Money Wise – Wisdom Before Wallet

So imagine with me that you discover that one of your best friends from primary or high school has become a billionaire, and that when you meet them, your friend is so excited that they give you the opportunity to ask for one thing – whatever it is you want. You don’t know whether he’ll be available tomorrow, so here’s your big chance. What would you ask for? 


Last week we began a new series for the rest of this month called ‘Money Wise: Lessons From A Billionaire’. We want to learn some critical lessons about money from a billionaire’s perspective.

So last week, we looked at an amazing incident in scripture where the young King Solomon saw his wealth as a tool to worship God. And God was so impressed that He showed up personally to ask Solomon, ‘What do you want from me? Ask!’ We learnt the biblical principle that ‘the use of your wealth reveals the state of your heart.

So what do you ask for when God gives you a blank cheque? Today we want to look at Solomon’s response. Turn to 2 Chronicles 1:7-12

What in the world is wrong with this guy? The God of the universe literally gave him a blank cheque – the opportunity to ask him for anything he desired in the world and he asks for something abstract like wisdom? Why in the world would I ask for wisdom when I can have enough money so that I never again have to think about it again! I mean, who needs wisdom when I can pay other people to be wise on my behalf. What makes Solomon’s answer more ridiculous is that theologians say that he was in his early 20’s. When I was in my early 20’s, wisdom was not part of my top 10 list! The thinking for many who are in their 20’s (and to be honest, for most people) is that wisdom won’t put food on the table and buy me my dream car; it’s money I need; and a whole lot of that!

But somehow, instead, young Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge to carry out his purpose of leading God’s people, and it seems clear that God was mighty pleased with his request. Because our story continues … 11 God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”

Why was God so excited about Solomon’s request?

The dictionary defines ‘knowledge’ as ‘facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education’. ‘Wisdom’ on the other hand is defined as ‘the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment’. Knowledge has to do with facts and comprehension, while wisdom has to do with action and application. Or a simpler way to put it is, ‘wisdom is the right use of knowledge’. Is it possible to have knowledge without wisdom? Yep! We see it everywhere in this country. Whenever I see a doctor smoking, I see a great example of knowledge without wisdom! Also, many rural areas in Kenya can boast that they have produced sons and daughters with PhDs in different disciplines, but they are still struggling with basic issues of health and food security. Is it possible to have wisdom without knowledge? Not really. Wisdom assumes you have at least a some knowledge, which you then act on to produce the best possible results for you and those around you.

Now, given a choice to ask for anything in the world, the young Solomon asked God for wisdom. That’s a radical thing! Let me speak to those who are younger first. In today’s world, where we idolize wealth, money and fame, young university graduates expect to be millionaires by the time they are 25. They want a starting salary that’s as close to 6 figures as possible – net! They want it to come with a company car, full medical cover and a house allowance. Or alternatively, they want to start a company that’s going to become the next Facebook. They’re willing to hustle day and night, taking whatever shortcuts they have to, to achieve the Kenyan dream. Those who don’t make it become bitter and disillusioned, feeling they’re somehow being played by the system. And truth be told, many of the older people in here could be very fearful or even bitter about their financial status. Perhaps you are even angry with God about it, because things haven’t turned out the way you wanted them to.

Solomon’s response points us to a lesson that blew my mind and got me thinking very hard about myself and I believe it is one that few will take and apply it and I can guarantee that you are headed to great wealth. The lesson is this: True wealth starts with wisdom, NOT wallet! True wealth is not about how much you earn or what you have in the bank; it’s about how much wisdom you have, to know what to do with what you have.

So why does King Solomon ask for wisdom first instead of asking for wealth? Why is it important to get wisdom before you get money? Or a different way to ask this is, why is it dangerous to become rich too early? There are many reasons, but I can think of at least three…

We fail to develop financial wisdom and discipline. Getting money before wisdom is like jumping straight into high school without bothering to go through primary school! You may have had people like that in class; I know we had some very bright boys in our class when I went to high school. They had accelerated beyond their peers and so they were 2-3 years younger than the rest of the class. I felt sorry for them! They had the brains for it, but they were not emotionally mature to be in that space! A little while back if you remember, many of the people taken in by pyramid schemes were not foolish or uneducated; it was very intelligent people! I remember hearing many argue that you could earn 20-30% return on your capital every month if only you ‘invested’ in a certain venture. It didn’t make a difference to them when you mentioned that apart from drug trafficking, even Safaricom, one of our countries highest earning corporations, was not making that kind of money!’ Many people lost their life savings in those schemes.

I’ve come to see that in life, money always flows towards those who have discipline and financial wisdom. Even if you get that high paying job but you lack financial wisdom or discipline, you will constantly be making money for others! In Ecclesiastes 2:26, Solomon said, ‘To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner, he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God’. The money of financially ignorant people always ends up in the pockets of financially knowledgeable people.

In Proverbs 16:16, billionaire Solomon says, ‘How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!’ In other words; ‘true wealth starts with wisdom, not wallet’! Second danger of getting rich too quickly …

We become blinded to our real situation. I fear for this generation… many leave college looking for a job that will pay them a starting salary of 70-100k. Unfortunately, such jobs are not many, and those who can’t find them become very anxious and take all manner of shortcuts to ensure they don’t fall behind! But the danger is also there for those who do get the big salaries! They easily become blinded into developing unsustainable lifestyles that kill their freedom and make them slaves to their jobs.

I knew a very bright young lady who was earning a 6-figure salary straight out of school and who by her late 30s was making almost 700k a month, not including bonuses. Unfortunately, when she lost her job, she almost became destitute! Carol and I ended up giving her some money because she didn’t have enough for food. You’d never have known it though because her kids were in a posh school and she was still driving an expensive car. She knew it wasn’t sustainable but that’s the only way they knew how to live! A couple of weeks later after we prayed, she got a new job, and we were very relieved for her when she did because she was in a really desperate situation. Her big salary had concealed all along the fact that she was horrible at managing money. While I think she’s a little more aware now, she’s so busy with her new responsibilities that I’m not sure the same thing wouldn’t happen again to her. You see, poverty is not a state of the wallet but of the mind!

In Ecclesiastes 7:12, billionaire Solomon says, ‘Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor’. Tell your neighbor, ‘true wealth starts with wisdom, not wallet’! Third danger of getting rich too quickly…

We put our trust in the wrong things. When we get money before we have wisdom, we easily begin to put our confidence in our wealth and not in God. 1 Timothy 6:12 says, ‘Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.’ Billionaire Solomon agrees, when he teaches in Ecclesiastes 5:19, ‘When God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God’. It is God who gives the power not just to produce but to enjoy wealth… When I stop trusting in God and start trusting my wealth, I become insecure and fearful. When I didn’t have money, I was anxious to get it. Now that I have it, I’m anxious not to lose it! So even the wealth I have I am not able to enjoy. True wealth starts with wisdom, not wallet!

So how do we invest in growing wise?

Invest in time with God – Solomon did not go to Harvard, or Oxford or Strathmore Business School to get his great wisdom. Where did he go? He went to God. That’s a good place to start! James 1:5 says ‘if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him’. Solomon asked for wisdom to achieve God’s purpose. As a young leader, I remember being so overwhelmed by my responsibilities that I prayed this verse often. Also prayed for wisdom beyond my elders (Psalms 119:100 ‘I have more understanding than my elders for I obey your precepts’). I have found myself in forums that I know I don’t qualify to be in speaking to people who are actually learning from me!

If you truly desire financial wisdom, the place to begin is God’s word. In the introduction to the book of Proverbs, which is a book about wisdom, Solomon wrote, (Prov.1:1-6)

These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king— Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn— Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.

Perhaps this is a complete coincidence, but there are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, one for every day of the month! What if you made a commitment to read one every day and ask God to increase your wisdom?

Invest in financial education – money experts tell us that one of the biggest problems people face is they are too busy or too lazy to invest in their financial education. We’re too busy trying to get qualifications and make money that we’ve no time to invest in learning how money works! How do you invest in your financial education? One of the best ways is by investing in and reading good books. If you don’t like reading, get DVDs or CDs and listen in your car or matatu on the way to work! A second is attending courses that will help you become a good investor (like Centonomy). A third is by being mentored by wise people. How do you get mentors? It’s hard to get people to mentor you just by asking! One idea that I encourage young people as they leave school is to consider is pursuing an internship that will expose you to wise mentors. Instead of rushing to get that high paying job, take time to learn skills and wisdom from others. Apart from gaining wisdom, you also learn to live on less! For example, Carol and I as interns learnt to live on our smaller salary and to enjoy a very simple lifestyle. Been a great help as we do the same even today! As you can imagine, it’s freed up a lot of extra money for investment over the years! At Mavuno, our own Discovery program is an opportunity to get mentored by wise leaders even as you discover God’s ultimate direction for you.

[I can already hear someone saying I don’t have time! But did you know that a modest 2-3 hours in front of the TV every day and 5 hours on weekends translates to 2 months a year in front of the TV? What if you could limit that and instead invest the time in gaining wisdom?]

In his book, ‘Money Won’t Make You Rich’, Sunday Adelaja says, ‘money doesn’t come to good people – because there are millions of good people who aren’t rich. Money doesn’t come to educated people – because there are so many educated people living (average) middle class lives in our world today. Money doesn’t come to churchgoers or Christians. If that was the case, then our churches would be filled with millionaires! Money only comes to those who are already rich in the knowledge of the laws of money… until you are rich in your mind, you’re not rich at all’!

In our passage, God was so pleased with Solomon’s desire to first invest in growing wise that He not only gave him great wisdom but He also gave him the things He had not asked for, wealth, riches, honor and victory over his enemies. Money flows towards wisdom!

Here’s a thought to end with: Most Kenyans think all they need is more money – that would sort out all their problems! That’s why given a choice, that’s what we go for. But God is looking for people who, like Solomon, are hungry first for His wisdom and direction. These are the people He can trust. Will you be one of them? Then make the change to invest in wisdom! Invest in time with God and in your financial education. Why? Because ‘true wealth starts with wisdom, not wallet’

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