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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Proverbs 21:5

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.
– Proverbs 21:5

The word for thoughts means device, or plans. The plans of the diligent, or determined, are in view. It is contrasted with hasty in the second line, which means hurried. The word for plenteousness means gain, or profit. The word for want means lack, or poverty. Proverbs commends diligence and observes diligence being generally rewarded with gain (Proverbs 10:4; 13:4; 22:29; 27:23-27). From the different proverbs about diligence, we see the diligent make wise plans and work hard to execute those plans and generally make a gain.

By contrast, poverty is the gain of sluggards (Proverbs 10:4). This proverb does not mention the sluggard, but rather the hasty. Proverbs condemns haste as folly (Proverbs 14:29). Haste here contrasted with the plans of diligence suggests a haste to be rich, or the hatching of schemes for shortcuts to wealth. Wisdom condemns these schemes as having an evil eye (Proverbs 28:22). This proverb then contributes to the catalog of ways to poverty. Poverty can be reached through stingy greed (Proverbs 11:24), by talk without action (Proverbs 14:23), by gain through oppression (Proverbs 22:16), and here by haste (Proverbs 21:5).

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Proverbs 20:21

An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.
– Proverbs 20:21

The word for inheritance means just that, and the word for hastily means in a hurry. Many infer some unscrupulous method of gain, and Proverbs does speak to that (Proverbs 13:11; 28:8). The emphasis in this proverb seems to be on the haste, “Easy come; easy go.” What is gained quickly can be lost quickly, and often is (Proverbs 28:20, 22). What is gained quickly is gained without also gaining wisdom. Wisdom does not come quickly. Though wisdom is accessible to the simple (Proverbs 9:4, 16), it’s not just lying about but rather is stored up for those who seek it (Proverbs 2:1-7). To acquire wisdom you must watch daily at wisdom’s gates (Proverbs 8:34), receive instruction and correction (Proverbs 3:11; 9:9; 10:8; 13:10; 17:10), and understand its value enough to be willing to pay a high price for it (Proverbs 17:16; 23:23). You also have to turn from your wisdom in order to acquire true wisdom (Proverbs 3:7; 26:12). To exhaust yourself to gain wealth is to be wise in your own eyes (Proverbs 23:4). So this inheritance is not blessed because it is gained by vanity in a hurry.

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Proverbs 19:22

The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.
– Proverbs 19:22

The word for desire means longing, or object of desire. The word for kindness means mercy, or loving kindness. Since it is contrasted with lying here, it refers to faithful, or loyal, kindness. The true worth of a man is measured in his loyalty and faithfulness, not his wealth. This makes a poor man better than a liar, though he is rich (Proverbs 19:1). Proverbs doesn’t exalt poverty of itself. There’s nothing inherently virtuous or meritorious in poverty. Poverty with wisdom is often contrasted with having wealth with folly or wickedness, and poverty is then better (Proverbs 8:11; 15:16-17; 16:8; 17:1; et al).

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Proverbs 19:4

Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbor.
– Proverbs 19:4

The word for maketh means to add. Wealth adds many friends, or continues to add them. The word for friends is a common and general word that can cover a range of associations. The same word is translated neighbor in the second phrase. The contrast indicates the poor lose friends as the rich add them (Proverbs 14:20). This proverb is a wisdom observation and complements Proverbs 18:24.

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Proverbs 19:1

Introduction
Chapter 19 continues the proverbs of Solomon. The chapter touches on friendships, wealth, laziness, the home, and more.

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
– Proverbs 19:1

We expect the poor to be contrasted with the rich, and Proverbs 28:6 does that in a similar proverb. So the fool in the second phrase is understood to be a wealthy fool. The word for integrity means completeness, or innocence in the sense of being blameless. It is sometimes translated as upright. Walking uprightly means having wisdom and walking in wisdom (Proverbs 2:6-7; 13:6; 20:7). The word for perverse means distorted, or crooked. It is sometimes translated as froward. Cleverness is implicit in the twisting of words by the obstinate fool. Being poor and possessing wisdom is possible and better than being such a rich fool.

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Proverbs 18:23

The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.
– Proverbs 18:23

The next several proverbs speak of the poor, rich, and friendships. The word for intreaties means supplication, so it is a humble request. The word for roughly means harshly. The proverb contrasts the rich and poor and how they interact in society. Wisdom observes the limitations of the poor, which humble him to mercy pleas. Wisdom also observes the conveniences the rich have to harden them to such pleas.

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