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The Treacherous Way of Wealth
Better a poor man whose walk is blameless
than a rich man whose ways are perverse.
It doesn’t take many readings of the Book of Proverbs to realize that the writer had a fearsome respect for the deleterious effects of wealth. The fact is that he had very little good to say about it.
We could surmise that this is not because he believed wealth is inherently evil; rather, he thought of wealth the way we think of dynamite: Used properly, it achieves great things; used improperly, it destroys.
In this proverb the writer suggests that if blamelessness is the highest criterion for the good life, poverty is superior to wealth. Imagine that! The blameless “walk,” or life, is not of genetic origin, nor is it a quality of being that comes automatically. It is developed, just as one develops a skill or acquires special knowledge.
The blameless life is an intentional life. The blameless one rises each day with an eye toward living in accordance with the revelation offered by God. All other things find their proper order after this priority.
In Luke 18:25 Jesus observed: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Wealthy readers might at first resent the fact that the rich person is being cast in the role of the “bad guy” in the Scriptures. But let us not forget that, at least as far as the Book of Proverbs is concerned, the writer most likely was a very wealthy person himself. He associated with people who shared his economic status. He simply knew too much.
He knew, for example, how often wealth is amassed at the expense of others--by bending the rules and searching for loopholes. He saw firsthand how unrestrained wealth corrodes the soul. He had witnessed those for whom wealth was everything—the definer of reality.
For all these reasons, the writer concluded, wealthy people are more likely to lose their spiritual “balance.” Better to be poor and blameless. This was not simple rhetoric; this man had been there. And yet, what he leaves in the silent spaces of the proverb is the most important thought: What happens when a person of influence and means becomes a generous giver of money, energy, and influence? What happens when this person makes the pursuit of godly character the highest priority? What happens when such a person determines that the love of Christ will pervade every decision, every relationship, every transaction? Then the proverb has done its job. It has pointed us to what is truly most important.