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Safety and Security
When it comes to sources of safety and security, money has always been the leading contender against God for our trust. It should be no surprise. Material resources have the capacity to insulate us from many of life’s dangers and difficulties. Proverbs goes so far as to tell us that wealth is like a “fortified city” (Proverbs 10:15; cf. 18:11). After all, isn’t it better to be rich than to be poor? When the car breaks down or the septic tank overflows, isn’t it easy to feel safe and secure when we have the money needed to get things fixed? On the other hand, isn’t it just as easy to feel dangerously exposed when we don’t have the money we need—stranded alongside the road or living with the smell of sewage? Health insurance is another example. When we are too poor for insurance and we need to go to the dentist for a root canal, it is very easy to be afraid.
As a book composed in response to hundreds of urgent situations, the Psalms provide some of Scripture’s most salient teaching on questions of safety and security. Many psalms were written by David when he was a homeless refugee being pursued by Saul, king of Israel, who was trying to kill him. Accordingly, we have much to learn from the psalmist about trusting in God as our Refuge and Rock.
In light of the competition that exists between God and Money (Matthew 6:24), it is not surprising that the psalmist frequently calls God my “portion” or possession when he refers to him as his “refuge”:
You are my refuge, my portion ... (Psalm 142:5)
The psalmist blends an array of economic imagery about resources into his depiction of God as his refuge because he knew that our welfare is inextricably bound up with the wealth and resources we have. In fact, the idea of a “portion” in ancient Israel would have carried an economic significance that can be easily lost on modern readers. This is because the word for “portion” here has its origin in the distribution or “portioning” of the promised land to the 12 tribes of Israel as their inheritance from God. One’s portion represented all that one had in the world. As an ancient Israelite, the totality of one’s life, economic status and social security would have been tied to the land or “portion” that God had given to him. As we read in Psalm 16:5-6,
God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26b)
Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the LORD, “You are my LORD; apart from you I have no good thing.” (Psalm 16:1-2)
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Interestingly, however, the Israelite priests were given no inheritance in the land. For God said to Aaron, “I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites” (Numbers 18:20). And this is the same “portion” or “share” that the psalmist claims for himself in absolute dependence upon God for his safety and security. The psalmist does not try to avoid the fact that human beings find safety and security in the things we possess. God gave us the desire to possess, and he is not ashamed to appeal to that desire with the all the fullness of himself. Instead of merely refusing to trust in resources and possessions as his refuge, the psalmist relocates his resources by clinging to God as his “portion forever” (Psalm 73:26b).
The word “forever” is very important. When Jesus warned his disciples against being worried and afraid, he did so by telling them to relocate their worldly wealth to a place that would be eternally secure. Jesus said,
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:29-33)
How do we claim God as our “portion” and gain security “forever”? According to Jesus, we must relocate the possessions we have now. We find security by selling what we have and giving to the poor. Everything we keep is an eternal liability. Jesus is not asking us to starve ourselves; he just wants us to be safe. The teacher of the book of Proverbs warns, “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath” and everyone who invests in the safety and security that wealth brings will be not only disappointed but also destroyed (Proverbs 11:4, 28). And so, Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12 on how to find safety and security can be can be summarized quite simply: “Don’t worry, little flock, give to the poor.” In doing so, we claim God as our “portion forever” and lay up for ourselves a firm foundation for the future that will be eternally safe and secure (1 Timothy 6:18-19; Matthew 6:19-21).
Related Passages: Numbers 18:20; Psalms 2:12; 5:5-6, 11; 7:1; 11:2; 14:6; 16:1-2; 17:7, 14; 18:1-2, 30; 25:20-21; 28:8; 31:1-7; 34:8, 22; 36:6-8; 37:40; 43:2; 46:1; 52:7; 57:1; 59:16; 61:3-4; 62:7-8; 64:10; 71:1-7; 73:25-28; 91:2, 4, 9; 94:22; 104:18; 118:8-9; 141:8; 142:4, 5 ;143:9; 144:2; Proverbs 10:15; 11:4, 28; 18:11; Matthew 6:19-21, 24; Luke 12:29-33; 1 Timothy 6:18-19