Back through the years
I go wanderin’ once again
Back to the seasons of my youth
I recall a box of rags that someone gave us
And how my momma put the rags to use

There were rags of many colors
But every piece was small
And I didn’t have a coat
And it was way down in the fall
Momma sewed the rags together
Sewin’ every piece with love
She made my coat of many colors
That I was so proud of

As she sewed, she told a story
From the Bible she had read
About a coat of many colors
Joseph wore and then she said
Perhaps this coat will bring you
Good luck and happiness
And I just couldn’t wait to wear it
And Momma blessed it with a kiss

My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

And oh, I couldn’t understand it
For I felt I was rich
And I told ’em of the love
My momma sewed in every stitch
And I told ’em all the story
Momma told me while she sewed
And how my coat of many colors
Was worth more than all their clothes

But they didn’t understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me

– “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton (1971)

“Coat of Many Colors” is widely considered by Dolly Parton’s loyal fans to be her best song. Not only is it a fan favorite, but this same song is reported to be Dolly Parton’s own personal favorite selection from her musical career of 55+ years. While Dolly’s gentle voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar riff hold much charm, what gives this song that extra-special-something is the simple yet evocative message it conveys. Based on a true account of Dolly’s upbringing, the heartwarming story reminds us that love is worth more than riches any day of the week.

Sometimes, when my husband and I drive past a particularly fine house, we both get starry-eyed. We talk and dream a bit together of what it must be like to live in such a sumptuous home. Though the dreaming is fun, it doesn’t take long before we always come to the same conclusion: the trade-offs of such a lifestyle are far too costly for our taste. A two-income family, a loss of time together, and a loss of money we’d rather invest elsewhere are not prices we’re willing to pay. And so we remember to be grateful for the home we do have. Is it a mansion? No. Does it have all the latest bells and whistles? Negative. Are we living a life of luxury? Well, it depends on who you ask. The roof over our head, the affordable cost, and the priceless time spent together between these four walls make it pretty close to a palace in my book. Dolly is right…”one is only poor if they choose to be”.

What do you think – is going from “rags to riches” a worthy pursuit? Today, let’s ask ourselves 6 questions about riches that the book of Proverbs will answer for us. The first question is…

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it. – Proverbs 15:16

“Turmoil” is defined as a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty.

Ironically, we might consider a lack of funds to be a leading cause of disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty in life…but scripture points out quite the opposite. The more you have, the more you have to lose. A person who is in possession of great treasure is always going to be worried about losing it to theft or disaster. Yet “the fear of the Lord”, mentioned in the same passage, is something that can never be stolen from us. It is ours to keep so long as we choose to walk in the light, and that is a blessed assurance. Remember what Jesus said about storing up our treasures: the treasures we accumulate in this age are subject to eventual destruction, but the treasures we store in heaven are ours for keeps!

Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred. – Proverbs 15:17

“Hatred” is defined as an intense dislike or ill will.

You might think, “why can’t I have both…the fattened ox and the love?” It comes down to two words: time and energy. Since riches and love both take a lot of time and energy to pursue, one must take ultimate priority. If riches is the highest priority, love will have to take a back seat. Eventually, that love will devolve into hatred, on account of being in competition with riches – A.K.A. priority numero uno – for it’s easy to hate whatever (or whoever) stands in the way of our goals. But be warned, our bank accounts will not keep us warm at night, nor will they endure into the next age. How much better to invest in the eternal nature of love, and building meaningful relationships in our homes, than to amass wealth to ourselves!

Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice. – Proverbs 16:8

“Injustice” is defined as a lack of fairness, or (quite obviously) justice.

Certainly not all income is gained by unjust means, but “great income” is often bought at the expense of others. A righteous person (in this context, one who deals fairly) is rarely going to be raking in cash by the wheelbarrow-full. When a fair person sells, they consider the true value of their goods and services, not what some “sucker” might be tricked into paying. Also, fair business practice demands disclosing any known flaws in a product, though we know it will knock down the price. Strict adherence to the golden rule keeps a person from cheating others. What would you pay? It’s unreasonable to take bargain prices for ourselves when buying, and demand top dollar when selling. We are to be just in all our dealings!

Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife. – Proverbs 17:1

“Strife” is defined as an angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues; conflict.

Relationship experts consistently claim that one of the top reasons couples argue is money. Couples around the globe argue over who makes the money, who controls the money, where the money is spent, how much money is spent, how much money is saved, and the list goes on. Obsession with money can turn our dearest love into our bitterest foe. One can live in a mansion and have all the luxuries that money can buy, but be miserable due to a hostile marriage. On the flip side, one can live in poverty with little to nothing to their name, but be filled with joy due to a harmonious marriage. At the end of the day, it’s not about the amount of cash we accumulate, but the amount of cooperation we cultivate!

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool. – Proverbs 19:1

“Perversion” is defined as showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.

Why are there so many worldly, foul, and degenerate people in Hollywood? Money is certainly one of the primary factors. If one wants to get ahead, they must have low standards. Hit movies are often filled with swearing, violence, drunkenness, drug abuse, sexual perversion, and the like. Those celebrities who are willing to act out and promote sin are rewarded with big bucks. Sadly, most will do anything for a paycheck and to fit in with perverse peers. While most of us aren’t Hollywood material, we can be in danger of the actor mentality…lowering our standards in order to get ahead and fit in with the affluent crowd. If Christians don’t take a stand, who will? This world needs less foolishness and more integrity!

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich. – Proverbs 28:6

“Crookedness” is defined as actions that are dishonest or illegal.

In addition to Hollywood actors, some of society’s wealthiest people are also among the most crooked: politicians. The most monetarily successful politicians are the ones who accept bribes, support ungodly legislation, lie through their teeth, and are a law unto themselves. The greed of such people drives them to line their pocketbooks with no concern for who they hurt in the process, and with no regard for what is right and what is wrong. While most of us are as unlikely to be in politics as we are to be in Hollywood, we can again be in danger of the politician mentality…idolizing money so much that nothing and no one will stand in our way of getting it. As Jesus said, it is “hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven”!

In conclusion…

When the wealth of others makes you starry-eyed, simply pretend you’re going computer shopping and ask yourself: is T.H.I.S. P.C. worth it? In other words, is going from “rags to riches” worth…

This simple acronym will help you place your priorities in perspective in no time. Proverbs shows us repeatedly that there are far better riches to be found than that of monetary wealth. Let each of us be content with what we have, and leave T.H.I.S. P.C. on the shelf where it belongs!

Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies towards the heavens. – Proverbs 23:4-5

Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. – Psalms 37:16

For God’s glory,
Mrs. Dustin Bolks

Chaste Bolks is a church of Christ preacher’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.