Proverbs 23:5

Wilt thou set thin eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
– Proverbs 23:5

Verse 5 uncovers the folly of exhausting yourself to be rich. The flying eagle is a figure of the fleeting nature of wealth. The eagle can be seen for a little while, but soon flies away out of grasp and eventually out of sight. This proverb doesn’t highlight any specific means of losing wealth, but such instances are mentioned elsewhere in Proverbs. A greedy man is in a hurry to be rich and his haste will actually turn to poverty (Proverbs 21:5; 28:22). Lovers of pleasure and indulgence will spread their wealth thin and come to rags (Proverbs 5:7-10; 23:20-21). The slothful fool will have trouble acquiring wealth, but what he will equally have trouble keeping what he has acquired (Proverbs 24:30-31; 27:23-27). Further, foolish managers and risk takers will exhaust their stores (Proverbs 21:20; 17:18; 22:26-27). So, in one way or another, riches tend to vanish away and wisdom teaches us not to set our hearts on material wealth.

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Proverbs 23:4

Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
– Proverbs 23:4

Verses 4 and 5 form the next saying, which is about the desire for wealth. The word for labor literally means to gasp and indicates being weary with toil, or exhausted. The word for rich means to accumulate and become wealthy. Wisdom warns against pursuing wealth as an object and expending much time and energy to acquire it. This warning is echoed in various ways throughout Scripture (Isaiah 55:1-3; John 6:27; 1 Timothy 6:8-10).

The word for wisdom means understanding and is often used positively in Proverbs. Here it is negative and qualified as “thine own.” Wisdom generally warns against our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The warning in this saying speaks to stopping from our own understanding, which is tempted with riches as the solution for all our problems. Proverbs repeatedly teaches wisdom is better than riches and should be pursued as fools pursue wealth (Proverbs 2:4; 3:14-15; 8:18-19; 16:16).

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Proverbs 22:7

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
– Proverbs 22:7

Wealth brings independence as well as power, at least in terms of leverage. The rich have many friends and can call in many favors (Proverbs 19:4, 6). The wealthy are in power over the poor, whether directly or indirectly (Proverbs 18:23). We tend to look on poverty as a voluntary condition, and it can be so, as in the case of laziness (Proverbs 10:4; 12:11; 14:23; 20:13, 21). Poverty can also be a providential condition owing to no personal fault (Proverbs 14:31; 22:2). The second phrase states the direct dependence of the poor in terms of the borrower serving the lender. The law had many regulations for treatment of the poor, including provisions when a poor man became a slave to pay his debts (Exodus 21:1-7; Leviticus 25:40-43; Deuteronomy 15:12-15). Wisdom teaches to use all diligence to avoid this servitude, but does not guarantee it can be avoided.

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Proverbs 22:4

By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honor, and life.
– Proverbs 22:4

The beginning by expresses a consequence. The condition is humility and fear of the Lord. The result, or reward, is riches, honor, and life. The word for humility means condescension, modesty, or meekness. The word is set opposite haughtiness in Proverbs 18:12. Pride brings destruction, but true honor is preceded by humility (Proverbs 11:2; 16:5, 18-19; 29:23). Fear and humility are the necessary conditions for acquiring wisdom (Proverbs 2:5; 8:13; 9:10). The rewards of wisdom are elsewhere expressed in these terms (Proverbs 3:16; 21:21).

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Proverbs 22:2

The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.
– Proverbs 22:2

This proverb is a wisdom observation. We are warned against oppressing the poor because Yahweh has made them (Proverbs 14:31). This proverb adds he has made the rich, as well as all in between. That both classes meet together means they share common existence in life. God sinks and raises people as he pleases, according to his purpose, and roles can be reversed instantly by his sovereign power (Daniel 4:35). This wisdom gives us two important implications for life. First, we should recognize God’s sovereign order in our own lives. We are where we are and we are what we are by God’s grace. Second, we should treat all people with dignity and respect because God is the creator of all and the ruler of all.

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Proverbs 22:1

Introduction
Verses 1-16 of chapter 22 finish out the collection of proverbs known as “The Proverbs of Solomon.” These proverbs touch on different subjects, such as, fear of the Lord, riches, poverty, child training, prudence, speech, etc.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.

– Proverbs 22:1

The word for name means name, but more figuratively it stands for reputation. Having a good reputation, or character, can be linked with wisdom in being better than riches (Proverbs 3:14; 13:15). The word for favor means grace, or favor. It points to being loved, or esteemed. Wisdom commends being a person known for wisdom, with a good character, as better than riches or worldly power.

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Proverbs 21:20

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.
– Proverbs 21:20

This proverb is straightforward and we shouldn’t pull its punch by trying to spiritualize it. Wisdom says the wise lay up in store and the foolish squander all they have. The word for wise means skillful and is used throughout Proverbs to refer to living prudently and righteously. Proverbs never instructs to seek wealth (Proverbs 23:4-5; 28:22), nor does it instruct to seek poverty (30:7-9). Rather, Proverbs instructs to sacrificially and persistently seek wisdom, for it is more important and valuable than earthly treasures (Proverbs 2:2-4; 3:14-15; 8:18-19; 16:16; 23:23). While Proverbs never promises wealth to those who acquire wisdom, wealth will generally come to those who acquire money wisely (Proverbs 10:4; 11:8; 16:11; 21:6; 22:22-23), and use money wisely (Proverbs 3:9-10, 27-28; 6:6-8; 11:24-26; 13:22; 22:9; 28:27; 31:16, 20-22). Proverbs also warns that wealth can be lost through folly (Proverbs 11:6; 21:5; 23:20-2124:30-31; 27:23-27; 28:22).

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Proverbs 21:17

He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
– Proverbs 21:17

Loving pleasure, or joy, and wine and oil means pursuing and indulging in luxury. Wisdom warns such pursuits and indulgences lead to poverty. The word for poor means need, or lack. The word for rich means wealth, or abundance. The just in Proverbs 21:15 do not pursue pleasure (the same word is translated joy there) as an end in itself, but rather pursue judgment and find pleasure. The problem is not with the wine, oil, or even pleasure, but rather with the misplaced love that gluttonously pursues them. A greedy appetite will never be satisfied (Ecclesiastes 5:10) and will leave a man in rags (Proverbs 23:21).

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Proverbs 21:6

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of that seek death.
– Proverbs 21:6

The wording of this proverb is difficult and interpretations vary. The first phrase clearly speaks of acquiring wealth through deceit. Such wealth is the ill-gotten gains we frequently speak of from Proverbs (Proverbs 10:2; 13:11; 20:14). The second phrase gives two consequences of profit by deception. Some like fleeting vapor for vanity tossed to and fro. Wealth acquired through ill means does not last, or does not bring the satisfaction sought. The second consequence of ill-gotten gains is to be ensnared by death. This looks more to the judgment to come on the one who lies, cheats, and steals his way to riches.

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