Labour not to be rich; cease from thine own wisdom (Proverbs 23:4).
To be rich has been the lot of many saints; and when God bestows riches upon us, we are not required to throw them into the sea, as a certain old philosopher did; but when God denies us riches, we must not reckon ourselves unhappy on that account. Solomon often speaks of riches as a reward that wisdom frequently bestows on those who love her, but here he cautions us against supposing that wisdom encourages the love of riches—that universal passion which has been so mischievous to the human race, since the beginning of the world.
In our fallen condition, we must labour and sweat for our subsistence; but that kind of labour is useful to the body, and not prejudicial to the mind. The labour after riches here forbidden, is exceedingly hurtful to both. It arises from an immoderate esteem of present things, and an aspiring mind. It is joined with a distrust of God’s providence, and an hurry and distraction of men’s thoughts, which renders them unfit for the service of God. It destroys all relish for the comforts of life, that might be enjoyed at present, and – is a continual incentive to unmerciful and unjust behaviour. It is a pity that we do not more attentively consider the alarming things that are said by our Lord, and the apostle Paul, on this subject*.
But you will say, money is a necessary and an excellent thing. It keeps a man from want and dependence; it raises him to dignity and consequence; it furnishes every thing that is desirable in life, But cease from thine own wisdom, which is not the wisdom from above, but that earthly, sensual, and devilish wisdom so greatly condemned in the Scripture. Money, under the direction of wisdom, will indeed serve all these purposes, and some others too, of far greater value. But the love of money is not merely a bad thing, but the root of all evil, and a confidence in money is a very foolish thing.
*Luke 12:15; 16:11-13; 1 Tim. 6:10