I don’t know about you, but ever since my earliest church childhood memories, I’ve heard pastors preach and teach from the scripture Proverbs 13:22 and say something like “the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the just.” This gets people so excited and hopeful because in their minds, they are Christians and if a wicked person has money, why shouldn’t it go to someone who believes and lives for God? The real problem with this is that literal quote is incorrect and is revealed by the numerous translations of that verse to say something completely different.
When you actually look at the verse, you’ll first note that it says, “the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just (KJV).” Depending on which translation you’re using it may say instead that it is “stored up for the righteous” such as is true of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. When looking at this verse, the question really becomes, who is the sinner and who are the Righteous?
People automatically make the assumption that the sinner is anyone who does not have a relationship with God or is not “saved” from their sin. The other assumption is that the righteous or the just must be Christian because obviously they would fit that description. A second thing that people overlook is that this is the second half of a verse which begins with the statement that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”
The reality of this verse is that it is speaking in the context of wealth transference from generation to generation. When men and women age, the idea is that a “good” person has stored up wealth that will then be left for the next generation to manage and grow as a part of maintaining and extending a legacy. When we see the word “sinner” in the second half of this verse, it is actually speaking in reference to the fact that they have “missed the mark” or rather have not met the goal of leaving an inheritance for the next generation.
This might have come as a result of either not leaving a will that secures the finances for the next generation, or it could be in the case where a person has been so focused on amassing wealth, that they never even bothered to have a family of their own to pass it down. In situations like these, any wealth that does exist gets taken by the government or those who have the power to retrieve it and put it to use elsewhere. These are those who are deemed “the righteous” or “just”.
It is such a tragic situation to know that so often people, through whatever circumstances find themselves not leaving wealth to their children or beyond. Yet, this proverb tells us, doing this is the mark of a “good man”. Whether you happen to be a Christian or not, you are viewed as a righteous person in that respect. You are viewed as a “wicked”, unrighteous or unjust person when you fail to do this.
Ultimately, the goal of wealth building has never been about self-fulfillment. It’s about a vision for future generations beyond yourself. The sin or the missing of the mark of not leaving an inheritance to a future generation can be something that can heart issues for children. Imagine how you might feel knowing that your parents could have left you an inheritance, and for whatever reason didn’t leave it to you. That might be devastating to you and even create some spiritual issues if you’ve looked at your parents as the earthly model of a heavenly Father.
Despite any teaching or preaching that you may have been privy to in times past, the reality is that wealth is ultimately laid up for those who steward over it well. They may come in the form of Christians or non-Christians. The goal that we must first seek to be good stewards over what God has given us. The second thing we must seek to do is to secure the future through proper planning by doing things like having a will. Another thing we must do is teach our succeeding generations how to handle the wealth we’ve grown, so that there is no fear in us that they might either blow it, or handle it well once we’re gone.
At the end of it all, you must do good by the next generation to be called good; and wealth is entrusted to those who can justly handle it. If that happens to be a Christian, you can expect it. The wealth will go somewhere, but the just are those who are trusted.
QUESTION: Do you see yourself as someone for whom wealth is being stored up for? Are you positioning yourself to be called good by storing up wealth for your succeeding generations?