the richest business leaders will tell you that it was their work plus their ethics that made their fortunes.

“Your values, work ethic, and personal standards are always visible, whether you’re a janitor or a CEO. I’ve always conducted myself in business according to that very simple rule: Work hard … because somebody’s always watching.” — Ivan Seidenberg chairman and CEO of Verizon. Excerpt From: Trump, Donald. “Trump: The Way to the Top.” Crown Business, 2004-05-18. iBooks.

There is a cash amount I can see on my bank statement each month. It is hard to put it there and it is precious little compared with the dangers that lurk outside those four walls.

There is also a second kind of wealth that I cannot see, but in some ways is more real than the first. I can build that up too.

Readers’ comments

Send your faith articles to

This story was posted on October 17, 2013.