A good name is to be more desired than great wealth,
Favor is better than silver and gold.
Some things money cannot buy like a good reputation, a noble name, and a God-honoring testimony. These things come by faith and a life lived in the fear of God. Despite what others may think or say, the only thing that really matters is the state of a person’s heart which God knows and sees. What God thinks and His approval is what has ultimate value, and no amount of gold or silver can buy God’s favor or redemption. Man’s only hope is redemption through Christ. His favor and being adopted into His family is the greatest wealth of all.
2 The rich and the poor have a common bond,
The Lord is the maker of them all.
Sometimes those who have been given much in this world act as though those who are not as fortunate are less human or important. The Christian loves all indiscriminately because Christ died for all. God made all people, and He desires that all would come to faith in Jesus. The evil heart hates others, mocks them for things that they can’t control, and judges them for things for which they are not at fault (John 9:2). They do this because they glory in their possessions and in their status (Luke 16:14), and they neglect others because of their arrogance and pride (John 12:43). This is not to be the perspective of the Christian.
3 The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,
But the naive go on, and are punished for it.
Those who are wise avoid trouble by seeing danger signs early, and they take steps to move out of the way and to protect themselves. Those who lack discernment and the compass of Scripture as well as the leading of the Holy Spirit in their hearts are bound to err in their decision-making and to be vulnerable to getting taken advantage of. Those who lack knowledge will suffer on account of it. Those who fear God will find sufficient wisdom in Christ. Those who do not fear God’s punishment will refuse to change the direction of their lives and end up getting His wrath.
4 The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord
Are riches, honor and life.
God will reward those who fear Him and obey Him in this life (1 Peter 5:6, 1 Samuel 2:30). They will find eternal riches and honor in heaven. Even in this life, given that eternal life is knowing Christ which they do even now (John 17:3), they can enjoy the blessings of relationship with Him. His wisdom will help them enjoy this life and live a life that is abundantly fruitful (John 10:10, 15:8).
5 Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse;
He who guards himself will be far from them.
Sin is destructive by nature, and those who love evil can expect to find trouble and adversity even if they seem to get away with their evil for a time (Proverbs 13:21). Those who desire to walk in righteousness will be protected from so much of the needless pain and strife that accompanies sin. Sin has a way of compounding on itself, whereas faith in Christ leads to the manifestation of the goodness and mercy of God throughout life.
6 Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
This verse should be a great encouragement to parents who have invested themselves wholeheartedly in the lives of their children by teaching them the Scripture and the truths concerning Jesus Christ. Children need to see a consistent theology and a life that validates that theology with God-honoring behavior. They need to see the love of Christ demonstrated, but most of all they need to understand the gospel. Just growing up in a family that goes to church and prefers Christian media is not sufficient to be called child training. Though the church can and should help, parents must take full responsibility on themselves to teach their children what the Bible is about, why they should believe it, and why it is reliable in a world that hates Jesus and rejects the Bible. They must guide their little hearts down the right path, and, as the children grow older, they can see the errors of others’ paths and the benefits of the right way. Children are ultimately responsible for their own direction in life, but parents can have confidence and assurance that their children will persevere in the truth if their hearts belong to Jesus Christ. This is why child training is not about getting a child to submit and follow a system, but it is about guiding their hearts to love Jesus and showing them why that is the best decision and the only sensible way. (see also v. 15)
7 The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.
The general reality of the world is that those who have riches tend to treat the poor in an oppressive manner, and there is a tendency to show personal favoritism toward other rich people. This is why God commands Christians to be different and to think against the grain by valuing other human beings and loving when others hate and think only of themselves. Debt should be avoided as much as possible to avoid any chance of being exploited by the rich. Debt may be necessary for a time, but it is wicked to not pay it back (Psalm 37:21). Thus, any borrowing must be done in wisdom and not greed, and too much debt only leads to destruction and serfdom.
8 He who sows iniquity will reap vanity,
And the rod of his fury will perish.
The end of evil deeds is wrath and judgment, and God will render justice due a person on account of their wrongdoing. There is no eternal value in a life lived without Christ and against His commands, for it is ultimate vanity and meaninglessness. Those who live to stir up anger and get ahead in life regardless of what it means for others will one day die, and they will pay for what they have done.
9 He who is generous will be blessed,
For he gives some of his food to the poor.
The church should care for those in need within its fellowship first and foremost, but it should also be mindful of those in need in the surrounding community (Galatians 6:10). The mission of the church extends to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), and thus there should always be a concern for those in need regardless of where they live (Matthew 5:16). God will honor and bless those who act in generosity toward the poor, and this is a personal act of love toward the Savior (Matthew 25:45).
10 Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out,
Even strife and dishonor will cease.
Those who scoff and mock do so because they enjoy division and destruction. When these people who seek animosity and violence are put out of a group, it can make peace multiply quickly. The church of Jesus Christ should be a place where unity and peace are sought (John 17:21, Hebrews 12:14) as all desire to conform to the Word of God (1 Corinthians 1:10). Those who reject sound teaching and who like stirring up a fight will pervert that unity and cause a problem. This is why those who harden themselves in sin must be put out of the church (1 Corinthians 5:5, Matthew 18:15-18).
11 He who loves purity of heart
And whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend.
When a society comes to value deception, lying, scheming, and whatever is most convenient to get ahead in the moment regardless of whether it is pure or gracious, practically nobody can be anybody’s friend (Matthew 24:12). But a king that has any sense will value an honest person as a trustworthy friend and confidant. He will find in a person with a pure heart wise and gracious words that can help him lead. A wicked king might spurn or execute a good person, but, then again, it might just make the king think twice and learn about the God who makes the person good (Daniel 3-4). Being pure of heart and gracious in speech is always the best and right approach.
12 The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge,
But He overthrows the words of the treacherous man.
The Word of the Lord endures forever, and He strongly supports those whose hearts are completely His. He preserves the way of His godly ones (Proverbs 2:8), and the proud will be recompensed according to their wicked deeds (Psalm 31:23). He remembers the boastful words of the wicked and treacherous, and they will suffer His wrath on account of them. His Word will stand in judgment over them rather than the other way around.
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside;
I will be killed in the streets!”
Fear, whether real or imagined, can lead a person to become lazy and unproductive, both practically and spiritually. Christians must not bury their talents in the ground out of fear of failure or any other fear. They must take the gospel to the street and proclaim it from the rooftops so that their boldness and confidence can even make the enemies of Christ tremble (Nehemiah 6:16). A lazy person makes excuses, but a faithful person finds reasons to participate in the Lord’s harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).
14 The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit;
He who is cursed of the Lord will fall into it.
Those who commit adultery bring great destruction upon themselves and their families. Those who fear God will stay far away from any provision for the lusts of the flesh, while those who are cursed of God and sons of the devil will eagerly tread the minefield of immorality. God is always ready and willing to forgive sin, but, particularly in the case of sexual immorality, some damage is very difficult to reverse.
15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.
There is a need to train children in righteousness because all children are born with fallen and sinful hearts. They instinctively know how to rebel and to be stubborn, and they need to be trained as to what is right, good, and pleasing to God. They need discipline to set their boundaries and to show them that their parents are concerned for their well-being and that they seek to protect them from danger. Discipline is not wrathful or cruel, but it is a loving means of teaching, training, and protecting one’s children from sin, evil, and unnecessary harm. Each child responds to varying methods of reproof and correction differently, and parents must be attune to their child’s needs and continue to find out what is the best way to help shape their character and to teach them to obey. Anger at one’s children or abusive practices have no place in Christian discipline, but parents who train their children long to see their children learn wisdom and forego foolish thinking and behavior. (see also v. 6)
16 He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself
Or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
Those who take unrighteously from the poor to benefit the rich unfairly and those who do harm to the poor by using them for selfish gain reveal the wickedness of their hearts and the reality that they will be eternally impoverished in hell. If justice is served on earth, they ought to be punished for their crimes.
17 Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
18 For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.
19 So that your trust may be in the Lord,
I have taught you today, even you.
20 Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
21 To make you know the certainty of the words of truth
That you may correctly answer him who sent you?
By seeking after wisdom and eagerly absorbing sound teaching from the Word, a person can be filled with peace and joy and ready to speak good, helpful advice to others. Wisdom moves a person to trust wholly in God and not in self, to love Him above all else, and to value his neighbor as more important than himself. Wisdom believes in the certainty of the truth of Scripture, and the Scripture by faith in Christ works to make a person wise and able to give a wise response as needed. The more confidence a believer has in the Word of God and the fact that it is eternal, certain, and irrefutable, the wiser he will be, the more He will be moved to study the Word, the more it will impact him, and the more his life will impact the world as he is better equipped to give an apt answer to those who ask (1 Peter 3:15).
22 Do not rob the poor because he is poor,
Or crush the afflicted at the gate;
23 For the Lord will plead their case
And take the life of those who rob them.
Those who rob the poor and are cruel to the poor show themselves to have wicked hearts that care only for their own gain. These who do not fear God enjoy oppressing the less fortunate, and they will suffer God’s wrath on the day of judgment and maybe even in this life.
24 Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
25 Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself.
Wisdom says to avoid those with hot tempers and who are quick to anger because they are marks of a fool. This leads to adversity, danger, and destruction because bad company corrupts good morals.
26 Do not be among those who give pledges,
Among those who become guarantors for debts.
27 If you have nothing with which to pay,
Why should he take your bed from under you?
Being a co-signer or a guarantor for another’s debts is unwise because it could cost a person all of his possessions if the other person was in financial distress. (see also Proverbs 6:1-5, 11:15, 17:18)
28 Do not move the ancient boundary
Which your fathers have set.
If property lines are drawn in a certain place because of a promise made, then to move the lines is stealing, dishonest, and unrighteous.
29 Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men.
Given the way the world works, it is common for those who have great skills and talents to have the opportunity to associate with those in positions of power. Those who are not endowed with elite talent and skills are usually forgotten and snubbed by those who enjoy being among the elites. It is not wrong to be very skilled, but those who have been blessed with great talent need to remember just Who it is Who gave them that talent lest they succumb to pride and the approval of people and the love of the praise of the world. It is no accident or coincidence that the true church is not made up of many who are wise according to the flesh, mighty, or noble according to the world (1 Corinthians 1:26) because of how difficult it is to love God when it will come at such a great cost. As Jesus told the rich man who loved his stuff and status as a result of his stuff, “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” (Mark 10:21-22)