News magazines and newspapers scream at us with scary headlines predicting world-wide depression. Anxious scrutinizers of the stock reports find a decline in value. The tiny box telling the exchange value of our money shows a drop that makes the money for travel worth only a fraction of what it was. Price tags on such things as rice, margarine, and dried beans seem like a bad joke as one puts the new package on the shelf beside the nearly empty one purchased a few weeks before.

Have you ever had moths get into the drawer containing your best sweaters, so that when you pulled out your lovely, soft cashmere, knitted in your favorite pattern, what you found was a rag of lacy, ugly holes? Have you had what looked like strong wood in your house wall turn out to be only soft, wet pulp because of years of leaks from rusty pipes? Or have you come upon the telltale line of sawdust left at the edge of a wall as termites ate their way through to hollow out beams?

What is safe? How can we feel secure?

As we look into the Bible, which is our source for practical knowledge of what to do day by day and how to live according to God’s specific advice, we are hit by the truth of how well God knows us, as well as by the definiteness of his commands. We can’t one day say, “Why didn’t you tell us?” He has told us clearly, but we are often blind and deaf. Or we let words flow over us like rain; we feel the fresh, cooling water, put our tongues out to catch a few drops, and then get a towel to rub dry, freeing ourselves of any effects. Words, words, words, like drops of water, or music, pleasant but temporary in effect. The Word of God is not meant to be like that. If it is not sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting us deep, then we have not really listened or seen.

Look, listen: Proverbs 23:4, 5—“Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” What a description of today! How up to date the warning. The stock that suddenly “is not” because it has dropped to half the former value. The bank account that suddenly “is not” because taxes have diminished it or the exchange rate has dropped. The rise in prices that causes the money in one’s bag to be “not” because it can pay for only half of what one expected to buy. Day by day people are clutching with their eyes and with their hands that which “is not,” which is suddenly going to turn into ashes in the midst of the clutch. “Riches make themselves wings”—what an apt description. Picture stocks and bonds and bank accounts suddenly rising like a flock of birds.

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God has warned his people for centuries. He has meant his people to be aware of the trap of spending time like a crazed spendthrift, a drunken sailor. People who pride themselves on being prudent and wise about money often spend the precious commodity of time figuring out how to clip the wings of their riches, to keep them from flying away. But they are going to fail, God warns. Riches certainly will make themselves wings!

What then are we supposed to do in order to “cease from thine own wisdom” in this area?

Come to the man in Luke to whom God said, as he was drawing up blueprints of safe storehouses for his riches, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Jesus does not leave his disciples or us pondering what on earth he means when he says this. He goes on to be very explicit about what it means to be “rich toward God.” Turn to Luke and read on. Read chapter 12:15–34, and think about it as if you had never seen it before. Think about it in relation to the stock-market report and the tax bill. What are we to worry about?

We are to take no time to worry about tomorrow’s prices, what we are going to eat, or put on our bodies. We have been given the birds to think about. Look out the window, go into the woods, watch the birds as they fly. They eat, they have glossy wings; God has provided for them. We are to measure ourselves and think for a while about how we can’t be taller by trying to plan it, and that should “hit” us with the realization that our powers aren’t very great in any area.

Walk in a meadow; look at daisies, violets, gentians, wild roses. Look at pictures if you can’t get near flowers. Think a while about the fact that God designed these diverse textures and colors as “clothing.” Oh, says Jesus, how small is your faith if you can’t trust this same person to clothe you. Verse 29 shows us that he wants us not to think about a coming depression, how it might affect our daily need of food and drink. We are not to be “doubtful” or to worry as the world would worry. If we lose everything, we are not to react in the same way. Our Heavenly Father knows we have need of these material things, and that he will “add” them to us, if we put first things first. And what is first? “But rather seek ye first the kingdom of God.”

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How? Again we are given one area of practical direction. How can I know God’s will? In one area it is surely clear enough, in the area of material things. I am to share what I have. I am to “lose my life in order to save it,” but I am also to give away my money in order to save it. The early church did this to such an extent that there were no people in want among them. They bought shoes and food for one another. They stopped worrying about hoarding against times ahead, and really tried to be practical about what Jesus had said, recorded for us in Luke.

“Provide yourselves with bags which wax not old”: what marvelous bags are these? When we give as unto the Lord, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sharing with people we see daily, as well as giving that the Word of God might go forth, suddenly we have saved all that in special bags that are forever new and cannot be snatched!

But more is said. It is not just in a supernaturally safe bag, but this actual dollar, franc, cash, yen, florin, this actual money, so Jesus says, when it is given away is stored now in heaven. We can actually put “treasures in heaven” that will be discovered to be there, someday!

Wait a minute. Be quiet in some hidden place in the woods, or in a room alone. Is your heart, my heart, really in heaven? Are our thoughts filled with excitement as to how our treasures are growing there? Do we look forward to what is being prepared for us by Jesus? Can we really shrug our shoulders and say to the Lord, “Thank you for the warning. I expected the riches to take wings. I love you, Lord, for being so open with me about this. Thank you for telling me where to store a good proportion of my goods. I’m full of thoughts about heaven. It’s really true that my investments are all there.”

And then next comes: “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching.”

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