Turns out so much of the recent modern west has been pumped full of lies. Turns out it’s good to be a man, it’s good to be a woman, faithful marriage is good, children are good, families are good, hard work is good, and because all of those things are good, wealth is also good. Just because you can misuse something does not mean its right use is immoral or objectionable. Just because disasters sometimes strike, sickness or wars or betrayals happen, doesn’t mean that wealth does not remain essentially good, virtuous, and a healthy goal to strive for.
The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, but the love of giving money, the love of serving others with wealth and possessions is virtuous. The love of employing others so that they can provide for their families and give to and invest generously in other worthy causes – that is good and glorious. A wise man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children (Prov. 13:22). It is not a mere unfortunate necessity in a fallen world. It is a glorious calling to serve others by work hard, to serve others by making money, and to serve others by using that wealth for good. The love of that kind of productivity and fruitfulness is the root of all kinds of goodness.
Wisdom is Wealth
“For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold” (Prov. 3:14). “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold” (Prov. 8:10). “My fruit isbetter than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver” (Prov. 8:19).
Clearly wisdom and knowledge and instruction are better than mere gold or choice silver. Given the choice, we should pick knowledge, wisdom, and honoring our parents over money and houses and cars every day of the week. But what happens when you get that wisdom, when you receive the instruction of your parents? “Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor” (Prov. 3:16). “Riches and honor are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness” (Prov. 8:18). “The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly” (Prov. 14:24). “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD” (Prov. 19:14).
Too often we overly spiritualize Solomon and the Proverbs. We think to ourselves that wisdom is like wealth, knowledge is like gold and silver, but, we think it isn’t really. Except that it really is. As George Gilder has been trying to convince us for decades now: wealth really is knowledge. Wealth is fundamentally surprising and helpful information. Knowing how things work, knowing how certain things can be harnessed to work for us and others, knowing how to get those goods and services to market, that is the essence of wealth. And that project, that mission is central to the Dominion Mandate and good works. Christians have been saved by grace, through faith, for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8-10).
Zealous For Good Works
It is not merely that we should be OK with wealth. No, the Bible teaches that there is a kind of zeal we are required to have for good works, wisdom, and therefore, wealth. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Tit. 2:14-15). The gospel of grace, rightly understood, makes a peculiar people, known for their zeal for good works. And Christian ministers are required to insist on this with their people. The Christian church is to be known as a gathering of joyful people who work hard, with excellence because of they have been forgiven.
But too often we think of “good works” as random boy scout acts of kindness. But the Bible says otherwise: “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Tit. 3:7-8). And the phrase to underline here is “careful to maintain.” Christians are to be people who are thoughtful about doing good work all the time. What is a blessing and profitable to human society? People given to good work. This is not talking about the occasional Good Samaritan emergency. We most certainly must be ready to drop everything and give and serve generously when there has been an emergency, a natural disaster, etc. But you can’t be “careful to maintain” those good works unless you run a fire department, a hospital, or the national guard or something similar.
Most people prepare for those unexpected emergencies and needs by being careful to maintain their ordinary good work: computer programing, pouring concrete, teaching, writing, cleaning, and so on. The point is that the good work that Christians must be “careful to maintain” is their vocation, their calling, the work they do most days to serve others and provide for themselves and their families. And let us just underline this point. It is already a good and glorious work to get up, go to work, work hard with excellence and honesty, and go home with your paycheck every two weeks. Let us take a moment and honor that good work. That good work is virtuous, generous, and praiseworthy. God is pleased with it. There need be nothing selfish, nothing greedy, nothing lamentable about it. Good, honest work is good for the world.
But let us press this point even further: if good, honest work is a moral good, there is therefore nothing inherently greedy or selfish about getting paid for that good work. Getting paid for the good work that you do is how you are “careful to maintain” that good work. You can’t keep going to work if you don’t eat, if you don’t sleep well, if you don’t have a house to live in, and long term, you will not be able to maintain good work in general if most folks don’t marry and have children. Being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth with good things requires lots of money, lots of resources, lots of wealth. As Pastor Doug Wilson likes to say to young men who are thinking about courtship and marriage: women are expensive. This is good and glorious and virtuous. And all of this requires wisdom.