Dangers of Wealth and of Poverty
DOES the Bible disparage wealth and encourage poverty? Many people think so. But two related proverbs help to clarify this.
Proverbs 10:15 states: “The valuable things of a rich man are his strong town. The ruin of the lowly ones is their poverty.” Then Pr 10 verse 16 adds: “The activity of the righteous one results in life; the produce of the wicked one results in sin.” Note how these two complement each other.
Pr 10 Verse 15 testifies that wealth has its advantages, poverty its disadvantages. Riches may help to protect a person from some of the uncertainties of life. The poor person, though, may have added problems because of being financially unable to cope with unexpected developments. In this the Bible is realistic.—Ecclesiastes 7:12.
However, Pr 10 verse 15 can also be understood as hinting at a danger involving wealth or poverty. Many a rich man puts his complete trust in his money; he views it as all the protection he needs. (Proverbs 18:11) Yet, riches cannot help him to get a good name with God or ensure his lasting happiness. In fact, riches can make that more difficult. Jesus’ illustration of the rich man who built bigger storehouses but was not rich toward God bears this out. (Luke 12:16-21; 18:24, 25) On the other hand, many poor people mistakenly take the view that their poverty makes their future hopeless.
Notice how Pr 10 verse 16 rounds out the matter. Whether a righteous person has much or little financially, his work can bring him pleasure. He does not let the financial gain from his labor interfere with his good standing before God. Rather, a righteous man’s efforts in life bring him, in addition to happiness now, assurance of everlasting life in the future. (Job 42:10-13) The wicked one, though, does not benefit even if he gains much money. Instead of appreciating money’s protective value and living in accord with God’s will, he uses his riches to promote a life of sin.