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7 Financial Tips From the Book of Proverbs

Ask someone from the millennial or Generation Z crowds about tech-related topics and you’ll likely get an encyclopedia of knowledge pouring forth. Ask those same cohorts about a financial decision or money-related matter and you just might get a deer-in-the-headlights look.

Over two-thirds of people ages 18-41 have “financial topics they want advice on,” a Harris Poll found earlier this year, “but aren’t sure how to get it.” And given that 70 percent of millennials and 65 percent of Generation Z live paycheck to paycheck, it’s not hard to imagine what types of financial advice might be needed.

Unfortunately, that last set of statistics shows that hiring a financial coach at an average of over $250 per hour is out of the question for most of those seeking advice. Lest you despair, I have good news on where to find invaluable, free financial advice, available at your fingertips. It’s liberally dispersed throughout an ancient work called the Book of Proverbs.

Here are just a few of the financial bits of wisdom that Proverbs offers.

Warnings against sloth and laziness pepper the Proverbs, many of them directly contrasting the sluggard with an ant, whose industrious nature works hard in the summer to store up food for winter. No one wants to be compared to a sloth, and many of us would likely pat ourselves on the back and contend we are not lazy bums. But Proverbs painfully points out some finer, overlooked aspects of slothfulness, such as a tendency to be wasteful, to take it easy and take multiple breaks, and to do a lot of talking rather than taking action and completing a task.

“In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury,” says Proverbs 14:23.

Like those who go into debt, Proverbs tells us that those who chose the way of sloth will be the servants in society, not the rulers, and will be overcome by poverty rather than riches. Those who are diligent in their business, however, will be society’s influencers, “standing before kings” and increasing in profit and material wealth.

“He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich,” says Proverbs 10:4.

One of the best financial investments a person can make is to choose a financially savvy spouse. Proverbs 31 famously paints a picture of this by describing a woman who does her husband good, not evil, by being an industrious worker who wisely considers a large purchase before investing her money, isn’t wasteful, and even runs and operates her own home business ventures.

A virtuous spouse, Proverbs says, is worth far more than rubies—but industry is part of virtue.

“She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands,” says Proverbs 12-13.

For those who live paycheck to paycheck, thinking long term seems like the last thing to consider on the list of life worries. The good news is that preparing for the future doesn’t have to be difficult. According to Proverbs, it can be as simple as maintaining friendships on which we can fall back upon for help in times of trouble. Keeping our business and financial affairs in good order is another way to prepare for hard times.

Additionally, we should consider that our children and grandchildren are also likely to encounter hard financial times. Preparing a nest egg or inheritance for them ahead of time, Proverbs tells us, is the mark of a good man.

“A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous,” says Proverbs 13:22.

It may sound exciting and easy to “make $90 an hour working from home,” but Proverbs suggests that being hasty to get rich leads to poverty and want.

“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty,” says Proverbs 21:5.

Those who faithfully do their work, however, will abound with blessings.

Young people are often encouraged to sow their wild oats and enjoy life early on, but such riotous living may have negative financial consequences. Love of food, drink, and a free-wheeling lifestyle can lead an individual to spend extravagantly, eventually leading to poverty, Proverbs tells us.

Those who pursue righteous living, however, avoid extravagant lifestyles and practice honesty in their business dealings, not willing to take a bribe or lie in order to increase in wealth. Living a life of integrity promises great rewards, among which are “riches, and honour, and life,” Proverbs tells us.

Furthermore, in times of political turmoil and trouble, it is a righteous, upright life—not riches—that deliver an individual from death.

Borrowing money for school, cars, and homes has become the American way of life in recent years, even to the point that borrowing is now common even for basic living expenses. In fact, over 50 percent of Americans say they have more than $1,000 in credit card debt.

Proverbs warns against such debt, cautioning that those who borrow become servants to those who lend. This is likely why Proverbs also cautions against taking responsibility for another’s debt. Such an action may seem kind, but chances are that person will never be able to pay, leaving you stuck as the servant of debt in their place.

While Proverbs warns against taking responsibility for another’s debt, it does encourage us to be generous givers. Indeed, one might even say that Proverbs advances the idea of a giving principle: those who hoard and try to make sure they have enough to live on themselves will find that they’re grasping to make ends meet. But those who give freely to others, particularly the less fortunate, will find themselves overflowing with great blessings and plenty.

These seven financial principles are diverse and broad, but there is one component underlying each of them: wisdom. In the eighth chapter of Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a woman calling to individuals to forsake their foolishness and seek her instead. Those who do so, she promises, will reap not only material rewards, but moral ones as well:

Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver. I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.

In essence, those of us who want to do well in financial matters will follow this “one simple trick”: seeking wisdom.

This article was originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons-Portable Antiquities Scheme, CC BY-SA 2.0

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Annie Holmquist
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