King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, shrewdly placed these two proverbs back to back as a means to startle us from our spiritual slumber.
Do you see it? The contrast couldn’t be more glaring, but it’s easy to miss in a casual reading. The dichotomy between these verses paints a vivid picture of where we find our security: from the Lord or from our wealth.
Both “wealth” and the “name of the Lord” are pictured as a fortified structure. In the ancient world, a city’s defenses were crucially important to its continued existence. The imposing structure of a city’s walls gave its citizens a sense of safety and well-being. Don’t miss the point of Solomon’s imagery. Only the “name of the Lord” is truly a place of security. His name is a “strong tower” and represents His character – His goodness, His steadfast love, His grace, His mercy, etc.
The security we often seek from our bank accounts, on the contrary, is illusory. We like to think of wealth as an impenetrable Fort Knox, a “wall too high to scale,” but that is only a figment of our imagination. A few chapters later, Solomon warns, “cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:5). Haven’t recent events in our world confirmed the truthfulness of Solomon’s wise advice?
To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with having a healthy financial portfolio. Solomon himself was a man of great wealth.We are called to be good stewards, give generously, save for the future, and spend wisely in the present. Money can also be a powerful tool to help advance the kingdom of God in this fallen world. The issue isn’t wealth per se; it’s vigilantly paying attention to the subtle ways that it can gradually become our ultimate source of security. Solomon wants us to wrestle with where we run for refuge.
At times, my heart longs for some kind of third option, a middle ground that allows me to have the best of both worlds. Solomon doesn’t give us that choice. When it comes to the source of our security, it’s “either/or”, not “both/and.” We cannot simultaneously place our confidence in the Lord and our wealth. With crystal clarity, Jesus echoes Solomon’s wisdom in the Sermon on Mount: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
Allow me to state the obvious: the words of Solomon and our Savior are extremely counter-cultural. Each day, we are immersed in a world that tells us to run towards our bank accounts for our security. Solomon knows that the wise man resists the current of culture and seeks refuge in the Lord.
Take a moment to search your heart. Where is your ultimate source of security? In the Lord, or in riches?
Written by Jonathan Munson, Executive Director of RFTH