Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings, and fly away as an eagle towards heaven (Proverbs 23:5).
Wilt thou let thine eyes fly upon money with eager joy? Thou shalt soon see them fly away never to return.
To look at other men’s money with covetous desires, and an admiration of the happiness of the possessor— to look upon our own money with rapturous delight, because our hand has gotten much, is to make to ourselves gods of gold, as the ancient Israelites did, and to give them the worship of the soul, and therefore covetousness is called idolatry; and to rejoice in money more than in God, is to say to the gold, Thou art our hope, and to the fine gold, Thou art our confidence.
It is foolish, as well as sinful, to set our eyes and our hearts on riches. Will a man set his eyes upon a mere nothing? But what does Solomon mean by calling them so? Does not their splendour shew that they are true substance? It must be confessed that they are very glittering nothings, but so are bubbles upon the water, when they shine with the rays of the sun, which make them to glare for a moment, but don’t hinder them from vanishing the next. Our Lord tells us that they are not the true riches, and that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of them. The wise preacher has written a book to prove, that they are the very vanity of vanities. Philosophers in every age have declaimed in proof of this point, and all men are sensible of its truth at the season when the eyes of men are forced open to the sight of truth.
But in this passage Solomon means the uncertainty of riches. They are not, for they fly away out of sight never to return. They are mine to-day, they were another man’s yesterday, they will be yours to-morrow, and whither they shall have flown in a few weeks, we cannot tell.
But how do they get away? They make to themselves wings. Whilst you sit brooding upon them, they are fledging; and although you should try, by bills and bonds, and bars, and bolts, to clip their wings, you will not be able to hinder their elopement; and when you think to recover them, you are often making wings to what is left you. The eagle is the swiftest of birds, and with the swiftness of an eagle they mount up towards heaven, and receive their commission to whom they should next go. Doth the eagle fly by thy command, or canst thou bring him back, like the hawk, to thy lure? As little can you recover those riches of which Divine Providence has bereaved you.
Those who place their happiness on worldly wealth, build their foundation on a flood poured out, as some render Job XXii. 16. Their joy is short, and clashed with a large infusion of fear and vexation. Their disappointment is certain; their end is dreadful: for those who mind earthly things above heavenly things, are enemies of the cross of Christ, and their end is destruction; but true Christians seek for the true riches, their conversation is in heaven, and their treasure is in a place where there is no moth nor rust, nor any of those feathers which compose the eagle wings of riches, with which they flee away.
The reading for today is an excerpt from ¨Exposition of the Book of Proverbs¨ by George Lawson.