Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.
Because the scales of eternal justice will balance, what is of most value in this life is the state of our hearts before God. A poor man who loves God is far wealthier than a fool because of the weight of glory and the devastation of hell.
2 Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge,
And he who hurries his footsteps errs.
Being naïve makes a person vulnerable, and those who make hurried decisions without thinking through them and without considering the wisdom of God’s Word will likely make mistakes.
3 The foolishness of man ruins his way,
And his heart rages against the Lord.
Man chooses to do things foolishly according to his own desires and the way that seems right to his fallen heart. Sin disappoints and leads to destruction, and yet the fool has the nerve to blame God for his own bad decisions. In eternity, he will be forced to kneel before Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord, but that will be too late to keep him from the fire of hell (Philippians 2:10). It is one thing to be forced to bow the knee, and it is another to like it. The rage of man against God can endure forever.
4 Wealth adds many friends,
But a poor man is separated from his friend.
Some friendships are shallow enough to be based upon whether a person has money and lots of toys or not. People tend not to be friends with poor people because they are afraid that they will catch whatever financial disease they might have. They don’t like being around people who need things, and they don’t like being asked to be generous. Thus, it is a test of our hearts whether or not we value and love the poor, the orphan, and the widow. Love compels a person to give as he is able and to share the gospel whenever possible, whether a person is poor or rich. (see also v. 7 and Proverbs 18:24)
5 A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who tells lies will not escape.
Those who bear false witness may not get caught on earth. If they do, they will probably suffer on account of it. What is certain is that God will punish liars one day by sending them to hell unless they have been forgiven by the shed blood of His Son.
6 Many will seek the favor of a generous man,
And every man is a friend to him who gives gifts.
People like associating with a generous, gift-giving person because they think that they might get something out of the friendship. There is nothing wrong with a person being generous, but he who is generous must not be swayed by the approval of man (Matthew 6:1). He should not give to be given to or to get something selfish out of his giving. In fact, the Bible says that gift-giving is best done secretly so that God gets the glory (Matthew 6:3-4). The applause of man actually voids eternal rewards (Matthew 6:2).
7 All the brothers of a poor man hate him;
How much more do his friends abandon him!
He pursues them with words, but they are gone.
Even family members tend to respect more and associate more often with the ones who have done well for themselves financially. The poor among them tends to get scorned rather than loved and helped. The world is an “every man for himself” kind of place, and people give out their love and friendship based upon success. But the poor should be treated as equally valuable, especially among family. It is one thing to deal with sin issues that make a person poor, and it is another just to not like a person anymore because they have found calamity not of their own making. Some just don’t possess the talents or skills that will make them wealthy in this life, and this doesn’t make them worth any less. After all, some of the most important jobs don’t make people rich. The poor and less regarded desire friends and family, but too often they vanish.
8 He who gets wisdom loves his own soul;
He who keeps understanding will find good.
Those who care about the state of their own hearts and who realize that God loves them will seek after wisdom. The kindness of God leads people to repent as they realize that God loved them so much that He gave up His Son to die for them and to give them eternal life. The love of God changes everything, and those who follow Christ by faith and continue to pursue the wisdom that only He can give will find that God leaves a legacy of goodness and mercy in their lives. Those who love foolishness hate their own soul enough to condemn it.
9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who tells lies will perish.
Those who lie as a lifestyle do so because Satan is their master, and he is the father of lies. God hates lying and false testimony, and He will punish those who refuse to repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness.
10 Luxury is not fitting for a fool;
Much less for a slave to rule over princes.
A fool will only destroy what is good, exploit power, misuse influence, and waste wealth. He cannot properly steward the opportunity to have the world’s goods. A slave who has wisdom and the fear of God would do a better job ruling than many of the world’s princes. However, the idea is that the thought of such a scenario happening is so repulsive and unfitting to the general person who is partial and who ranks people by job status, nation, social tier, etc. The repulsion that people feel naturally to the social order being turned on its head is the repulsion that they should feel for a fool being given luxury, power, or the title of prince.
11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger,
And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a Christian is willing to forgive and even delight in the fact that he has the opportunity to show the grace of God by overlooking a person’s personal offense toward him. This doesn’t mean taking an attitude that minimizes sin, for this would also minimize the glory and value of forgiveness. By being slow to anger, it demonstrates wisdom and discretion, the ability to have self-control and to value the needs of the other person even while one is being poorly-treated by them. It is always viewing life as a chance to bring forth the aroma of life. (see also Proverbs 17:9)
12 The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion,
But his favor is like dew on the grass.
The idea is that it is not pleasant to be at strife with the most powerful person in the land, but to have his favor, support, and backing is like wind in the sails. One way is fearful, and the other is joyful. Of course, it is always more important what God thinks of us than what a man thinks, even if it is a very powerful man. God’s favor is more valuable, and the life of Joseph can testify to that fact (Genesis 39:21).
13 A foolish son is destruction to his father,
And the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.
A foolish son brings pain, strife, and destruction to his father, and a wife who constantly bickers, complains, and who shows no respect for her husband is like the drip, drip, drip of a faucet (see also Proverbs 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15). God’s will is for a husband and wife to be on the same page together spiritually and to be unified. As he is respected by his wife and as she is loved by her husband, balance and harmony will take place (Ephesians 5:33).
14 House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers,
But a prudent wife is from the Lord.
Some things money can buy, but a godly wife (and a godly husband for that matter) is such a precious and rare find (Ecclesiastes 7:28) that it points to the miraculous intervention of God doing the impossible and acting in ways beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). One can inherit a house, a business, or a bank account, but nobody can merit the gifts of God. They are His treasures to give because of His love and grace, and those who receive His good and perfect gifts ought to always praise and thank God for them and not take them for granted (James 1:17).
15 Laziness casts into a deep sleep,
And an idle man will suffer hunger.
Laziness is not indicative of the fear of God because a proper view of God’s holiness motivates a person to order his life rightly in light of eternity and to walk circumspectly and bring God a return on His investment (Matthew 25:16, Ephesians 2:10; 5:15-16). Laziness is indicative of a deep spiritual sleep that is desensitized to the things of God (Ephesians 5:14). There is no urgency or fervency for the kingdom in such a heart (Revelation 3:19). Practically, this might mean poverty and starvation, but more importantly, eternal death and alienation from God.
16 He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul,
But he who is careless of conduct will die.
Romans 2:6 says that God will render to each person according to his deeds, and Galatians 6:7-8 says that we will reap according to how we sow. No man can keep the commands of God entirely, for only Jesus fulfilled the Law completely. Thus, to be saved, one must find salvation through Him on account of His perfection and holiness. In salvation, the sinner is forgiven and seen in the righteousness of Christ. Those who do not repent and put their faith in Christ have no such hope and remain dead in sin and guilty before God. They will find that the consequence of sin is eternal death in hell. A careless attitude toward sin, righteousness, and judgment spurns the conviction of the Spirit (John 16:8), and it is the only unforgiveable sin (Matthew 12:31). Wisdom trusts in Christ to forgive sin because of a recognition of falling short of God’s standards (Romans 3:23), and therein is eternal life. Even after salvation, wisdom guides the believer away from sin and into all truth so that he avoids needless harmful pitfalls that sinners regularly fall into. A careless attitude will be punished, but those who take God and His Word seriously will be rewarded.
17 One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord,
And He will repay him for his good deed.
Those who give to the poor without seeking the approval of man do so as though they are giving to Christ Himself (Matthew 25:45). God will be faithful to reward them for their faithfulness in eternity. It doesn’t mean that faithful giving guarantees earthly health, wealth, and prosperity, but it does guarantee eternally valuable and indestructible rewards in heaven, something far more desirable anyway.
18 Discipline your son while there is hope,
And do not desire his death.
Foolish behavior leads to destruction and sometimes even death. Certainly, a person who rejects wisdom will find eternal death and destruction. Godly parents will do everything possible to teach their children the fear of God. They will lovingly discipline them when they are stubborn toward righteousness, and they will teach them about God and His ways from early on. Unless they learn to fear God as the ultimate sovereign, they will never learn wisdom and never come to know His perfect love. Parents that discipline in love and are diligent to teach their children the commands of God prove their love for their children, while those who allow their sin natures to guide them act as though they are not concerned of the consequences of sin which is death.
19 A man of great anger will bear the penalty,
For if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.
A person who likes to give into anger will keep doing it and need continual rescuing. He gets angry because he likes it and because he has no interest in self-control. He does not fear God and think about the needs of others. His brash life is full of selfish acts and sinful desires for harming others. A person of great anger has a great ego, and he will bear the penalty. Many who have this problem will find their way into the justice system on earth, and they won’t like the judgments of the Master on judgment day either.
20 Listen to counsel and accept discipline,
That you may be wise the rest of your days.
Children that are receptive to loving discipline do well, and those who listen to teaching and counsel that is consistent with the Bible do well. Children need teaching from the Bible and godly training from early on so that they can see that they are not in charge and that God is. They need to see that He will hold them accountable for how they live, and they need to understand how and why they should trust in Jesus to save them. As they are trained in righteousness from early on, they will have the rest of their lives to live out wisdom. It is a great privilege to give a child wisdom from his youth, for much needless pain can be avoided that way. Adults can change as well, but change starts with a heart that is humble enough to submit to and be corrected by the Word of God. There can be no wisdom without first submitting to God as the ultimate sovereign.
21 Many plans are in a man’s heart,
But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
God’s sovereign purposes cannot be thwarted, and He will always be on the throne. His Word will endure forever, for it is true, right, and good. People may assail Him and His Word, but it will stand. God may frustrate plans, and He may advance plans. What He wants done will be done, and He will always do only good for those whom He loves. Man naturally thinks that he is in control and that he can do whatever he wants. But God alone is in total control, and even the air that man breathes is dependent upon God giving strength to his lungs (Colossians 1:17). He is the Master and Lord of all.
22 What is desirable in a man is his kindness,
And it is better to be a poor man than a liar.
Only those who know Christ can truly love with a selfless, unconditional, and sacrificial love. Those who possess this kindness toward others have something of eternal value. Thus, a kind, poor person is better off than a rich, unkind liar.
23 The fear of the Lord leads to life,
So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and it leads to eternal life. Even in this life, the confidence of one’s eternity leads to peaceful sleep and not having to be afraid of anything Satan might conjure up. All believers have to do is resist him by faith, and he will flee. Jesus is the bread of life that satisfies the soul, and He is the living water that makes His own never have to thirst again. Christians are complete in Him, and death has no sting or victory over them. Their eternity is secure.
24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish,
But will not even bring it back to his mouth.
A lazy person doesn’t even have it in him to lift the spoon to his mouth to feed himself. The spiritual parallel is a person who has a Bible but doesn’t even open the cover. This will lead to spiritual starvation and eternal destruction.
25 Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd,
But reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge.
Reproving a fool leads only to him being better at committing evil in secret and avoiding getting caught. He will become more crafty in his deception, rebellion, and manipulation. Reproving a wise person leads to him growing in knowledge and continuing to be honest and humble before the Lord.
26 He who assaults his father and drives his mother away
Is a shameful and disgraceful son.
A son who roughs up his father or is not emotionally kind to his mother is shameful and disgraceful to God and to his parents. Even parents who are not God-fearing still deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
27 Cease listening, my son, to discipline,
And you will stray from the words of knowledge.
Godly discipline is for our good, and it will train us and keep us on the way of righteousness. This is why discipline is different from wrathful punishment. Punishment is the belief that simply imposing consequences or pain can make a person modify his behavior without paying attention to the heart. Discipline is imposing pain or consequences but with an explanation of what God wants and why to accompany it. It entails explaining the dangers of evil and the blessings of righteousness. Discipline is not about getting a Pavlovian response, but it is about shepherding a child’s heart to know and love God. They must always see and know that the one doing the disciplining is loving and seeking their good. Abuse is not discipline, but godly discipline brings comfort and safety. Children actually like to know their boundaries, for it helps them know that they can keep exploring the world while their parents will keep them safe and teach them about the world.
28 A rascally witness makes a mockery of justice,
And the mouth of the wicked spreads iniquity.
A fool mocks justice and can’t be relied upon to say what the innocent needs him to say or what the guilty doesn’t want to be said. He enables evil to propagate, and he doesn’t care about justice, the protection of the innocent, the maltreatment of the righteous, or the prosecution of the wicked.
29 Judgments are prepared for scoffers,
And blows for the back of fools.
Being a fool and a scoffer brings with it the inevitability of destruction, judgments, and penalties. Earthly penalties might be severe, but even these won’t compare to the fire of hell that awaits those who love their sin.