Try persuading today’s university students that making money is both dignified and moral. That’s what I did last week when I addressed 13,000 students at the Liberty University Convocation in Virginia. I not only told them that making money was a virtuous activity but I proved it. And they whooped, hollered and cheered. But remember, this was not Dartmouth, Yale or University of Missouri. There’s hope for America down there in Lynchburg.
My dear friend, the late Jerry Falwell, founded Liberty University in 1971. It is a beautiful campus populated by God-fearing young scholars who play as hard as they pray. Their Flames football team competes successfully in division 1 of the NCAA in the Big South Conference.
I won’t tell you what I told the students though if you are interested you can watch a video of it here:
My speech begins at 12 minutes in. As you can see, the students’ reactions electrified me because I knew that most of America’s young people believe that making and having money is evidence of moral degeneracy.
Naturally, Scripture, presenting as it does God’s blueprint for human society, is filled with indications that His plan includes economic interaction—what we call business. It contains about twenty times more laws about money than laws about kosher food and sacrifices. However, there is one conspicuous insight from ancient Jewish wisdom that is difficult to find if you are dependent upon an English translation.
This is a fairly well-known verse:
Isaac sowed in that land and in that year he reaped a hundredfold,
this is how the Lord blessed him. – (Genesis 26:12)
Instead of using his name “Isaac” or the pronoun “he” in the next verse, we read:
The man became great and kept becoming greater until he was very great. – (Genesis 26:13)
In this context, the term ‘great’ means in wealth.
Here is a second instance of a man becoming very wealthy. In Genesis 31 we read how Jacob’s unscrupulous uncle and father-in-law did his utmost to deprive Jacob of the income that was his due. Nonetheless, God ensured that Jacob thrived financially.
In this relevant verse, the name Jacob is not used and neither is the pronoun ‘he’.
The man became increasingly prosperous and he attained many flocks,
servants, camels and donkeys. – (Genesis 30:43)
Again, the Hebrew word Ha-Ish, the man.
In order to capture the significance of Scripture naming both Isaac and his son, Jacob, “the man” at the moment they become wealthy, we must find the first instance in the Bible that this word, in Hebrew, Ha-Ish, is used.
Here it is:
And the man said ‘This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This shall be called woman for from man she was taken. – (Genesis 2:23)
If you are dependent upon the English translation, you could be forgiven for assuming that the two uses of the word ‘man’ in this verse are identical. They are not. This is how the verse really looks:
And the Adam said, “This time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This shall be called Isha for from Ish she was taken.” – (Genesis 2:23)
For the very first time, Adam is called Ish, a man. Ish alludes not merely to a male adult human but to a man who has achieved some special and significant new status. For instance, the following verse could just as easily have omitted “the man” and begun with the words, “And Moses was exceedingly humble…”
Now the man, Moses, was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth – (Numbers 12:3)
Thus when Adam became married to Eve, he was no longer merely Adam, but he was now an Ish.
When Isaac became wealthy, this change in status is seen as special and significant so he is called Ish. When Jacob became independently wealthy, he too was called Ish—a man.
Many Americans today, especially privileged university students, disparage the very wealth that makes possible their extended adolescence in the ivory towers of academia. In my speech to Liberty I discussed how we can know that making money is moral. But it is much more than that, it transforms just a person into an Ish—a man.
As we thank God for this wonderful country, let’s be aware that the Pilgrims brought with them their wives and children (unlike previous settlements) and after a disastrous flirtation with socialism they embraced the Biblical view of money. Their leaders also brought with them much ancient Jewish wisdom, probably acquired when they fled England for Leyden, Holland. It is my great privilege to reacquaint you with that wisdom and we are delighted that our third volume of Thought Tools is now available. Get it by itself or as part of the Thought Tool Set and continue absorbing and passing on the foundations that build people, families and countries.