In a book that I read recently, the tale was told of a young man in ancient times who was sent out in the world to learn the lessons of life. His father gave him two gifts: a bag of gold and a clay tablet upon which was carved “the five laws of gold.” The son was to return in ten years. Most people, like this young man, gladly take the gold but soon find out that gold without the wisdom to guard and use it is soon lost. This young man lost his gold through bitter lessons of get-rich schemes, loans to friends and high living.
He finally realized how important wisdom was and began to study the five laws that were written on the clay tablet. His lessons were painful and disheartening, but he always remembered his father’s confidence in him and read very carefully the words of wisdom that his father had written. Inexperience and the lack of wisdom brought the young man into dire straights. Finally he managed to get a position managing a crew of slaves working on the new outer wall of a city.
We all know the old saying, “A fool and his gold are soon parted.” Worse yet is the one who does not learn from his mistakes. All humans make mistakes, but to never learn from those lessons is a disaster. “Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than rubies,” states Proverbs 8:10-11. This is further strengthened by Proverbs 16:16: “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”
The laws of gold
The son learned to use the first law of gold. He saved a penny from his first earnings and added to it at every opportunity, until he had enough to buy a piece of silver. He admitted it was a very slow process, because he had to earn a living, but he learned to spend grudgingly. The first law in a fuller sense is: “Gold comes gladly and in increasing quantity to any man whosoever will put by not less than one tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.”
One day his master, who had been observing the young man, asked if he had put some gold aside that was not earning an increase. In conversation, the young man was told that the silver (and later gold) that he had set aside could also work for him to help earn much more. The young man was nervous about this and feared to let his gold out of his hand, but the master kindly explained how to invest wisely in ventures where he would profit without endangering his gold.
The second law of gold can be stated as: “Gold labors diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying even as the flocks of the field.” In Jesus’ parable to His followers, He explained that even God expected some increase from His investments (Matthew 25:27). Slowly, the young man learned to invest wisely and in ways where his capital would not be in jeopardy while it was earning a return.
The third law of gold was growing out of the lessons that were learned. That third law states: “Gold clings to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.” It is through wise investments that capital is safe and some income is assured. Some make the mistake of trying to gain too much wealth too quickly. There are vital lessons of living that must be learned along the way, so hurrying may cause a person to overlook some lessons as the young man had done. Now, however, he was well on his way to benefiting from his mistakes. He gained the trust of upright men and learned how to invest with them. His bank of wisdom was now growing rapidly.
The fourth law of gold is one that requires character. The young man had to learn when to say yes and when to say no. He had to learn that investing in something in which he had no experience or understanding was dangerous. Investing requires judgment, and sound judgment requires understanding. There are many areas in life where we may lack knowledge and understanding. Our judgments in these areas are often not good. We seem to be attracted to something that looks and sounds good, but not something with which we are really familiar. In such cases a wise decision would require getting expert advice or simply staying away from those areas. The fourth law states: “Gold slips away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep.” The book of Proverbs begins by encouraging a person to seek wisdom. It also tells us to walk with the wise (Proverbs 13:20).
Now the young man was beginning to replace the monies he had lost through foolishness. In the process, he had become wise and developed character and strength. He learned to avoid emotional and fanciful decisions, and the slippery ways of tricksters and schemers. He had learned that slow and steady would win the race and wisdom would consolidate the gain. He was learning how to hold on to what he had worked so hard to obtain. The fifth law of gold states: “Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who follows the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in its investment.” Sometimes success can lead a person into danger.
Learning to be content
We forget that care and planning brought the success and we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we have some special gift and can no longer make a mistake. Fairy tales seem to come true and, unless we shore up our determination and control our impulses, we can make bigger mistakes than we ever could before. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8). So too, our pile of gold never seems large enough. Learning to be content is the lesson that will prevent the pursuit of chance gains which can result in large losses.
The clay tablet with the five laws of gold proved to be the most valuable gift the father could give to his son. He could not give the son the lessons that were needed to grasp the value of the wisdom of the laws but he could supply encouragement, love and confidence that his son would be successful. The son came home after ten years a much wiser man; a man who more than replaced the bag of gold his father had given him.
Wisdom and understanding is something that each generation must learn. It is not passed on genetically, and the young seem to insist on learning their own lessons of life. Perhaps that was part of the trouble Adam and Eve had when they found it irresistible to squander the fortune God gave them in the Garden of Eden. God has allowed us to learn the lessons of living that will make us people fit to be His sons one day. What a joy it must have been for the father of our young man to say, “You are my son in whom I am well pleased: come and inherit all I have.” Those are familiar words, the words God will one day say to His children; those who have learned the lessons of living. “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
For more information, request our free literature Managing Your Financesand Making Life Work.