He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
An easy way to get richer is to stop spending (Pr 21:20)! It is not the high cost of living that hurts people, but the cost of high living! The typical American is addicted to an extravagant lifestyle that keeps him poor and stressed. The pleasure, wine, and oil of Solomon’s day are the entertainment, toys, and eating out of today. Individuals, businesses, and the nation are financially sick and dying due to excessive spending.
Most spend more than they need to spend. But many men crave pleasure and luxury, and they spend themselves into poverty. These people are always in financial trouble, but they never stop wasteful spending. They are convinced they deserve and need the things they buy. They will always be poor. Though many of these people have adequate or better income, they spend it all and then some. Bankruptcies of all kinds are on the rise.
Ben Franklin, a founding father of America, summarized Solomon by saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Reducing your spending is the same as raising your income. If Ben were writing today, with the average marginal tax rate at 28%, he would say, “A penny saved is 1.4 pennies earned,” reflecting income taxes. If that lost you, reducing expenses by $1000 is the same as increasing income $1400 for the average taxpayer.
Some men live within their means, but most do not. In economic theory, the desire to increase spending as income rises is the propensity to consume. In America, it is often greater than 100%. Spending increases faster than income, and they cover the difference with credit card, installment, and mortgage debt. They never pay off a house, for when they get close, they buy a bigger house, whether they need it or not, or they refinance the old house and take the equity out of it to spend for leisure and toys. The love of pleasure and luxury crushes them, for they have created “needs” they cannot justify or afford.
But some men can live modestly, even though rich. They do not love pleasure, wine, or oil. Sam Walton, the richest and most successful American when he was alive, continued to drive a pickup truck accompanied by his birddogs. Warren Buffet, the greatest investor and second richest man in the world, still lives in the same little house he bought over 40 years ago and is content with a burger and Coke for his daily repast.
Eating out is not a right. It is an extravagant and luxurious privilege. It is a terrible habit unless your income covers all financial duties with much left over. Your grandparents hardly ever considered it. Eating out hurts the budget more than most any other expense.
In one generation, Americans expect to eat out almost daily, or several times a day. Many women no longer cook at all, and they think it cruel and unusual punishment to hear about it. Brown bagging is considered an insult to the dignity of most Americans. They are in love with Solomon’s wine and oil in restaurants. Debt and poverty are coming.
Rejecting economy, most restaurants pander to gluttony. In a nation craving convenience and extravagance, they are the popular places to be. You must spend more to obtain the original pleasure (Pr 27:7). For $200, a couple is enticed to eat 5000 calories each with drinks, appetizers, soup, salad, entrée, dessert, taxes, tip, babysitting, and gas. For $20, they could have had a carpet picnic of wine, Italian bread, and cheese with candles in the bedroom. And they would not have been bloated and tired when they went to bed!
There are many things you think you need that you do not need – they are the pleasures of this proverb that you should restrict to fit your income. You do not need a cell phone, iPad, or related toys with expensive monthly contracts. You do not need more vehicles than workers in the household. You do not need cable, since you can stream anything. You do not need a gym membership; work out at home. You do not need to shop at the mall. You do not need trips, vacations, or recreation beyond what you can do at home. You certainly do not need a pet, especially a dog, for they can be expensive. Add it up!
The poor man who likes to spend money will always be poor, for he has no savings to take advantage of investment and business opportunities (Pr 14:4). It is only by reserved capital that a man can profit from those few situations in life that offer unusual profits. So again you see the law of nature and of God, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
The cure for poverty is the virtue needed for most success – temperance, or self-denial and self-discipline. You make rules to curb spending, no matter how much you “want” or think you “need” something. All you truly need is food, clothing, and shelter. Anything else is luxury and pleasure. If you are wasteful, you are brother to the slothful man (Pr 18:9). If you are wasteful, you are brother to drunkards and gluttons (Pr 23:20-21).
You may need to be drastic. Throw your television out. You will save your soul and avoid aggressive advertising. Throw away your credit cards. You will hinder impulse buying and avoid the highest interest rates in the market. Vacations are not a right. They are luxurious privileges of those who have their finances in order. Reject the pride that says you cannot buy used cars, homes, furniture, appliances, or even clothing. Your children, especially infants, do not need the latest anything, and nor do you.
You live among spendthrifts. You face high advertising and peer pressure all day. Federal and state governments go deeply into debt to cover wasteful spending. Businesses and consumers follow, all greedily gorging on comfort, extravagance, luxury, and pleasure. God calls you to be financially temperate and to teach this virtue to your children. Real financial independence is living within your means and trusting your heavenly Father.
One good family practice, unheard of in this wasteful generation, is to see how cheaply you can live for one month. Cancel the newspaper. No eating out. No video rentals. No entertainment away from home. No unnecessary driving. Stick to a basic menu. Turn off lights, and set the thermostat back a few degrees. You can teach your children to appreciate what they are used to, and you can show how to economize when necessary.
Another good family practice is to live on a budget – something governments and most citizens no longer do. While budgeting can be made complicated and intimidating, there is a simple solution. Whenever you have income, such as a paycheck, pay God first, make your savings contribution second, deposit some into an account for household emergences, and pay all your bills or set aside the money for them. You are now free to indulge yourself on what is left! Most will realize they need more income, which means they have been living above their means and are fools on the way to the poor house.
Loving the pleasures of this world will also make a man spiritually poor, for you cannot love this world and Jesus Christ. He demands your total devotion to Him (Matt 6:24; Jas 4:4). Lot chose the well-watered plain of Jordan and the city of Sodom, to the loss of his family and perpetual shame in the church of God. But Moses gave up the pleasures and riches of Egypt for the reproach and poverty of the people of God (Heb 11:24-26).
If you mind earthly things – the lusts and pleasures of this world, you are a belly worshipper (Phil 3:18-19). You have backslidden into soul poverty and spiritual prison. You do not love God, for you cannot do both (I John 2:15-17). It is the love of money and the things it can buy that steal and destroy the souls of men (I Tim 6:6-10). If you instead choose to lose your life for Jesus Christ, only then will you find it (Matt 16:25).