walk in the word
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it (Proverbs 13:11, ESV).
When you read this proverb, you might wonder, Really, Solomon? How do you know “wealth gained hastily will dwindle”? And Solomon might reply, “I’ve been watching. If you get money falsely or fast—it dwindles. Watch with me.”
King Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs, and apart from Jesus, he had more insight into human behavior than any other person who ever walked this earth. Solomon recorded what he saw. Which means proverbs are not promises; they are descriptions of the way things normally are.
The word hastily is complicated in the original Hebrew language. The NASB clarifies, “Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles,” as in get-rich-quick schemes. This proverb describes what typically happens to lottery winners: the money slips through their fingers and is gone. Statistics about lottery winners and professional athletes show that many not only lose their winnings or inflated earnings but also go bankrupt over time.
Of the hundreds of verses in the Bible related to money, approximately one-third have nothing to do with how you spend, save, invest, or use it. Thirty percent of all biblical instruction about money relates to one question: How did you get it? God is incredibly interested in how you got what you have. If you cut a corner, distorted what was true, hid information to make a sale, took something that wasn’t yours, dishonored others, cheated your employees, or took more than your rightful share—God sees and cares.
We all dream of shortcuts to success. In his best-selling book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell convincingly establishes what he calls “The Principle of 10,000 Hours.” Americans like to equate success with good luck or raw, natural talent, but Gladwell traces success to hard work. He claims that behind every runaway success story, from Bill Gates to the Beatles, we never see the 10,000 hours those individuals spent developing and honing the skills that took them to the top.
How desperately we want to believe we can find secret shortcuts to fast acquisition, but it’s not realistic—nor is it honest. Instead, “whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” Gathering little by little seems hard and it is, but God rewards that honest approach. It’s amazing what saving $10 per month does if you start in your twenties, and how $100 per month will grow little by little.
As you consider hasty gain versus honest work, look closely at your own patterns:
If you cut corners because you think you’ll get a financial edge, yet wonder why you never seem to get to a better financial place, you’re coming close to the answer. What you get dishonestly won’t stay. God sees! And He honors honesty.
If you have income or assets you gained dishonestly, repent and make it right. Get the money back where it belongs—whether it’s the government, a former employer, a repairman who forgot to bill you, etc.—and get your books clean. God does not bless financial shortcuts. “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle.”
How have you been tempted to gain wealth hastily or dishonestly? What steps of reconciliation is God prompting you to take?
How can you make your work more honest and God-honoring?
Father, You are the great King over all the earth. Everything is Yours, and I am Yours. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” (Psalm 24:1, NASB). But I confess to You, God, that I have not always aquired things the best way, the right way. Grant me humility and courage to make things right. I choose honesty. I choose to pursue the gift of a clear conscience before You. I choose to return anything that’s not rightfully mine. Teach me to gather little by little. Teach me honest, hard work. There is so much opportunity in front of me, so many hours left in this life to honor You, to serve You, to steward well for You. In the name of Jesus, who is Faithful and True, amen.
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