Proverbs 13:8 (NKJV)
8The ransom of a man’s life is his riches, But the poor does not hear rebuke.
Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are reminded not to set our heart on uncertain riches.
Recall that the Proverbs of Solomon are given to instruct us in wisdom and inform us about the nature of the world in which we live. While we often wish that we lived in a perfect world, we are daily reminded that such is not the case. And while idealism would guide us to live in a utopia, wisdom prepares us to face the fallen world in which we actually live. And in the real world, riches and poverty both have their advantages.
On the one hand, the ransom of a man’s life is his riches. In other words, riches often protect their owners from facing the consequences of their actions. Do we not see daily proof of Solomon’s observation? Whether it is Republican complaints about the favorable treatment of Hunter Biden or Democratic complaints about the evils of the 1% and the need to “tax the rich”, the reality is that every society has its rich folks who are able to use their riches to protect themselves from harm. And isn’t this what you would do if you were rich? Wouldn’t you use your wealth to try to protect yourself and your loved ones? So if the wicked become rich, don’t fret. Remember that God is the Lord, not the rich:
7Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm. (Ps 37:7-8)
But there is another sense in which riches are not a blessing – and it is this that the second half of our proverb addresses: the poor does not hear rebuke or threats. In other words, poverty protects the poor from the criticisms and threats that rich people face. It’s not so much that the poor doesn’t listen to rebuke but that he doesn’t even hear rebukes – no one bothers to threaten him because he doesn’t have much to take or give. You may think that riches are a blessing – but consider what happens to those who win the lottery or to those who are rich. If you’re poor, do you have to worry about heart wrenching pleas for financial help? Do you have to worry about poor relatives draining your substance? Do you have to worry about frivolous lawsuits? Do you have to worry about the paparazzi? In other words, while there are certainly blessings that accompany wealth, there are also blessings that accompany poverty.
Solomon’s observation, therefore, reminds us to be content with what we have and to place our trust in the Lord, not in uncertain riches. As Paul wrote to Timothy:
17Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Tim. 6:17-19)
So what of you? Where is your hope? Is your hope in uncertain riches or in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy and to share? Reminded of the uncertainty of this world and the mixed blessing of both wealth and poverty, let us confess that we are often consumed with a lust for wealth. And as we confess our sins, let us kneel as we are able.