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Bible: What Does Proverbs 21-22 Teach Us About Wealth and Poverty?

Updated on September 8, 2016

The Fool


Proverbs 21-22: Human and Divine Characteristics; Wealth and Poverty; A Description of the Wicked and the Righteous; Transferable Truth

Verses 1-4, 12, 30-31 highlight both human and divine characteristics and/or tendencies:

(1) Not puppet-like, man's will is also not final; God can convince it to do things His way (v. 1).

(2) Man is self-righteous, but God is the ultimate Judge of his motives (vv. 2, 12).

(3) Man's sacrifice, an acceptable act, follows his sin and covers it; the LORD prefers that man do what is right first (v. 3).

(4) The sin of pride resides in man's heart, shows in his face, and taints even his everyday chores (v. 4).

(5) Man seeks to thwart God's will by devising alternate plans, but the LORD will always have the victory (v. 30).

(6) God wins your battles and saves you, not your harnessed power (v. 31).

Solomon connects wealth to diligent planning, and poverty to hastiness (v. 5).

One such get-rich-quick scheme involves lying and results in death rather than wealth (v. 6).

One who ignores the poor wallowing in their plight will one day find himself in a similar position (v. 13).

Poverty often comes to the hedonist and the one who revels in luxury (v. 17).


The Wicked

As for the subject of the wicked, Solomon spends considerable time describing these folks as

(1) Violent and stubbornly unjust (v. 7),

(2) Guilty and perverse (v. 8a),

(3) Ungracious to neighbors (v. 10),

(4) Workers of iniquity (v. 15),

(5) Contentious and angry (vv. 9, 19),

(6) Wasteful (v. 20),

(7) Proud and arrogant scoffers (v. 24),

(8) Slothful and covetous (vv. 25-26a),

(9) Obstinate (v. 29a),

(10) False witnesses (v. 28), and

(11) Religiously corrupt (v. 27).

Destruction (vv. 7, 15b), punishment (v. 11a), being overthrown by God (v. 12) and death (vv. 16, 25, 28) are their reward.

On the other hand, the righteous

(1) Is pure, and does good work (v. 8b),

(2) Is teachable (v. 11),

(3) Enjoys doing justice (v. 15),

(4) Has sufficient means (v. 20),

(5) Is honored because of his lifestyle (v. 21),

(6) Has courage (v. 22),

(7) Watches what he says (v. 23),

(8) Is generous (v. 26b) and

(9) Builds a firm foundation (v. 29).

His way gains for him victory (v. 22), stability (v. 29b), joy (v. 15a), and internal peace (v. 23).


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The Use and Misuse of Wealth

Proverbs 22

Solomon continues his discourse on wealth, discussing its relative value, its proper and improper use, and its influence (or lack thereof) before God.

Possessing a good reputation (“name”) is of incomparably greater value than having material wealth (v. 1).

In fact, the former condition—especially when it includes the elements of humility and of fearing God—may well lead to the latter status, and more (v. 4).

Both the rich and the poor are equal before their Creator and responsible to Him (v. 2); yet in mundane affairs, those with money have a measure of power over those without (v. 7a).

Generosity meets with all-around blessing (v. 9), but robbing the poor and giving to the rich for selfish gain will result in poverty (v. 16).

Verses 3, 5-6, 15 discuss different kinds of protection from evil.

The wise man's foresight enables him to hide himself from physical or moral harm (v. 3a), and to guard his soul from troubles associated with perversity (v. 5).

[How does one guard one’s soul?]

Godly child-rearing, including corporal punishment, will generally keep the individual from foolish behavior early in life and from defecting from moral living later on (vv. 6, 15).

[Does Solomon use the “rod of correction” as a metaphor, or as a physically coercive means of curbing foolishness?]

Again, the author advises how to handle speech, evil and good.

If we discipline scoffers, peace will reign (v. 10); God's judgment upon unbelief will ensure the survival of knowledge (v. 12).

He also mentions the words of the lazy man and the immoral woman (vv. 13, 14).

Sloth makes lame excuses for not leaving home to go to work (v. 13), and words condoning immorality trap the cursed (v. 14).

But Solomon includes an example of good speech, too. Gracious words coming from a pure mind place an individual in good stead with the king (v. 11).

Transferable Truth

Verses 17-21 introduce a new section in Proverbs. Here Solomon maintains that he has taught the people motivational and transferable truth.

In other words, his instruction will cause them to trust in the LORD (v. 19) as well as enable them to pass on that knowledge to others (vv. 20-21; cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).

Maxims dealing with relationships to the poor, angry people, borrowers and lenders, neighbors and one's work stand as examples of such truth.

(1) Solomon warns against mistreating the poor, for Yahweh will repay such behavior (vv. 22-23);

(2) Associating with the angry will facilitate your becoming angry, for anger begets anger (vv. 24-25);

(3) Becoming surety is foolish (vv. 26-27);

(4) The king admonishes Israel against a form of stealing in the ancient Near East (v. 28), while exhorting the hearer to strive for excellence in whatever he does (v. 29).

© 2013 glynch1


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    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      What facts about the character and reward of the righteous particularly spoke to you?

    • Treasuresofheaven profile image

      Sima Ballinger 4 years ago from Michigan

      I like the fact that you brought in the righteous - their character and reward! Good scripture.