Reaching into the Psalms 1 to 4: 20. Uncertainties with money
Psa 4:6a Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
Focus: Here we have one of those verses that appears almost inconsequential and yet, I sense, is potentially a bomb that will go off beneath our feet if we will but take time to think about it. The presence of the word ‘LORD’ where it is indicates that David is addressing God, is important, and when we move into the second half of the verse we will see that even more clearly. The presence of the word ‘Many’ indicates that David is speaking about people that he knows – possibly close to him, possibly others – and he is drawing the Lord’s attention to these people. This is the focus of what we have here – David talking to the Lord about others.
Their negativity: Each of these words point out something. The word ‘asking’ speaks of a questioning people and questions can be positive, genuinely seeking out information for a good reason, or they can be negative and critical and there is a probability in the words that follow that they are just that, negative and critical and, subtly, they are a criticism of God. The Lord had pointed out the negative aspects of so many of their lives in verse 2 when He asked, “How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” He clearly saw that their relationship with Him was utterly shallow, having turned away to idols, to ‘things’ they obviously thought might help them. Superstition is a weird thing.
Self-concern: This question, “Who will bring us prosperity?” is an expression of self-concern that, I suggest, most, if not all of us have. We want to survive but more than that we want to prosper. Some of us may be locked into work and life-styles that prevent us progressing financially, but we still dream – which is why so many do lotteries or other forms of gambling – “who knows but one day my circumstances could be utterly changed and I would never have to worry about money again.” When money is short it is a natural concern.
Challenge to the church: We have a particular friend at the present who, through circumstances beyond her control, is struggling financially. That presents a challenge to the rest of us in the church: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:44,45) Here in the West, I suggest there are usually in the church, those of us with sufficient financial resources that we don’t need to sell off things, we can simply dip into a bank account. The questions are, will we be compassionate and caring and can we hold our finances lightly, and will we be obedient to Scripture, for example, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth,” (1 Jn 3:17,18) and “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Lk 3:11) and “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (Acts 4:32) Challenging teaching and challenging examples for those of us in the affluent West.
Holding a Right Attitude: Now we have suggested that these words in verse 6a come in a negative manner and in the light of the spiritual state of the nation as highlighted by verse 2. But we have also said that it is right to be concerned about how to make ends meet when money is short. It is a difficult subject sometimes and truth and integrity as well as wisdom are sometimes lacking. Our church runs a food bank and provides Saturday brunch for ‘vulnerable families’. Thus we seek to minister to people who do fit that description, of those who are concerned about how to make ends meet. But all is not always as it seems.
Those who work with street people tell of how sometimes poverty and begging is a professional means that brings in money in excess of 100,000 a years (dollars or pounds, it doesn’t matter). That may be an extreme abuse, yet we have encountered a family that turns up for free brunch where the father has an income in excess of some of the well-paid people in the church. A leader was asked by a family to go around to talk to them about how the church could help them out of their financial straits. When he entered their house he observed that all of the children had their own cell-phones and iPads. When questioned they denied they could do without them. Now such situations (and they could be multiplied) indicate possible lacks of wisdom, if not of integrity, in the lifestyles of some in our society and hence Pauls words about “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15) present a challenge to us if we are to minister to such people.
And Us? Always such considerations come back to us. We try not to point fingers at others, especially if we ourselves are struggling to hold right attitudes. Implied behind the words of verse 6a there is the attitude, “Why won’t God help us?” and for them they had turned superstitiously to idols in the vain hope that that would help. But the Bible calls us to honesty and integrity about our own situations. Do we work? Do we work as to God? Do we overspend? Do we need to learn about budgeting? Are we discontented because of what we see others have? (Ex 20:17 speaks to that). Are we unwise in our use of credit cards and the like? Can we stand before God’s gaze and have a clear conscience about the way we use our money and the attitudes we have? Indeed, if we are Christians, have we sought the Lord’s wisdom over all these things? Maybe we need to find a Christian of maturity who can counsel us, give us their wisdom, so that we are not alone in these things.
God’s gaze? Having just referred to this, it brings us to the second part of the verse: “Let the light of your face shine on us,” and as I go to ponder that, I think it would be wise to consider it in a separate study, so let’s do that tomorrow.