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Home > Bible on Money > Bible Study Notes > Proverbs

Stewardship Bible Study Notes (Proverbs)

By Justin Borger
with assistance from Generous Giving staff


Proverbs’ stated purpose is to provide practical instruction for living a wise and well-ordered life (1:1-7). However, the book contains much more than practical advice. Its theological tone is set from the start when the teacher says to his son, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7). As the book proceeds, we find that Proverbs is surprisingly positive and even enthusiastic about the goodness of wealth. Even in her appeal before all humanity to come to her, Lady Wisdom calls out, “With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity” (8:18). Yet the book reminds us of wealth’s limited value again and again (e.g. 11:4). We learn that one of the primary characteristics of the wise is their ability to choose that which is better than wealth and riches in the present (e.g. 15:16). Proverbs has more to say about issues of wealth and poverty than almost any other topic. On the one hand, we are taught about the wisdom of generosity, stewardship, hard work and diligence. On the other hand, we are warned against the impoverishing powers of greed, presumptuous planning, and the foolishness of laziness and risky lending. As a whole, the wisdom of Proverbs is nicely summarized in a description of the “Wife of Noble Character” at the book’s end (31:10-31). Stewardship and generosity are this woman’s crowning characteristics. She blends business savvy and domestic skills even as “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy” (31:20). This wise woman’s love for the Lord is expressed in the way she goes about the essential details of life as a generous steward of her many talents and gifts, willingly involving herself in daily tasks while exuding competence in all that she does. Her stewardship and skill for living is an expression of her fear of God and her belief that he himself is intimately involved in every facet of life.

Our study of Proverbs consists of two parts. In the first section, readers will find our stewardship study notes. These notes analyze, in a passage-by-passage fashion, the implications of the book’s teaching for Christian generosity and related issues. The second section consists of short essays describing the book’s major stewardship themes. These notes and essays are not intended to be comprehensive explanations of the author’s goals in writing this book, nor do they exhaust the book’s possible applications in matters related to stewardship and generosity.

While Generous Giving’s Bible study material will aid anyone who is searching the Scriptures for guidance, they may prove especially useful as sermon helps for pastors and as a resource for teachers, advisors and lay leaders interested in obeying and teaching the message of Scripture in matters of generosity and stewardship. We readily acknowledge our fallibility in writing these study notes, for they are the work of humans, not God. Please search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) as you read this material critically, carefully and prayerfully. May God bless you in your studies.


Passage-by-Passage Study Notes

  • Proverbs 1:1-7 — The stated purpose of the book of Proverbs is to provide practical instruction for living a wise and well-ordered life. However, the book contains much more than “practical sense.” As we see in verse 7—which sets the theological tone for the rest of the book—the wise and well-ordered life begins in relationship with God and proper recognition of who he is. Proverbs describes this as “the fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). As a man once observed, “God is like the sun! You can’t look at it, but without it, you can’t look at anything else.” Knowledge of any kind—financial or otherwise—begins with this acknowledgment. We must recognize God for who he is as the sovereign Creator, Sustainer, Ruler and Redeemer and respond to his greatness by submitting all we are and have to him. Apart from this perspective, financial wisdom and true stewardship are impossible. See Proverbs theme essays Neither Poverty nor Riches and Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 1:8-19 — The first instruction given in the book of Proverbs is a warning against the enticements of bad company. In this particular illustration the temptations are rooted in greed and the desire to get something for nothing. The teacher warns his son not to listen to the empty promises of violent men who steal for a living. Their plans may succeed for a season, but in the end they waylay only themselves. “Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it” (Proverbs 1:18-19). We must recognize that this is not a promise but a principle. After all, sometimes thieves do get away with the crimes they commit—at least in this life. The book of Proverbs (especially in chaps. 1-9) outlines wise insights about living in the world God created that can be trusted because God fashioned the world in wisdom, i.e., “By wisdom the LORD laid the foundations ...” (Proverbs 3:19ff). Thus, these insights should be understood as foundational truths or general principles and should not be taken as absolute promises. Because God made the world in wisdom, “crime doesn’t pay” and stolen goods are generally more trouble than they are worth. However, due to sin and injustice there are exceptions. As we go further into Proverbs (esp. chaps. 10-31), we see that in a fallen world the dictates of wisdom call us to forego the fleeting benefits of disobedience in this life for the benefits of wisdom and righteousness both in this life and in eternity. As another proverb says, “When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too. The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead” (Proverbs 11:7-8, ESV).

  • Proverbs 2:1-6 — The writer urges us to treasure and desire wisdom and understanding so that we may know and fear God. And, very importantly, God is the giver of these very things, and we should desire what the greatest giver offers. This tells us a few things: First, the knowledge and fear of the Lord ought to be the motivation behind everything we do. Second, all true wisdom, knowledge and understanding are irrevocably united with the fear of the Lord. None of these things in themselves supplant our pursuit of God; rather, they are all avenues by which we can know him. We treasure wisdom and understanding so that we can know God, and not anything else, for there is no god besides him (Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 44:6-8). Third, we see that God provides us with everything that we need to love and serve him. If we totally orient our priorities toward the knowledge and fear of God, we will never lack what we need to do so. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 3:1-8 — As noted above, this is a principle, not a promise. God created the world in wisdom, and because of this, following his wise teaching about living in the world he fashioned in wisdom naturally promotes life and prosperity. On the other hand, refusing to live by the truths communicated in his word naturally leads to poverty and decay. Verses 1-2 are not meant to be taken as an absolute promise that we will be made healthy and wealthy if we listen to what God says (after all, God may call us to sell our possessions and die as missionaries in another country). The same principle is applied in Proverbs 3:7-8. When we are not “wise in our own eyes” but humbly fear and trust in God for all the wisdom and provision we need, then we will be healthy and refreshed. This is a general insight into the way things work in God’s economy: Wisdom and obedience lead to health and prosperity.

  • Proverbs 3:9-10 — When we give honor to God, we must put our money where our mouth is. Jesus said that wherever our treasure is our heart will follow (Matthew 6:21), and in light of this reality it is little wonder that God specifically commands that we honor him with our wealth. With respect to verse 10, biblical commentator Derek Kidner notes that while the general principle that piety brings prosperity resonates with much of Scripture (e.g., Deuteronomy 28:1-4; Malachi 3:10), this principle should not be taken as an absolute promise. Otherwise, God would be more of a magic investment plan than the supreme object of worship. Kidner goes on to note that verses 11 and 12, which lead into verse 13ff, bring a balance to this principle by reminding us that there are better rewards for obedience than full barns and earthly prosperity (Derek Kidner, Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary, 64). Christians are not promised worldly wealth. However, we are promised an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 4:13). As author Bob Beasley says, “This is the bottom line: that we affirm our trust in God by generous giving to his kingdom. Thereby we know the true riches of Jesus. Bless your pastor, your congregation, yourself, and indeed the world, as you honor God by your faithful giving” (Bob Beasley, The Wisdom of the Proverbs, 24). See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 3:13-16 — Wisdom in Proverbs is radically affectionate. Being wise requires that we love the right kinds of things. In particular two different objects of affection are contrasted—love of Lady Wisdom and love of Lady Folly (Proverbs 9:1-18). In the course of Proverbs’ teaching, material riches such as silver and gold frequently are used as examples of relative goods that we must forgo for the sake of something better (e.g., Proverbs 15:17; 16:8, 16, 19, 32; 17:1; 19:1, 22; 22:1; 28:6). That is, we learn that growing wise often requires us to value and desire other things more highly than wealth and material blessings. For example, in Proverbs 3:13-16 we see material wealth being used in comparison to other valuables (Proverbs 8:10-11). We are told that knowledge, understanding and wisdom are more valuable than treasures such as silver and gold. Ironically, verse 16 actually concludes that wisdom is better than wealth because wisdom brings “riches and honor,” suggesting that the wise person will enjoy better treasures than the wealth of the world. See Proverbs theme essay Love and Money.

  • Proverbs 3:25-26 — It is often the case that financial difficulties cause us to be anxious and lead us into sins of unbelief and mistrust. For example, when we fail to believe in God’s providence, a particularly strong temptation can creep into our consciousness and cause us to place trust in power and wealth for safety, security and satisfaction. Financial fears and anxieties often create a nervous desire to accumulate more and more with the mistaken assumption that we can fortify our future through our own resources. Scripture teaches us that such plans are shortsighted. Of course, financial successes can be no less powerful in creating fear and worry over loosing our possessions and can distract us from the true purpose of financial blessing (2 Corinthians 9:11). As we amass more and more from fear, we inevitably become desensitized to the needs of others. In contrast with this anxious attitude, Jesus taught in the gospels that the best way to plan for the future is to be generous in the present: “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 12:32-33). This passage in Proverbs helps us to see not only the obligation we have to trust in God alone but also the eternal benefits and opportunities that we are given when we give. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity.

  • Proverbs 3:27-28 (Key Passage) — Don’t Delay Pay: Debts must be paid as soon as possible. After all, we can steal without actively taking by passively withholding what we owe. But what exactly do we owe? Obviously we’ve got to pay the bills; we must keep short accounts and not allow things like credit card dept to rack up. But do we owe more than this? Are there others who deserve something from us (Proverbs 3:27)? According to this proverb, the answer is “yes.” The person to whom we owe “good” (Proverbs 3:27) is our “neighbor” (Proverbs 3:28. And who is our neighbor? See Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37 for the answer to that question.). Jesus taught that what we owe others (especially the poor) extends well beyond monthly bills or financial debts that have a paper trail. Jesus actually commands his followers to “Give to everyone who asks you” (Luke 6:30), and “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:35). When we encounter needs and requests, our default response should be to give. This is the rule of love for the followers of Christ: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18). See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 4:5-9 (Key Passage) — Get Wisdom: Again we see the close connection that exists between wisdom and affection in the Proverbs. Those who are wise seek wisdom with all their resources and energy. The wise “love” (Proverbs 4:6), “esteem” and “embrace” Wisdom (4:8). Wisdom reorients not only our intellectual interests but our desires and affections as well. Wisdom makes us know the truth and love the lovely. Verse 7 shows that when this change occurs and our loves are reoriented according to Wisdom, it has a radical impact on the way we use our resources. For those who recognize the supreme worth of Wisdom give up everything for her sake (4:7). We should note that the Wisdom being spoken of here is a person. Verse 7 refers to Wisdom as “her” and anticipates to a more fully developed personification in Proverbs 9. Wisdom is not merely intellectual. Rather, in light of what the New Testament tells us, we must recognize that Jesus Christ himself is the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30; Colossians 2:3), a treasure of supreme worth who must be sought at the cost of all else (Luke 14:33). Thus, seeking wisdom means imitating the wisdom of Christ. And we know that the wisdom of Christ leads to sacrificial living in the present (i.e., the wisdom of the cross) rather than imitating the wisdom of the world which runs after worldly wealth for safety and satisfaction. This command to get wisdom is repeated again in Proverbs 23:23: “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.” See Proverbs theme essay Love and Money.

  • Proverbs 4:23 — One of the most effective ways to guard our hearts is to give our money: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). There is no better way to grow in love for God than to invest in things that he cares about. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 5:1-23 — This passage contains a strict warning to avoid adultery, but it is at the same time an unblushing endorsement of sexuality within marriage. On a metaphorical level, the two choices—embracing the adulteress or embracing one’s wife—represent larger life choices, namely, choosing the way of wisdom or choosing the way of folly. Choosing the way of wisdom is inextricably connected to finding satisfaction in the unique set of gifts that God gives to each of us as individuals (e.g., our spouses) and, conversely, refusing to seek satisfaction in false loves (e.g., the empty enticements of this world that do not belong to us such as the adulteress). As the biblical commentator Raymond Van Leeuwen points out, “The strange woman’s ‘honey’ (v. 3) and the sweet ‘waters’ of Lady Folly (Proverbs 9:17) are deadly and produce conflict precisely because they are stolen.” (Raymond Van Leeuwen, The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary vol. 5, 68). See Proverbs theme essay Love and Money.

  • Proverbs 6:1-5 — This passage provides details about dangerous financial liabilities. The situation is this: A young man has become financially ensnared by foolishly promising to put up “security” for a “stranger”. Although the destructive consequences have not yet come into effect, the teacher urges the young man to take immediate action before they do: “Go humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to you eyes ... Free yourself ...” (Proverbs 6:3-5). We must take our financial situation very seriously, for it has both practical and spiritual significance. After all, when we are not financially free, our ability to radically pursue the agenda of God’s kingdom is significantly restrained. We find ourselves trapped, as Proverbs 22:7 says—the borrower is slave to the lender. Accordingly, procrastination is not an option for those who want to be financially free; they must humbly seek an immediate solution with all their energies. We ought to pay special attention to the emphasis that is placed on humility, for it is often the case that those who have become financially trapped are too ashamed to seek help. Thus, as a consequence of pride they fail to take the immediate action is needed. This warning against getting tangled up in other people’s finances has many implications for today. One example might be that we should be very, very cautious about cosigning for people we do not know very, very well. Proverbs has much more to say about wisdom and morality in the marketplace: 6:1-5; 10:2; 11:1, 15, 18, 24-26; 13:11; 14:23; 15:27; 16:18, 11, 13, 26; 17:18; 20:10, 14, 16, 23; 21:5; 22:7, 26-27; 26:10; 27:13, 18; 28:8, 16. See James theme essay Presumptuous Plans.

  • Proverbs 6:6-11 (Key Passage) — Laziness vs. Hard Work: Proverbs teaches that it is wise to work hard and foolish to be lazy. A fruitful and well-ordered life is one of diligence, productivity and cultivation. On the other hand, the foolish life is one of idleness and procrastination. In particular, the wisdom of work and the stupidity of laziness can be seen in the positive and negative effects they have on our lives. As the following lists show, most of these effects have obvious economic ramifications. Still, we should note that Proverbs does not endorse hard work for the sake of amassing great wealth but, rather, for the sake of living a full and fruitful life in all of its various aspects. Proverbs also highlights the fact that the purpose for working diligently is to provide for the needs others, especially those under our care (see note on Proverbs 27:23-27). See 1 and 2 Thessalonians theme essay Work and Idleness and Proverbs theme essays Wisdom of Generosity and Wisdom of Work.

    Positive effects of hard work:

  • Wealth (10:4; 12:27)
  • A life lived in wisdom (10:5)
  • Abundant food (12:11; 20:13; 28:19)
  • Power to rule (12:24)
  • Full satisfaction of desires (13:4)
  • Profit (14:23)
  • A clear path (15:19)
  • Meaningful work (22:29)
  • Plenty of resources (27:23-27)
  • Negative effects laziness:

  • Poverty (6:11; 10:4; 14:23; 20:13; 24:33-34; 28:19)
  • Family disgrace/ruin (10:5)
  • Exasperation for employer (10:26)
  • Servitude (12:24)
  • Failure to enjoy one’s possessions (12:27)
  • Unsatisfied craving/restlessness (13:4)
  • A blocked path (15:19)
  • Destruction (18:9)
  • Hunger (19:5)
  • Unwillingness to finish things (19:24; 25:15)
  • No harvest (20:4)
  • Death (21:25)
  • Foolish fears/absurd behavior (22:13; 26:13)
  • Ruin and decay (24:31)

  • Proverbs 6:18a — Listed among the seven things that are detestable to God is “a heart that devises wicked schemes ...” (cf. note on Micah 2:1-5). Many Christians today suffer from a narrow view of stewardship which limits this virtue to the wise use of material goods and resources such as money and possessions or to church building campaigns. Here we see that avoiding the things that God hates requires us to be stewards of the life of the mind. Proverbs’ emphasis upon wisdom teaches us that we must use our thought-life for good and not for evil. Stewardship of the mind and imagination that God has given to us is an ongoing task. It means taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) who is the Wisdom of God himself (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30; Colossians 2:3). See other passages on planning in Proverbs (6:18; 11:14; 12:5, 20; 14:12, 22; 15:22, 26; 16:1, 2, 3, 25, 33; 19:21; 20:18, 24; 21:5; 24:6, 27; 27:1; 29:18; 31:25, 27). See James theme essay Presumptuous Plans and Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 6:30-35 — This observation about a man who steals when he is starving comes in the context of a warning against theft of a different kind, i.e., stealing another man’s wife in adultery. The illustration makes two main points: (1) To steal when you are starving is not nearly as shameful as stealing another man’s wife, and (2) since the lesser crime must be punished, how much greater will the punishment be for the man who steals sexual relations with another man’s wife! Whether we steal food or marital relationships, both sins require punishment, though one is far more heinous and will be punished more severely than the other.

  • Proverbs 7:1-27 — By extension, the teacher’s warning against the adulterous women also provides us with a warning against sins of covetousness and theft. This connection is relevant because Scripture draws a very close connection between sins of lust and adultery and sins of covetousness and theft. For example, in Exodus 20:17 we are told, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” However, a far more striking connection between theses sins can be seen in the prophet Nathan’s description of David’s adultery with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 12:1-10. Here, rather than describing the sin of adultery in terms of sexual immorality, Nathan describes David’s sin with Bathsheba in a way that focuses on and condemns economic oppression and theft. Because there is no more intimate belonging than a spouse, committing adultery is, perhaps, the most extreme form of theft. Still we should note that the close connection between adultery and theft is revealed in the book of Proverbs itself. For example, in Proverbs 9:17, Lady Folly’s invitation to adultery is presented in the metaphorical language of drinking “stolen water”. Finally, we should note, as pastor Tim Keller points out, that when God says he “abhors” dishonest scales in Proverbs 11:1, the actual Hebrew word for “abhors” means that God views it as an “abomination”. This is strong language—not only in a general sense, however, because the word “abomination” was typically used to refer to sexual sins. Once again, lust and covetousness are strongly connected in Scripture and in the book of Proverbs alike.

  • Proverbs 8:10-11 — See notes on Proverbs 3:13-16 and 4:5-9 for more on the comparison between wisdom and riches.

  • Proverbs 8:18-21 — When we seek first God’s kingdom, all that we need is added to us (Luke 12:31), and the pursuit of wisdom has a similar result. When we seek wisdom wholeheartedly, spiritual and material prosperity are natural side effects. The story of Solomon is a good example. He asked God for wisdom, and in addition to wisdom God gave him great wealth and prosperity (1 Kings 3:1-15). However, as explained above, this is a general principle and should not be taken as an absolute promise that anyone who is wise will be rich. After all, Jesus, who is the Wisdom of God himself (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30; Colossians 2:3), lived a life of relative poverty for the sake of others (2 Corinthians 8:9). And we must follow him even into sacrificial living and generosity in the present (i.e., the wisdom of the cross) rather than imitating the wisdom of the world which runs after worldly wealth for safety and satisfaction. By imitating Jesus’ wisdom—even into suffering—we know that we will also share in his glorious reward (Romans 8:17). In this way we will lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven and take hold of life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19). See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 9:17 — See note on Proverbs 7:1-27.

  • Proverbs 10:2-3 — This pair of proverbs provides two biblical principles about wealth: first, that the illicit wealth of the wicked cannot provide eternal security (Proverbs 10:2) or satisfaction (Proverbs 10:3) and, conversely, that righteousness can do both these things. Such sayings tend to collide not only with human experience but with the rest of Scripture as well. For example, in the book of Habakkuk, we read that “the righteous will live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4), and at the end of the book, the prophet declares that he is willing to starve for the sake of righteousness (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Why would this be necessary if the righteous never go hungry (Proverbs 10:3)? Even in our own day, it is an irrefutable fact that there are true believers living in Africa who do not have basic food to live. So then, what do these proverbs have to teach us about reality? Although simplistic answers should be dismissed, it is important to recognize as the biblical commentator Raymond Van Leeuwen points out that these short sayings in Proverbs 10-15 represent ABCs of wisdom. They especially emphasize the fundamental principle that “we reap what we sow.” Thus, righteousness predominately produces good results, wickedness bad results. Van Leeuwen also notes that starting with Proverbs 16, exceptions to these ABCs are introduced more frequently. And these exceptions are even more openly recognized in the rest of the Bible’s wisdom literature. For example, Job was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1), yet he suffered terribly. Thus, the principles mentioned above are just that—general truths; they should not be taken as absolute promises because there are exceptions. The wise person will apply these principles to his life and recognize that in the end the God who by wisdom fashioned the world in which we live ultimately will make sure that the illicit wealth of the wicked will perish and the righteous will be filled forever with good things. Proverbs has much more to say about wisdom and morality in the marketplace: 6:1-5; 10:2; 11:1, 15, 18, 24-26; 13:11; 14:23; 15:27; 16:18, 11, 13, 26; 17:18; 20:10, 14, 16, 23; 21:5; 22:7, 26-27; 26:10; 27:13, 18; 28:8, 16. See Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 10:4-5 — See note on Proverbs 6:6-11.

  • Proverbs 10:15 (Key Passage) — Wealth and Poverty: The significance of this proverb lies in the practical comparison that it makes. Generally speaking, it is better to be rich than it is to be poor. Wealth is a source of security. It works as a buffer or “fortified city”. It has the power to insulate us from many of life’s dangers and difficulties. For example, when the car breaks down or the septic tank overflows, it is better to have the money to pay for it to be fixed than to be stranded alongside the road or to live with the smell of sewage. Although “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), money is a useful tool that should not be rejected as evil in itself. Still, we should balance this positive view of wealth with the rest of what Proverbs has to say on the matter. As the biblical commentator Bruce Waltke notes, half of the occurrences of the word “wealth” in Solomon’s proverbs instructs us to value it, and the other half not to trust it. For example, in 18:10-11 we are faced with a totally different comparison from the contrast in Proverbs 10:15: Instead of contrasting wealth and poverty, here we see trust in God and trust in wealth being compared. The different comparison changes the situation entirely, and consequently, a new light is shed on the so-called security of wealth. Indeed, in the context of Proverbs 18:10-11, wealth offers no more protection than one’s imagination (Proverbs 18:11). Similarly, in the verse that immediately follows, we are informed of the fact that not all wealth is good: “The income of the wicked brings punishment” (Proverbs 10:16). Thus, the point to constantly remember is this: God is our ultimate source of security. Even when we use wealth as a tool to fix practical problems, we must recognize that the wealth we have is an extension of God’s generous provision. See Proverbs theme essay Neither Poverty nor Riches.

  • Proverbs 10:16 — This proverb shows that money in the hands of the righteous leads to good whereas money in the hands of the wicked has bad consequences. Just as a bulldozer can accomplish many wonderful things in the hands of a skilled workman, money can be used to accomplish great things for God’s kingdom when righteous people use it wisely (e.g., feed the poor, fund missionaries, build schools). However, the opposite is equally true. A bulldozer in the hands of an idiot inevitably causes chaos, just as income in the hands of the wicked leads to destruction (e.g., squandered in gambling, extravagant retirement plans and other forms of self-indulgence). This reality should inform our giving. For example, if we have compelling evidence that a person has harmful or wicked financial habits—excessive drinking or gambling, for instance—we have no reason to fuel his folly with the money God has entrusted us. Still, this does not mean that we should abandon such people. God sent his Son to us while we were poor stewards and financial failures. Instead of refusing to give anything to people who are clearly rebellious, we should take care to give in a way that takes account of the situation and circumstances of the recipient. Often this will call us to give much more than a handout.

  • Proverbs 10:22 — This verse tells us “It’s all good.” In contrast with the fate of the wicked, God’s blessing for the righteous is a sure thing—no trouble comes with it. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity.

  • Proverbs 10:26 — See note on Proverbs 6:6-11.

  • Proverbs 11:1 (Key Passage) — God and the Marketplace: Here we see God’s unambiguous interest in financial affairs. Money matters, and God insists that our business practices reflect his standards of righteousness and justice (cf. Leviticus 19:35; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Proverbs 20:10, 23; Ezekiel 45:10; Hosea 12:7-8; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10-11; Luke 6:35-38). The intensity of the language used to describe God’s view of economic iniquity is particularly strong. God “abhors” dishonest business practices and “delights” in equity in the marketplace. The forcefulness of the language used here reminds us of the fact that financial faithfulness is not a peripheral issue but central to true spirituality. As Jesus taught us, money and the heart are inseparable, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Indeed, with regard to business practices and to economic issues in general, Jesus not only showed God’s insistence upon honesty, but he also taught that God rewards generosity: “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). Proverbs has much more to say about wisdom and morality in the marketplace: 6:1-5; 10:2; 11:1, 15, 18, 24-26; 13:11; 14:23; 15:27; 16:18, 11, 13, 26; 17:18; 20:10, 14, 16, 23; 21:5; 22:7, 26-27; 26:10; 27:13, 18; 28:8, 16. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 11:4 (Key Passage) — Worthlessness of Wealth: As a part of God’s creation, material resources such as money and wealth are good and not evil in themselves. As we noted on Proverbs 10:15, wealth has the beneficial capacity to insulate us from many of life’s dangers and difficulties. While we should not despise wealth or deny its practical utility, we are called to acknowledge the limited value of worldly wealth from an eternal perspective. Proverbs 11:4 provides a necessary balance to our understanding of the value of wealth by reminding us of its definite limitations (cf. Psalm 49:7-9, 16-20; Luke 12:15-21). As biblical commentator Tremper Longman notes, because we are uncertain about the degree of knowledge that God had revealed about the afterlife to his people when the Proverbs was written, it is difficult to know whether the “day of wrath” refers to the last judgment or particular days of individual calamity. Either way, the basic principle remains the same. As Jesus’ parable of the rich fool reveals, whether we are rich or poor, God can demand our lives at any moment. When that happens, the money we have will be of no use (Luke 16:19-31), but our righteousness will endure forever (Psalm 112:9; 2 Corinthians 9:9). See Proverbs 11:7; 11:28; Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24. See Proverbs theme essays Wisdom for the Future and Wisdom of Generosity.

  • Proverbs 11:6 — When the New Testament talks about “evil desires”, it often connects this general sin with the specific sins of covetousness and the love of money. For example, 1 Timothy 6:9-10 echoes what this proverb has to say about evil desires being a trap when it says, “people who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (See also Mark 10:23, 25). A covetous heart that itches to get more of what other people have can never be satisfied. It is bound for the disappointment of continual craving. Indeed, greed is equated with idolatry in the New Testament. And an idol can never satisfy the heart of a worshiper. Interestingly, pastor Tim Keller notes that believers often confess to and repent of evil desires like adultery and lust, but few if any ever confess to greed and covetousness. Why is that? The Bible teaches that covetousness is dangerous, and Jesus warns us against it in strong language (see note on Luke 12:15) because so few of us think we are guilty of it; yet it leads to ingratitude, a lack of generosity and (left unchecked) death. See Colossians theme essay Idolatry Is Worthless and Proverbs theme essay Love and Money.

  • Proverbs 11:7 — See note on Proverbs 11:4.

  • Proverbs 11:10-11 — “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices ...” This was certainly true of the early church in Jerusalem just after God poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The prosperity of the righteous is described in Acts 2:44-47: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity.

  • Proverbs 11:14 — See note on Proverbs 15:22.

  • Proverbs 11:15 — See note on Proverbs 6:1-5.

  • Proverbs 11:16 — Once again, Proverbs reminds us of the limited value of wealth. Wisdom values kindness and respect more highly than wealth and riches. The story of the widow’s mite is a good example of the great worth of kindness and generosity. Certainly Jesus’ respect is worth all the wealth in the world: “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’ ” (Luke 21:1-4; see also Mark 12:41-44). Certainly, the Bible is full of women who earned respect worth far more than wealth (Judges 4:4; 5:7; Esther 7:3-4; 9:12-13, 25; Luke 1:28; Acts 9:36). See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 11:17 — See note on Proverbs 11:24-26.

  • Proverbs 11:24-26 (Key Passage) — Wisdom of Generosity #1: These verses compare the wisdom of generosity with the impoverishing foolishness of greed. Often we think of generosity as an obligation; here it is viewed as an opportunity. And while this may seem paradoxical to those of us who believe a tight fist rather than an open hand will lead to gain, the Bible goes to considerable lengths to show this to be a lie: “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely ...” (Psalm 12:5). “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again ...” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you ...” (Luke 6:38). “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 ...” (Luke 12:33). “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously ...” (2 Corinthians 9:6). “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:18-19). Proverbs has much more to say about wisdom and morality in the marketplace: 6:1-5; 10:2; 11:1, 15, 18, 24-26; 13:11; 14:23; 15:27; 16:18, 11, 13, 26; 17:18; 20:10, 14, 16, 23; 21:5; 22:7, 26-27; 26:10; 27:13, 18; 28:8, 16. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 11:25 (Key Passage) This proverb continues the theme of the previous verse and stresses the fact that generosity is wise. Proverb’s teaching about the benefits and rewards of generosity show us that God is not opposed to appealing to desire as a motivation for good behavior. As commentator Tremper Longman notes, “Both the individual and community interest are encompassed in this teaching, since both the self and the other are said to derive good from a person’s giving nature” (Tremper Longman, Proverbs, 263). See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity.

  • Proverbs 11:26 (Key Passage) Once again, this verse continues the theme of the previous verses and goes on to add a real-life example. In particular, the example of refusing to sell a precious life-sustaining commodity, presumably for the sake of getting a better price, is said to be an evil that brings a curse from the community. In contrast, 2 Corinthians 9:11 tells us that God makes individuals rich for the purpose of enriching others —the community. Of course, as we have seen in the previous two verses, generosity always benefits us as individuals in the long-run as well. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 11: 28 — See note on Proverbs 11:4. See also Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24.

  • Proverbs 12:5 — As obvious as this proverb may sound, it is easily overlooked and even ignored. For example, to what kinds of financial advisors do we look today? Do we make a point of seeking out advisors who will help us to invest our money wisely in causes that promote righteousness and justice? Do we ever plan in a way that prioritizes the growth of God’s kingdom above our retirement plans? The advice we seek matters because strategic giving takes wisdom and practice. Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t even have generosity on our radar when we make financial plans. This, quite frankly, is dangerous. For when we trust the world’s advice about how to use our money and resources, we trust them with our hearts as well (Matthew 6:21). See other passage on planning in Proverbs: 1:5; 6:18; 11:14; 12:5, 20; 14:12, 22; 15:22, 26; 16:1, 2, 3, 25, 33; 19:21; 20:18, 24; 21:5; 24:6, 27; 27:1; 29:18; 31:25, 27. See James theme essay Presumptuous Plans and Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 12:9 — Appearances can be deceiving. What matters is reality itself. Even if no one knows about it, it is better to have resources than it is to have the appearance of resources when you have none. This proverb relates to our situation as we live as Christians in the present. Even though there are many believers who are poor in the world’s eyes, it is better to have the true riches of faith and righteousness than it is to have the fleeting wealth of this world (Luke 16:19-31).

  • Proverbs 12:11 — In the Proverbs, hard work is typically contrasted with laziness (see note on Proverbs 6:6-11). However, here we see meaningful work contrasted with foolish exertion. It is not enough for us to work hard; we must direct our energies in a way that is meaningful and wise. Working the land provides a paradigmatic example of work that has meaning and significance (also note that the previous verse emphasizes the importance of caring for animals; cf. Jonah 4:11). After all, the first task man ever received from God was to subdue the earth by working and cultivating it (Genesis 2:15). God cares deeply about his creation (Genesis 8:21-22), and his care entails an inherent responsibility that we have to take care of creation as his stewards. See note on Proverbs 6:6-11. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Work.

  • Proverbs 12:20 — The deception of those who plot evil is often motivated by greed. For example, we could consider the swindlers in Judah against whom the prophet Micah railed for lying awake at night on their beds thinking up creative ways to seize the property and assets of others (see note on Micah 2:2). These sins were rooted in greed, which leads to social chaos (i.e., James 4:1-2). On the other hand, generosity promotes peace in the community (e.g., Acts 2:44-47). See other passages on planning in Proverbs: 1:5; 6:18; 11:14; 12:5, 20; 14:12, 22; 15:22, 26; 16:1, 2, 3, 25, 33; 19:21; 20:18, 24; 21:5; 24:6, 27; 27:1; 29:18; 31:25, 27. See James theme essay Presumptuous Plans.

  • Proverbs 12:24 — See note on Proverbs 6:6-11.

  • Proverbs 12:27 — See note on Proverbs 6:6-11. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 13:4 — See note on Proverbs 6:6-11.

  • Proverbs 13:7 — Appearances can be deceiving. What matters is reality itself. Even if no one knows about it, it is better to have resources than it is to have the appearance of resources when you have none. This proverb relates to the situation of many Christians in the present. Even though there are many believers who are poor in the world’s eyes, it is better to have the true riches of faith and righteousness than it is to have the fleeting wealth of this world (Luke 16:19-31).

  • Proverbs 13:8 — This proverb begins by highlighting the usefulness of wealth. If a rich man is kidnapped for ransom, he will be able to pay it and go free. However, the second phrase humorously undermines the value of the rich man’s wealth by pointing out that if he had been poor to begin with, he never would have be threatened in the first place. (See also how Ecclesiastes 5:11 and Matthew 6:19 highlight the liabilities of wealth). See Proverbs theme essay Neither Poverty nor Riches.

  • Proverbs 13:11 — Gambling is a good example of dishonest money dwindling away. Easy come easy go. On the other hand, God is pleased with honest industry and sustainable development. After all, the Bible tells us that it is the Lord who gives us “the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). Still, we should remember the reason why God gives us wealth and the ability to produce it: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:11) The material riches God gives are not ends in themselves, but means to a greater end. God is glad to bless, but when he gives us riches, he does so that we may richly give. Proverbs has much more to say about wisdom and morality in the marketplace: 6:1-5; 10:2; 11:1, 15, 18, 24-26; 13:11; 14:23; 15:27; 16:18, 11, 13, 26; 17:18; 20:10, 14, 16, 23; 21:5; 22:7, 26-27; 26:10; 27:13, 18; 28:8, 16. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 13:22 — Once again, this is a principle, not a promise. Many good men have no inheritance to leave for their children, and many wicked men pass along massive fortunes to their heirs. However, this two-pronged-principle still applies: (1) Righteous wealth carries with it inherent longevity because of the righteous way that it is used (Luke 12:33). (2) The unrighteous wealth of the wicked wilts away (Proverbs 13:11) and eventually comes into the hands of the righteous. Zechariah prophesied about how the wicked’s wealth would come to the righteous in Zechariah 14:1-19. Here, a great reversal occurs. Although this passage begins with all the nations of the world plundering the possessions of God’s people (Zechariah 14:1-2), it ends with “the wealth of all the surrounding nations” being collected in God’s victory as King (Zechariah 14:14). This shows that in the end, all the world’s wealth will be returned to God. We shouldn't fret when the wicked prosper in this life—that is to be expected. God will set all things right in the end and will bring our glorious prosperity from heaven (where it is reserved) to the new earth. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 13:23 (Key Passage) — Poverty and Injustice: This is a crucial proverb. It recognizes the socioeconomic effects of sin. Although Proverbs typically links poverty with laziness (e.g., 6:11; 10:4; 14:23; 20:13; 24:33-34; 28:19), here we see that poverty also can come as a result of injustice. Sadly, it is common for people to use the laziness or lack of motivation of the poor as a reason not to help them. But as Proverbs points out, not all poverty is caused by someone’s personal sin (cf. John 9:3). In fact, Jesus himself often helped those whom the rest of society had rejected because they thought they deserved what they got (John 9:1-7). We should recognize that poverty itself can lead to crushed spirits, which decreases motivation and dissuades people from trying to get ahead. In such situations, the Christian’s responsibility is not to withdraw from the wounded and poor and needy but, rather, to engage them and to help them graciously. (See Luke 10:25-37). After all, we were still sinners when Christ, who was rich, became poor so that we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity.

  • Proverbs 13:25 — See note on Proverbs 10:2-3.

  • Proverbs 14:12 — We often think we’re right when we are wrong. Reality is not always as we see it. Because of this we constantly must examine our actions and attitudes as we seek God’s face. Self-deception can be especially problematic when making financial decisions. As biblical scholar Charles Bridges noted, covetousness often is disguised as prudence. We often are inclined to make rationalizations and excuses when it comes to sacrificial giving that sound thrifty and discerning but are in reality black with greed: e.g., “I don’t think God would want me to give money to my local church or to the poor before paying off my credit card debt ... God wants me to arrive at a place of financial security (e.g., pay off my credit card debt, save for a down-payment or retirement etc.) so that I will be free to participate in his work more effectively. After all, if I was to give now, someone else would just have to give to me.” As reasonable as such excuses may sound, they are a far cry from what Jesus said about the wise widow who gave her last penny. Generosity, even when radically sacrificial, is wise. See other passages on planning in Proverbs: 1:5; 6:18; 11:14; 12:5, 20; 14:12, 22; 15:22, 26; 16:1, 2, 3, 25, 33; 19:21; 20:18, 24; 21:5; 24:6, 27; 27:1; 29:18; 31:25, 27. See James theme essay Presumptuous Plans and Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 14:13 — A smiling face can be deceiving. So-called successful people often admit to their deep unhappiness late in life. “But” as the apostle Paul told young Timothy, “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:6-8). Similarly, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul told his readers that he had discovered the secret of contentment in all things. He explained his joy was anchored in union with Christ and his work (Philippians 1:18-20; 3:10-11) and strengthened by his partnership with other believers in the work of the gospel (Philippians 1:3-5, 25; 2:1-2;4:1). These two ingredients of true joy and contentment are the bulwarks which support the faithful even in spite of difficult circumstances, and they are what gave Paul the courage to say, “I will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18), while suffering worldly ruin for Jesus. Deep-rooted joy like this is far more valuable that the superficial happiness and disappointments of those who trust in power and wealth.

  • Proverbs 14:20-21 — Taken by itself, verse 20 is no more than an objective observation. Generally speaking, wealth attracts people and poverty repels them. Reading the verse 21 in connection with this observation provides us with a moral judgment condemning this attitude. Today the church still is enamored by the world’s notion of glory. Christians continue to gauge their personal value and identity in terms of the same socioeconomic distinctions which Proverbs condemns. In fact, there are too many contemporary examples to list—even in the church. One thinks of the way churches often begin in lower income areas only to move to the suburbs as soon as the church outgrows its facilities and can afford to get out. One thinks of the way we naturally gravitate away from the unlovely poor and toward beautiful people who seem to have it “all together”. One thinks of all the subtle (and not so subtle) ways our churches seek to attract and retain rich and well-educated people. We are naturally inclined to make large expenditures for beautiful buildings and programs while simultaneously neglecting run-of-the-mill mercy ministries that will not impress “movers and the shakers” but “exalt the poor” by lifting them out of their disenfranchisement. The only way to be freed from the grasp of partiality and worldly prejudices is to come to grips with the humiliation that Jesus accepted for us. Jesus’ humiliation obliterates the world’s exultation, and only by identifying with his humiliation today can we be allowed to participate in his glory tomorrow (Romans 8:17); as James wrote, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). See James theme essay Partiality to the Rich.

  • Proverbs 14:22 — Proverbs endorses planning as wise but warns against the danger of presumptuous plans that do not acknowledge God’s providence (Proverbs 27:1). See other passages on planning in Proverbs: 1:5; 6:18; 11:14; 12:5, 20; 14:12, 22; 15:22, 26; 16:1, 2, 3, 25, 33; 19:21; 20:18, 24; 21:5; 24:6, 27; 27:1; 29:18; 31:25, 27. See James theme essay Presumptuous Plans and Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 14:23 — See note on Proverbs 6:6-11.

  • Proverbs 14:24 — We reap what we sow. In a perfect world, wisdom always would produce wealth. But because we live in a fallen world, this universal rule is a general principle or norm that often has exceptions. For example, “A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away” (Proverbs 13:23).

  • Proverbs 14:26 — When God is big in our eyes, everything else becomes small in comparison. For example, when we recognize how much God has (Psalm 24:1), we become less anxious about our own possessions. The second half of this verse goes on to note that when parents have a proper perspective on who God is, children find refuge in this truth as well.

  • Proverbs 14:30 — A covetous heart that itches to get more of what other people have can never be satisfied. It is bound for the disappointment of continual craving. Greed is unhealthy. We literally can make ourselves sick when we envy other people’s belongings. Pastor Tim Keller notes that many believers confess to and repent of sins like adultery and lust, but few if any ever confess to greed, envy and covetousness. Covetousness is dangerous, and Jesus warns us against it in strong language (see note on Luke 12:15) because so few of us think we are guilty of it; yet it leads to ingratitude and a lack of generosity, and it even can make us sick unto death. See 1 Timothy 6:9-10 and Colossians theme essay Idolatry Is Worthless.

  • Proverbs 14:31 (Key Passage) — The Poor’s Maker: This passage warns against oppression and encourages generosity to the poor on the basis of a relationship that exists between needy people and their Maker. In short, God identifies himself with the poor and the powerless. He stands as their Defender. This should be a warning to those who think that weak people are easy targets of extortion and economic rackets. To pick on the poor and powerless is to wake the sleeping giant of God’s wrath (Exodus 22:22-24; Job 31:21-23). Similarly, to bless the poor is to invest in God’s kingdom, and their maker will repay you (Proverbs 19:17; Luke 14:12-14). In addition to this argument against oppression that is grounded in the relationship that the poor have with their Maker, commentator Derek Kidner notes that other arguments are added to this in the New Testament as well. For example, James 2:5 makes a similar argument that is based on the grace God has chosen to give to the poor. Matthew 25:40 makes an argument based upon the Incarnation, i.e., Christ’s humanity; and 1 John 3:16-19 makes an argument connecting Jesus’ sacrificial love for us and true love for God with love for the poor. The second half of Proverbs 14:31 looks at treatment of the poor from a positive perspective and points out that the one who is kind to the needy honors God. This statement was echoed by Jesus when he said, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13-13). Note that Proverbs has much more to say on the matter of protecting the poor and the powerless: 14:21, 31; 15:25; 17:5; 19:17; 21:13; 28:3; 28:27; 29:14; 30:14b; 31:19-20 cf. Matthew 23:23; James 1:27, 2:14-24; 1 John 3:16-19. See James theme essay Warning to the Rich and Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity and Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes theme essay Wisdom for Wealth.

  • Proverbs 15:6 — See note on Proverbs 10:16.

  • Proverbs 15:8 (Key Passage) — Bad Gifts: The goal of giving is not to change God’s attitude toward us but to change our attitude toward him. As King David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). When we give our material resources to God, our sacrifices must not be calculated to manipulate God’s behavior or impress other people (Matthew 6:1-4; 23:23). The problem is not with God but with us. Gifts must represent an event of true worship in the heart of the believer. In light of this, prayer is more desirable to God than sacrifice because it represents the attitude of spiritual sincerity God desires most of all (cf. Psalm 51:16-19; Proverbs 21:3, 7; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 9:13; Mark 12:33). So, does this mean we should pray rather than engage in acts of sacrificial generosity? No! We should follow Jesus instruction about giving in true sincerity: “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4). See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Generosity.

  • Proverbs 15:16 — We often are faced with relative choices, not necessarily between black and white or good and evil, but between two relative goods. So, for example, this proverb deals with the relative value of wealth and the fear of the Lord. (See also Proverbs 16:16, which compares the value of wisdom and understanding to silver and gold; 17:1, which compares the value of a peaceful household to one of wealth and strife; and 22:1, which compares the value of a good name to great riches.) Both are affirmed as good and valuable, but when a choice must be made between the two, the fear of the Lord must be chosen and valued far more than wealth. Failure to prioritize God before money is to fall into idolatry. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the on and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24; cf. 1 Timothy 6:9-10). We all must choose this day whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15). Note other “better-than” proverbs: 15:17; 16:8, 16, 19, 32; 17:1; 19:1, 22; 22:1; 28:6. All of these are directly connected to 1) accepting poverty or 2) choosing something better than wealth. See Proverbs theme essays Love and Money and Neither Poverty nor Riches.

  • Proverbs 15:17 — See note on Proverbs 15:16.

  • Proverbs 15:19 — Although we typically associate laziness with the “path of least resistance,” this verse reminds us that laziness actually makes life more difficult, not less. See note on Proverbs 6:6-11. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Work.

  • Proverbs 15:22 — One of the ways we steward our lives, resources, and opportunities is by seeking wise advice. Indeed, Proverbs approves of getting all the advice we can whenever we can get it from people who are God-fearing and wise. This includes getting sound advice on reliable objects of giving, and finding financial advisors who have more than our best bottom line in mind. We must find advisors who have our eternal good in mind. See other passage on planning in Proverbs: 1:5; 6:18; 11:14; 12:5, 20; 14:12, 22; 15:22, 26; 16:1, 2, 3, 25, 33; 19:21; 20:18, 24; 21:5; 24:6, 27; 27:1; 29:18; 31:25, 27. See James theme essay Presumptuous Plans. See Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 15:25 (Key Passage) — Proud vs. Poor: We are reminded that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Indeed, God especially identifies himself with the poor and powerless (Luke 6:20-26). In ancient Near Eastern culture widows were some of the most marginalized members of society in spite of the fact that the law honored the rights of both men and women (e.g., Numbers 27:1-11). God’s special concern for the helpless entails an inherent responsibility that we have as Christians to protect and provide for the needy in a special way as well. His requirements of mercy and justice remain unchanged and nonnegotiable, regardless of our “beliefs” (Matthew 23:23; James 1:27, 2:14-24; 1 John 3:16-19). Proverbs has much more to say on the matter of protecting the poor and the powerless: 14:21, 31; 15:25; 19:17; 21:13; 28:3; 28:27; 29:14; 30:14b; 31:19-20.

  • Proverbs 15:27 — Achan’s sin provides a terrifying example of the dangers of greed and the ruin it can bring on one’s family. Achan disobeyed God’s strict command not to take for himself any of the plunder from Jericho. As a result, he and his entire family were punished (Joshua 7:24-25 cf. 1 Timothy 6:6-10). Note other passages on bribery in Proverbs: 17:8, 23; 18:16; 19:6; 21:14; 25:14; 28:21. Other Old Testament passages condemning bribery: Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; 27:25; Isaiah 1:23; 5:23; Ezekiel 22:12; Psalm 15:5; Ecclesiastes 7:7. Proverbs has much more to say about wisdom and morality in the marketplace as well: 6:1-5; 10:2; 11:1, 15, 18, 24-26; 13:11; 14:23; 15:27; 16:18, 11, 13, 26; 17:18; 20:10, 14, 16, 23; 21:5; 22:7, 26-27; 26:10; 27:13, 18; 28:8, 16. See Proverbs theme essay Love and Money.

  • Proverbs 16:1-3 — In his epistle, sometimes called “the Proverbs of the New Testament,” the apostle James gave similar instructions to Christians who needed to be warned about trusting in their own plans and provisions. Interestingly, when he addressed the issues of strategic planning specifically, the illustration he chose centered on the error of making presumptuous financial plans in business ventures. A certain person makes the self-confident statement: “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money” (James 4:13). James responds to this assertion by reminding his readers of their creaturely dependence. Human life is tenuous at best, and James calls it “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). How can a person make such bold assertions about the future? How can we boast about tomorrow when no one knows what the day may bring (Proverbs 27:1)? It is important to note that neither Proverbs nor James is criticizing money making or strategic planning in general. Making prudent plans for the future, such as putting money away for a child’s education, can be a form of good stewardship. Rather, what is being criticized is the attitude that “boasts about tomorrow” in self-reliance without committing plans to the Lord. Proverbs criticizes the mindset that assumes the ability to determine one’s own destiny or chart one’s course in the world. James uses a financial illustration to get his point across because he knew that our attitude toward money is indicative of our attitude toward trust in God. James addresses the spirit of the “rich fool” against which Jesus warned in his parable, the attitude that says, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19). This attitude, which drives so many to make extravagant provisions for vacations and retirements that they may never enjoy, is diametrically opposed to the attitude we are called to have as Christians. Our strategic plan as Christians should be to “seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all theses things [i.e., life’s necessities] will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). In light of this promise, there is no need to worry about tomorrow, for it will worry about itself (Matthew 6:34). Rather, we are to submit ourselves and our financial plans in humble kingdom service, for in doing so, we are assured success. See other passages on planning in Proverbs: 1:5; 6:18; 11:14; 12:5, 20; 14:12, 22; 15:22, 26; 16:1, 2, 3, 25, 33; 19:21; 20:18, 24; 21:5; 24:6, 27; 27:1; 29:18; 31:25, 27. See James theme essay Presumptuous Plans and Proverbs theme essay Wisdom for the Future.

  • Proverbs 16:4 — God himself is at the helm of history, and he guides it wherever it goes. Even the future belongs to God. For the wicked—such as those who refuse to give to the poor (Matthew 25:41-46)—this ultimately means destruction, but for the righteous this reality means that we can be sacrificially generous in the present because God is in control of our futures. As Paul said in Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This all-encompassing promise enables us to abandon the pursuit of self-interest for the sake of others. Although we naturally are inclined to jockey for position and seek our own advantage, those who are “called” by God can rest easy in the promise that God himself is working on our behalf. Indeed, even the infinitesimal details swirling around us are orchestrated by God for our good. The financial sacrifices and difficult times that so often seem empty and meaningless in the present are actually value-laden ingredients in our eternal good. Because we can’t see the story in its completion, God gives a promise as its Author: There is an exceedingly happy ending for those who love God. We must remember however, as the biblical commentator Thomas Schreiner points out, that the “ ‘good’ Paul has in mind is not earthly bliss and comfort.” In this life, believers often groan and suffer as they follow Jesus’ sacrificial example. No, the good is conformity to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—the same Christ who gave himself away so that we would belong to God. So, how is it that the sacrifice of a job can be good? How can the sacrifice of personal rights and opportunities for the sake of the gospel be good? The only reason our sacrifices can be used for our good is that Jesus already has sacrificed more and our good rests in being like him. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

  • Proverbs 16:8 — See note on Proverbs 15:16.

  • Proverbs 16:9 — See note on Proverbs 16:1-3.

  • Proverbs 16:11 — See note on Proverbs 11:1.

  • Proverbs 16:16 — See note on Proverbs 15:16.

  • Proverbs 16:19 — See note on Proverbs 15:16.

  • Proverbs 16:25 — See note on Proverbs 14:12.

  • Proverbs 16:26 — Hunger is a continual remembers to us that we should be working hard. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul told Christians “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” See 1 and 2 Thessalonians theme essay Work and Idleness.

  • Proverbs 16:33 — This chapter begins and ends by emphasizing God’s sovereign providence over human plans and affairs. This is not an endorsement of “games of chance” but a reminder of God’s perfect providence even in things that seem like chance. See Proverbs 16:1-3 for related commentary. Also see other passages on planning in Proverbs: 1:5; 6:18; 11:14; 12:5, 20; 14:12, 22; 15:22, 26; 16:1, 2, 3, 25, 33; 19:21; 20:18, 24; 21:5; 24:6, 27; 27:1; 29:18; 31:25, 27. See James theme essay Presumptuous Plans and Proverbs theme essay Wisdom of Work.

    Click here for notes on Proverbs 17-31.
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    Study Notes by Chapter

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31



    Major Giving Themes

  • Love and Money
  • Neither Poverty Nor
             Riches
  • Wisdom for the Future
  • Wisdom for Wealth
  • Wisdom of Generosity
  • Wisdom of Work



    Key Passages

  • 3:27-28 (Don’t Delay
             Pay)
  • 4:5-9 (Get Wisdom)
  • 6:6-11 (Laziness vs.
             Hard Work)
  • 10:15 (Wealth and
             Poverty)
  • 11:1 (God and the
             Marketplace)
  • 11:4 (Worthlessness
             of Wealth)
  • 11:24-26 (Wisdom of
             Generosity #1)
  • 13:23 (Poverty and
             Injustice)
  • 14:31 (The Poor’s
             Maker)
  • 15:8 (Bad Gifts)
  • 15:25 (Proud vs.
             Poor)
  • 18:10-11 (Trust God,
             Not Wealth)
  • 19:17 (Lending to the
             Lord)
  • 21:13 (Reap What
             You Sow)
  • 22:7 (Slave to the
             Lender)
  • 22:9 (Wisdom of
             Generosity #2)
  • 23:1-3 (Culinary
             Stewardship)
  • 23:4 (Ragged for
             Riches)
  • 23:5 (Wealth Won’t
             Last)
  • 25:14 (Gift-Faking)
  • 25:21 (Generosity to
             Enemies)
  • 27:1 (Boasting about
             Tomorrow)
  • 27:7 (More Is Less)
  • 27:23-27 (Daily
             Diligence)
  • 28:11 (Wealth Is Not
             Wisdom)
  • 28:27 (Wisdom of
             Generosity #3)
  • 29:7 (Justice and
             Righteousness)
  • 30:7-9 (Neither
             Poverty nor Riches)
  • 30:15-16 (Never
             Enough)
  • 31:1-9 (Sayings of
             King Lemuel)
  • 31:10-31 (Wife of
             Noble Character)



    Resources by Chapter

  • Articles and Papers: 1-31 8 22 30
  • Commentaries: 1-31
  • Hymns: 3
  • Sermons: 3 10 11 13 22 30












































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