"The treasure you seek is in the work you're avoiding." —Jim Kwik
There’s a concept in holy scripture about giving and receiving that may seem contradictory to some. Simply, the more you give, the more you receive, and the more you hold back, less and less comes your way.
Here’s a powerful verse in Proverbs chapter 11 that demonstrates this:
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty (v. 24).
For illustration, he’s another translation of the same verse from the New International Version:
One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
Compare this verse in Ecclesiastes, also in chapter 11:
Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days (v. 1).
Now compare these words of Jesus:
Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you. . . . For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath. (Mark 4:24–25.)
Giving generously to others—of our time, attention, or wealth—requires strong faith followed by action, or, in some cases, faith follows action. As the Savior said:
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17).
In other words, you don’t truly know until you do. You have to change behavior. You have to walk the walk. You have to get your skin in the game. You have to be committed and follow through if you want to know if a divine principle is true.
I love what Marion G. Romney said about this subject (quoted by L. Tom Perry):
I remember a long time ago, over 50 years, when Brother [Melvin J.] Ballard laid his hands on my head and set me apart to go on a mission. He said in that prayer of blessing that a person could not give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf in return. That’s been my experience. If the members of the Church would double their fast-offering contributions, the spirituality in the Church would double. We need to keep that in mind and be liberal in our contributions. (Welfare Agricultural Meeting, 3 Apr. 1971, p. 1.)
Doubling your fast offering? That is faith.
Finally, many of us are familiar with these words from Malachi:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (ch. 3 v. 10).
To receive, we must give, and the more we give, the more we will receive. When we are honestly generous, the bread we cast upon the waters will return to us—a crust for a loaf. It’s an immutable law. If you have not experienced it yourself, stretch your faith and try it. The reward of faith and generosity may not return to you in the way you imagine or at the time you think it will, but surely it will return multiplied. Of this I am certain.
Where does wealth our come from? From hard work or sheer luck? Is it self-made or a gift from God? Is it a result of righteousness or wickedness?
We’ve all seen or heard of a hard worker navigating financial rapids to finally find comfort and security, or a group of friends who pool together to buy a lottery ticket worth a $100M. We’ve also watched the wicked prosper through their devices while the righteous become suddenly destitute through deception.
None of these situations are permanent. Some are tests. Sometimes, rare-do-wells obey true principles that lead to a degree of financial success, but are not true to themselves or to their Maker. Notwithstanding evidence to the contrary, there appears to be some unpredictability to how the wheel of wealth turns, as the Preacher bemoans in Ecclesiastes:
There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 8:14.)
In response to the first question in this post, that is, where does our wealth come from, I love the answer given by Moses, among his final words to Israel after 40 years in the wilderness with plenty of chances to think about life:
But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:18.)
The power to get wealth—I would say lasting wealth, the kind that is of more value than money—comes from our Father and Maker. Wealth, riches, and prosperity (see, for example, 2 Nephi 1:9, 20) are promised by covenant to the followers of God; however, wealth and security cannot be long held if smallness of mind, greed, selfishness, or arrogance creep in. It is given by God, but also by obedience to law. Disobey His laws and promises vaporize.
In Proverbs chapter 8 we read that those who are moved by God’s wisdom have blessings of wealth bestowed upon them:
I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures. (Proverbs 8:20–21.)
I love Psalm 112, which in 10 verses teaches these concepts beautifully. Here is a brief application (my application) of it, a great cross reference to Proverbs 8 and pattern for prosperity if there ever was one.
Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments (v. 1).
Men and women who reverence God and delight in His way of life are blessed. This reverence implies a devoted heart rather than a sly or hypocritical one. A flowering of a real person, not the weeds of a trickster.
2 His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.
Their children will be strong and blessed, not doubt the beneficiaries of good examples.
3 Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
Naturally (but I might add, not automatically), wealth and riches appear in their homes and within their families, that is, wealth in its purest form—not just gold and silver but good health, strong relationships, wonderful experiences, and opportunities.
4 Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
Even in dark times, the women and men who follow God from the heart are led by His light, and such an one is kind and compassionate in spite of circumstance.
5 A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.
So compassionate are these men and women that they share the good things with others in wisdom and good judgment.
6 Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.
They are not moved or removed by fear or deception, and are loved and respected by those around them.
7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.
They don’t worry. They don’t rub sweaty palms together over the future. Their hearts are fixed on the mark of divine love, and they trust the Highest from their hearts.
8 His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.
Their lives are established on a true testimony of the living God and of His revelations and His unfailing support to those who seek it. They are protected from their enemies.
9 He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.
They are generous. They share their wealth freely and assist the poor—essentially, the poor are anyone in need. The horn in this context is a metaphor for “strength . . . honor . . . power, dominion, glory, and fierceness.”
10 The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.
The ego-drenched cannot countenance the success of others. It squeezes their competition gland until it oozes gall. Their selfish and often harmful desires are met with aggravation, even when they appear to be satisfied from a worldly point of view. They live outside their true nature and stomp their feet in frustration. They engage (and enrage) the lower self.
Lasting wealth comes from God and is His gift, as promised in holy scripture. We are privileged to hold it if we can hold out faithful in obedience and integrity. Money can be obtained through wickedness, but lasting riches come from being at one with our Creator and at one with ourselves.
Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19.)
I remember finding these verses in the Bible years ago while serving a mission. They made me laugh out loud then. They still tickle me now. “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:9–11; compare Proverbs 24:33–34).
A sluggard is a stark contrast to a diligent person. Often lacking positive role models, a sluggard, I am sad to report, has little vision, purpose, direction, motivation, ambition, or hope. He is sometimes selfish and often unhappy, may project a sense of entitlement, is focused on physical indulgence, tends to manipulate people and circumstances to maintain the status quo, that is, a state of idleness and ease. He finds ways to avoid work, watches way too much television and way too many movies, may play endless video games, and eschews any form of culpability or responsibility. He is the ultimate slacker. And one last point, there’s that emptiness that goes along with it.
I’m actually a recovering sluggard. I don’t think I’m alone. Oh, I never liked video games much, but other than that, yeah, I’ve been crawling out of my sluggardliness since my youth. Okay, I try. But still there’s that sluggard in me, that natural me who is an enemy to God. It doesn’t feel good or right. I fight that imp daily.
Similarly, the word slothful (inclined to sloth, indolent, from the South American mammal) appears 12 times in the Old Testament, 11 times in Proverbs alone. A sluggard, if anything, is slothful. (Sloth is by tradition one of the seven deadly sins.)
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. (Proverbs 24:30–32.)
The slothful man (or woman) is preoccupied with anything except effort or work. He doesn’t take care of his vineyard which provides his sustenance. In our times, he doesn’t take care of his home or yard, he has a hard time holding a job, or wanting to, and he squanders his money.
Now I understand that some of these inclinations can be due to mental illness and emotional distress. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the capable who opt out, the able but unwilling, who are caught in a web of gratification, the haze of laze. The true sluggard is a rare find, but most of us struggle with elements of his character.
In other words, it’s not such a great thing to be lazy. I don’t mean there’s never a time to rest, relax and even veg out. There is. There has to be. It’s even scripturally mandated. We just shouldn’t be at our leisure 85 percent of the time (or you pick the number). I mean, what’s rest if you have nothing to rest from?
One more thing about the slothful, and then I’ll quit talking about this thoroughly depressing topic.
The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets. (Proverbs 22:13.)
Always dreaming up a reason why he (or she) can’t, why he won’t, do a thing. Too many obstacles in the way, not worth the effort, because he is intoxicated with laziness and momentary pleasures and the delirium of (digital) distraction. In time, his intoxications bring him to ruin. You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it.
We were created to get up and do something, if only with our minds if physically unable, because we are all born creators. And you can’t create sitting in a heap on your sagging, overburdened couch, watching hours of what President Hinckley called “inane and empty television.” We are not here to indulge the natural man but to overcome him.
Let’s step up now, you and I, to higher ground. I’ll do that by sharing part of a post called “22 Vitals Habits of Successful People.” These habits take motivation, vision, hope—the opposite of the sluggard manifesto. Brandon Gaille’s list makes me feel happy and hopeful. I trust it will help lift your spirits as well.
Here are a few things you’re almost always going to find [that successful people do]:
1. An ability to track their progress.
2. An ability to learn from mistakes.
3. A burning desire to succeed in everything they do.
4. A desire and willingness to take risks.
5. A tendency to create and follow to-do lists.
6. A reputation for being humble.
7. A willingness to accept responsibility for their failures.
8. An ability to embrace change.
9. A willingness to share data and information with others.
10. An ability to create and carry out goals.
11. A reputation for complimenting others.
12. An eagerness to engage in an exchange of ideas with others.
This list moves the needle back toward the diligent side of the scale. I feel better already.
If you are struggling with your get-up and gumption, pick just one thing off this list—the easiest one for you, and the easiest one for you to start, and work on that. (I need to start working on #1, myself.)
If you feel discouraged, I understand. So do I. All the time. But I keep taking that step up, that one that’s right in front of me, and try to not look back at the stairs I’ve already climbed. (At least not stare at them.)
I am innately lazy. But I know there’s a better me. And so I go forward. And I happily confess that I’m less lazy than I used to be. That is the trajectory of triumph, one marked by almost imperceptible progress. No other trajectory seems within my reach.
Diligence is key to earning self-respect, respect from others, wealth, and security. When responsibility comes your way, handling it with diligence will win you peace of mind.
The Book of Proverbs itself grants this virtue high praise. The word diligent occurs seven times in the King James Version of the book, more than any other book of the Old Testament, and is the only place diligence occurs in all the Old Testament.
Before we begin exploring what Proverbs says, here’s a verse I memorized many years ago, a simple and concise reminder of what is required to be truly successful:
All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith. (D&C 103:36.)
So what does Proverbs say about diligence? Here’s a good example:
The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked. He becometh poor that death with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. (Proverbs 10:4–5; see also Proverbs 13:4.)
As the proverb says, “the hand of the diligent maketh rich.” The diligent get good jobs and “bear rule” or find freedom in their work:
The ant is called out several times in Proverbs as an exemplar of diligence:
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. (Proverbs 6:6–8; see also Proverbs 30:25.)
Wealth obtained easily or casually can quickly vanish, but labor—good, honest work from the heart—will make anything grow stronger and larger. It will enlarge the soul and all it possesses, both in a spiritual sense as well as in the physical.
Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase. (Proverbs 13:11.)
It’s not only the actions but the thoughts of the diligent that make a difference. Diligence renounces a mad rush toward wealth. Like any good thing, prosperity takes time to develop and when it does, it is appreciated more. And what happens when you are hasty to follow a get rich scheme?
The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want. (Proverbs 21:5.)
Compare this take a few chapters later:
A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. (Proverbs 28:20.)
A hasty lunge at wealth leaves much to be desired. Wealth gained by fraud and deceit will eventually evaporate. You can never hold for long what you do not truly love, and you don’t truly love what you covet or lust after. Without the investment of wholesome thought, good planning, and diligent effort, you cannot develop trust or a long-term relationship, with either a person or with money. It just doesn’t work. And it won’t last.
Be diligent, Proverbs exhorts. Take care of what God has given you. Watch over it, carefully and prayerfully, and it will surely grow—and stick around.
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens. (Proverbs 27:23–27.)
Lastly, keep diligent watch over your heart, for that is where life and wealth issues from (see Proverbs 4:23). It’s all about your heart—your desire and intent. It’s the master controller of your thoughts, which is how you create your life.
And [if] thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth . . . thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:17–18.)
Think about this with me for a few minutes. Did you create your life and can you alone preserve it? Did you create the planet you live on? Did you create apples or oranges or chocolate? Did these things just happen by a chance atomic collision? They did not.
I’m looking right now at my desk calculator. Did that calculator just show up there by chance? How did that little mass of plastic and electronics appear? Like all creation, intelligence and planning went behind it. Though I have a few ideas, I don’t know who created it, where it was created, or how it was created it, but does that mean that is just poofed into existence?
What about that piece of chevron amethyst on my desk. Was that formed by chance? Was there no intelligence behind that combination of minerals? Is is just a fluke? Just because we don’t know exactly where or how it came into existence doesn’t mean its existence is arbitrary. What is intelligence if it is not rooted in choice? What is choice if it is not governed by law?
What happens when we honor the Lord with this world’s goods? What happens when we freely give back at least a portion of what He has given us? Early in the Book of Proverbs we find these words:
The Lord asks us to love and honor Him. One way we can demonstrate that honor is by restoring, at least in part, the means or substance He gives to us. And what will He do for those who honor Him from the heart?
Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. (1 Samuel 2:30.)
Through the centuries, at least from the time of Abraham and Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:18–20), men and women of God have honored Him by the payment of tithes. We first read of tithing in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. We also read of it in the last book of that volume. Through Malachi the Lord promised us abundant blessings when we honor Him with our tithes:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:10–12.)
Anyone who has paid tithing by faith has experienced miracles, and those miracles, an interdependence between man and Maker, become a way of life. The Psalmist wrote of such men and women:
Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. (Psalms 112:1–3.)
This is a principle we can believe in. It is a law of heaven, of the universe, that when we honor God He will likewise honor us. It is a law of reciprocation, a law of the harvest, that what we sow we shall reap (see Galatians 6:7; D&C 6:33; compare Job 4:8).
This kind of wealth and honor do not come by chance: they come by law. If they come by any other way, by any degree of greed, deception, or thievery, they will be fleeting. That is something you can count on.
By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life. (Proverbs 22:4.)
It can get awfully annoying and confusing. There are so many messages about money and prosperity in the world. It seems that money can be anything we want it to be, depending on the day and the motive. You can have plenty of it and be miserable, or very little of it, but as happy as a blue jay on a Sunday morning. Why?
Figuring out money can get discouraging. It has been for me, honestly, as I’ve tried to figure out how to get it, hold it, make it grow, and share it. I grapple with those ideas on too many days. I’m still working to set aside my anxiety around it, and finding a better pasture for my mind to graze.
Money is more than a good education and a good job. It’s about honesty and courage and wisdom. It’s about trust and risk, being generous and believing in the generosity of heaven. It’s about trying and not giving up. Forgiving yourself, believing in yourself, and trusting God’s ways.
I look for spiritual answers to life’s questions. Those are the one’s that make the most sense to me. Those are the ones I hang onto.
The scriptures contain the wisdom of the ages on wealth and prosperity. One book in the Bible particularly, The Book of Proverbs, has over 80 passages (listed below) on the subject, in 31 chapters. I’ve studied these passages and I’d like to share what I’ve learned from them with you. I am still studying and learning, of course. And I’ll learn even more as I organize and present my thoughts to you.
Some of the topics I’ll cover are honoring God with our means, the importance of diligence and honesty, the plight of the poor, and the sad state of the sluggard.
Proverbs seems like a good place to focus my attention as I look for heaven-grade answers to my questions about wealth and prosperity. I’ve found almost 30 topics discussed on these subjects in this ancient book, parts of which are 2,500 to 3,000 years old. I’ll also cross-reference scriptures throughout the standard works: the Bible (King James version), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
Do you ever wonder when someone is doing the level-best to live a good life, a life of giving to others, of sacrificing their means for a good cause, that some around them prosper beyond imagination when apparently they are not so dedicated to high ideals?
Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? (Jeremiah 12:1.)
If you ever have felt this way, then you are in good company. This quote from a 1952 conference address by Joseph Fielding Smith really helped me. I hope it helps you, too.
Brother Kimball in his remarks this morning spoke of a man who could not quite understand when he paid his tithing and kept the Word of Wisdom, was prayerful, and tried to be obedient to all the commandments the Lord had given him, and yet he had to struggle to make a living; while his neighbor violated the Sabbath day, I suppose he smoked and drank; he had what the world would call a good time, he paid no attention to the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and yet he prospered.
You know, we have a great many members of the Church that ponder that over in their hearts and wonder why. Why this man seems to be blessed with all the good things of the earth—incidentally, many of the bad things that he thinks are good—and yet so many members of the Church are struggling, laboring diligently to try to make their way through the world.
The answer is a simple thing. If I sometimes, and once in a while I do, go to a football game or a baseball game or some other place of amusement, invariably I will be surrounded by men and women who are puffing on cigarets or cigars or dirty pipes. It gets very annoying, and I get a little disturbed. I will turn to Sister Smith, and I will say something to her, and she will say, “Well, now, you know what you have taught me. You are in their world. This is their world.” And that sort of brings me back to my senses. Yes, we are in their world, but we do not have to be of it.
So, as this is their world we are living in, they prosper, but, my good brethren and sisters, their world is coming to its end. It will not be many years. I can say that. I do not know how many years, but Elijah said when he bestowed his keys: “… by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors,” (D. & C. 110:16) I am sure that over a hundred years later I can say that the end of this world is drawing to its end.
The day will come when we will not have this world. It will be changed. We will get a better world. We will get one that is righteous, because when Christ comes, he will cleanse the earth.
Read what is written in our scriptures. Read what he himself has said. When he comes, he will cleanse this earth from all its wickedness, and, speaking of the Church, he has said that he would send his angels and they would gather out of his kingdom, which is the Church, all things that offend. Then we are going to have a new earth, a new heaven. The earth will be renewed for a thousand years, and there shall be peace, and Christ, whose right it is, shall reign. Afterwards will come the death of the earth, its resurrection, its glorification, as the abode of the righteous or they who belong to the celestial kingdom, and they only shall dwell upon the face of it.
Let us be true and faithful, keep our covenants, be true to every obligation the Lord has given us. I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1952, 28.)