By John Eastman
What did King Solomon mean when he wrote, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it…” (Proverbs 23:23)?
The Bible clearly shows that God’s righteousness and His Word is more valuable than gold or silver. David states, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver” (Ps 119:72).
Jesus told his disciples, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth or rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:19–21).
From these verses, Christians are told not to pursue personal wealth above seeking God’s righteousness. This article will show that we cannot buy the truth of God with physical wealth, but rather with the spiritual wealth of God’s righteousness within us. God loves us and is concerned for our physical well being, but He wants us to seek His Kingdom and righteousness first, and then He will provide everything physical we need (Matt 6:33).
There are many parables in the Bible that show having God’s righteousness is worth more than all our wealth combined. In Matt 13:46, Christ talks about a merchant of pearls who sells everything he has for “one pearl of great price”, which Christ says is likened to the Kingdom of Heaven. Another parable speaks of a man who discovers a “hidden treasure in a field” and who goes and sells everything he has to buy that field (Matt 13:44). These parables are demonstrating that the value of God’s righteousness is far greater than any physical wealth.
If the value of God’s righteousness is greater than all our physical wealth, then how do we “buy the truth”? The answer is partially revealed in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1–13), which is a story of five wise and five foolish bridesmaids who take their oil lamps to wait for the groom to come to a wedding. In this parable, the five wise virgins bought enough oil to last until the groom arrived, but the five foolish virgins didn’t buy enough oil and ran out of light.
I believe that spiritually the oil represents God’s righteousness, which produces a kind of spiritual light in those who have it. Remember that Christ told His disciples, “you are the light of the world”, and, “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven” (Matt 5:14–16). In Revelation 19:7–8, the Bible says that “white is the righteousness of the saints”. In the Greek Dictionary #3022, white also means “light”. Pulling these verses together, the five foolish virgins had no light because Christ’s righteousness was no longer being created in them. They were running out of oil before the groom would arrive and should have bought more oil like the wise virgins.
In Ephesians 5:15–16, Paul warns us, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools [like the foolish virgins], but as wise [like the wise virgins], redeeming the time because the days are evil.” Redeeming the time means using the time wisely to grow in God’s righteousness. God allows us, with Christ dwelling in us, the time to grow and bring forth the fruits of His righteousness, which makes us the true spiritual “lights of the world”.
These verses show that we are to be buying the truth from God. Christ tells us in Rev 3:18, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in fire”. Christ makes this possible by giving us the “buying power” by dwelling in us and creating God’s righteousness in us. You see, it is God’s Spirit that gives us the spiritual knowledge and wisdom to know truth and to value it—above all earthly wealth.
The parable about the talents (Matt 25:14–29) demonstrates that God gives us the ability to grow in His righteousness. According to the parable, God gives you the talents according to your ability to invest them, and it is your responsibility to do the investing. God puts the highest value on His righteousness and will help form it in us all the way. When Christ lives in us and removes sin from us, He creates the fruits of God’s righteousness in us, and we will have the spiritual wealth to buy the truth.
All true Christians have the ability to purchase God’s truth, but in most cases God will reveal the truth through some more than others. This is because there are different parts of the Body of Christ performing differing functions (1Cor 12:12–30), and the members of the body are given different gifts (1Cor 12:4–11), “some of healing, working of miracles, prophesying, and ministering”. Some who write or preach may even receive more truth than others because that is their function in the body.
Why are we told not to sell the truth? Even though we can purchase the truth through God’s righteousness in us, we are not to sell it or trade it because Christ’s grace is freely given to all mankind. To explain, we are joint heirs with Christ and partakers of His resurrection, all of which we have received freely. We who have experienced God’s grace for free are to give others the knowledge of Christ’s grace so they too can grow in that grace (freely). Christians are told to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2Pet 3:18). When we freely give the truth to others about Christ’s grace, we should not be charging or selling this truth, because it is a part of the process that is freely given by Jesus Christ. Since Christ dwells in us, we should have the same attitude of giving the truth that Christ has towards all mankind. There is one word of caution that Christ gives us when we give the truth to others, that is, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (Matt 7:6).
Sometimes you may receive truth from those who are not God’s ministers because they received it from someone else. They don’t have God’s Spirit or Christ living in them, so they can’t buy the truth of God. It is possible that a false minister could have some truth from someone else who was able to purchase it, and may use it to gain a following. Undiscerning people will listen to this false minister because he is using the Word of God, which is like the voice of Christ, and Christ says “My sheep will hear my voice” (John 10:27). Christians can therefore be deceived and should heed the warning, “Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing” (Matt 7:15–16). Sometimes Satan will use a little of the truth to take someone away from God. “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2Cor 11:14–15).
They can have a form of righteousness, but deny the power of God (2Tim 3:5). These are deceitful workers that are doing the work of Satan. We must never take anyone for face value without searching the Scriptures like the Bereans (Acts 17:10–12) in order not to be deceived. Like Christ said, you can always know someone by his fruits. Of course, there are some ministers who have God’s Spirit and righteousness, who also have the truth from someone who purchased it. Their only desire is to bring one to Christ and feed the flock because they really do love God.
In conclusion, we are blessed to buy the truth by Christ’s righteousness within us. And, we are not to sell the truth because we have received Christ’s grace freely. We should be like Him and give the truth freely to others, so they too can share in His grace, because the whole Bible in one way or another points to God’s salvation through Jesus Christ and He freely gives it to all mankind.
Is Giving Truth Away Bad?
I have spoken with some people who seem to be afraid to share truth with others lest they accidentally “cast there pearls before swine”—share truth with somebody who is not worthy of it. I think this is an unfounded fear.
People who are not seeking God simply reject truth from those who are serving God. Obviously, we should teach or not teach according to any specific command we received from God (through dreams, visions, a voice or some clear answered prayer). But lacking such a command, teaching whoever is willing to listen appears to be the biblical guide (Matt 10:12–14, Acts 13:50–51). — NSE