Proverbs 13:11

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labor shall increase.
– Proverbs 13:11

The word for vanity means empty. It is contrasted in this proverb with labor, which indicates work with the hands. So vanity here doesn’t exclude illegitimacy but the contrast speaks more to haste and trying to gain wealth without working for it. It reminds us of those always attracted by the offer of making a lot of money with little time or effort. Other similar proverbs speak of haste instead of vanity (Proverbs 20:21; 21:5). The general tenor of Proverbs teaches that diligence, hard work, and good stewardship increases wealth without the attendant sorrows of the vain pursuers (Proverbs 27:23-27).

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Proverbs 12:11

He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.
– Proverbs 12:11

The first phrase commends honest, hard work and recognizes it will be rewarded. This is one who avoids the ridiculous excuses of the sluggard (Proverbs 22:13; 26:13) and empty talk (Proverbs 14:23). He works and enjoys the fruits (Ecclesiastes 2:24). The contrast in this proverb is different than the usual contrast of diligence and laziness. The contrast is of one who follows after vanity. The word for vain persons here is literally empty. It can refer to worthlessness, whether of people or general pursuits. The picture then is not of a sluggard hinged to his bed who is too lazy to raise a hand to his mouth (Proverbs 26:14-15). The picture rather is of one who puts time and energy running after worthless schemes or pleasures. He invests himself in unprofitable pursuits. This would include get rich quick schemes, excessive pleasure seeking, or generally being one who works harder at getting out of work than what the work would be if done directly. Such a one is void of understanding, or lacks wisdom.

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Psalm 119:37

Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity;
and quicken thou me in thy way.

~ Psalm 119:37

Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity
Vanity has a wide range of meaning. It encompasses from destructive evil to falsehood to empty uselessness. The Psalmist doesn’t want to fix on any of these. We are not to be steeped and expert in evil and malice (1 Corinthians 14:20; Romans 16:19), and the first step from that is to turn away from beholding it.

and quicken thou me in thy way
The turning away on one hand must be a turning toward on the other hand. Quickening is being made alive. The Psalmist pleads for reviving and life energy to pursue the ways of God. Success here requires not only the emptying of vanity but also the filling with good (Philippians 4:8). The vigilant and persistent prayer is to God to turn us from vanity and toward His way.

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