Chapter 13

Lectures on the Book of Proverbs
Ralph Wardlaw

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Proverbs 13:7

"There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing;
and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches."

Here Solomon brings before us the ostentation of riches where there are none, and the affectation of poverty in the midst of riches.

Some make a great show of wealth with little, if any, actual capital. Enamored with the "lust of the eyes and the pride of life," they contrive to keep up an external appearance far beyond any means they actually possess. They affect high life, all the while being on low finances. They live at great expense, launch into extensive speculations, make a show of big transactions, great warehouses, great stock, and distant connections. But all is hollow; there is no substance, no reality. It is only a happy bubble, sparkling in the sunshine but lighter than vanity. Soon it bursts and its emptiness is revealed. What seems gold is nothing but a covering of gold leaf. What dazzles is nothing but a passing meteor.

On the other hand, we have the miser. He scrapes and hoards; he has "great riches." But he "makes himself poor," not only feigning poverty and assuming its garb and appearances before others (that he may not raise expectations by his wealth being known), but actually living in poverty. He denies himself the comforts and even the necessities of life, pinching and starving in order to add to his store which lies unused. His riches are of no benefit either to himself or others.

And akin to him who lives in poverty is the man whose love of money and eagerness to hoard it is induced by the preposterous vanity of dying rich. I say preposterous because of the strange incongruity of a man breathing his last in the conceit of being the richest man he knows and aware, at the same time, that the instant his last breath is drawn, the extent of his earthly possessions will be only the length and breadth of his grave.

Further, the man who is proud of dying rich is proud of that which is his shame. Had he done with his riches what God always intends when he bestows them, he would not have died so rich. Had he hearkened to the claims of benevolence and piety, had he dispersed and given to the poor to relieve both their temporal and spiritual need, he might have had less in his coffers but an incomparably more enviable reputation on earth--and a better and more enduring substance in heaven.

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Proverbs 13:10

"By pride comes nothing but strife,
but with the well-advised is wisdom."

An immense proportion of the quarrels and disputes found in families, friends, churches, and communities have their origin and their continuance in pride. There is a quick and touchy jealously which cannot stand a word, act, or look that bears the slightest semblance of disrespect or lack of deference. And resentment, revenge, envy, and ambition are all to a great extent resolvable into pride. And then, when there might be reconciliation and peace, pride interferes and prevents it. Who is to yield, or who is to yield most, comes to be asked; and pride makes it difficult to answer. Some point of honor must be maintained. The required apology must be complete in matter and manner, not a word omitted or qualified, and the bow of humiliating submission must not lack a hair's breadth of its due profoundness. The offender must be thoroughly prostrated in order that the triumph of pride may be complete.

As might be expected of our fallen nature and deceitful hearts, we are full of excuses for our pride. We screen it under palliative epithets, such as a becoming pride--a necessary self-respect and regard to our own dignity, a manly assertion of our own rights, a spirit that will not and ought not submit to be trampled upon. Thus, under pretexts which involve a certain amount of truth, we cover a larger amount of what is wrong from censure. And the fact that even a Christian may be seen at times to draw himself up, toss his head and look consciously great when he implores this excuse, should be enough to show us that there is a spirit working within that is out of harmony with the meekness and gentleness of Christ.

Our pride and vanity naturally prompt us to an over-estimate of wrongs of which we happen to be the objects, wrongs that we would scarcely notice should they happen to someone else. We cherish the vindictive remembrance of little matters which the wind of the passing moment has swept from every memory but our own. We imagine injuries that were never meant, if they exist at all. We impute to the worst motives what had either little or no motive at all, or a motive which, though mistaken, was good.

"But with the well-advised (or considerate) is wisdom." They show the wisdom of thinking more rightly of themselves, of putting a curb upon their pride and passion, of shunning disputes and quarrels; and when such disputes have unhappily occurred, of bringing them to a speedy termination by every possible means.

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Proverbs 13:22-23

"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, and for lack of justice there is waste."

It is quite clear that in this and other passages an inheritance is regarded as a good, and that no blame is attached to "the good man" who leaves it to his children and grandchildren. We are to understand it as a good in itself. And so it is. But this is no reason for overlooking the danger associated with it. What I wish earnestly to impress upon all parents is this: that while it may be a good thing to leave an inheritance, they will do their children infinitely more service by leaving them an inheritance of principles without wealth than an inheritance of wealth without principles. Further, they must not lay up an inheritance by means of depriving God, and the cause of God, of their due.

"But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous." This proceeds on the same great principle with that laid down by the apostle--"All things are yours" (1 Cor. 3:21). This includes "the world" (3:22). They are ours in the sense that they are all wisely ordered for the ultimate attainment of our highest good. The assertion here made must be interpreted in a similar manner. "The earth is Yahweh's, and the fullness thereof" (Ps. 24:1). The wealth of the wicked, among other things, belongs to Him. The wicked man calls it his own, but it is God's. God retains the entire right to it and the sole disposal of it. He can do with it what pleases him. God is the friend of his own children, and holds that property, like everything else, for their good; so that it is theirs by being His. By the secret arrangements of his providence, he can, whenever he wishes, transfer property from one owner to another. Whenever anything is needed for his own cause, he can bring it into the hands of those--"the just"--to whom he has given grace to use it for its advancement.

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