Proverbs 13:11

Wealth: Gotten by Vanity or Labor



1. This is a proverb that gives some sound financial advice… and a warning.

2. It is simply an observation that Solomon made as he observed how people obtained wealth and what they did with it.

3. Here the contrast is between two ways in which wealth is obtained, and two results…

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished…

A. Wealth Gotten By Vanity

1. Wealth: wealth; riches; substance; that which is of high value.

a. Wealth is the topic of this proverb.

b. Wealth comes in all degrees.

c. Even the poor have some wealth… some substance… some material goods.

d. Hence, the passage is not just for the upper crust of society. This principle applies to the rest of us too!

2. Gotten: actually this verb is not in the original… but it is certainly implied.

a. In the proverb, the “vanity” is contrasted with “labor” and “gotten” is contrasted to “gathering”…

b. Solomon is speaking not about the AMOUNT of wealth obtained, but rather the MEANS of obtaining it.

c. Wealth can be obtained in lots of different ways… through various means.

d. When you see wealthy people—don’t automatically assume that they are wealthy because they are hard workers… or because they were smart or wise in their business deals… or because they are insightful visionaries. That is not necessarily the case!

e. Solomon addresses that issue in this verse.

f. And Solomon should know! He was king. He was BORN into great wealth, prestige, and power.
• Solomon grew up with the aristocrats in the kingdom.
• Solomon rubbed elbows with the rich and famous his whole life.
• He was involved in huge construction projects in Israel—and would have had much contact with wealthy land owners… with stone quarry owners… with those who traded in gold, silver, and precious stones…
• Solomon knew all the important business men… all the Bill Gates and John Rockefellers of his day…
• Solomon also knew many foreign kings and their royal families. He married into about 900 of them!
• Solomon observed these men his whole life… and he jotted down his observations on papyrus for us…
• What he records for us are valuable and insightful words of warning from an insider… from one who lived among the wealthy his whole life—and is letting us paupers in on his findings…

g. Solomon observed that many men obtained their wealth by what he called VANITY.

3. Vanity: vapor; breath; empty; brief; meaningless; uselessness.

a. This is a rather vague term—vague enough to include MANY different applications.

b. This would include wealth obtained QUICKLY… like a vapor that appears for a moment… and is gone.
• Some people obtain wealth by betting on the horses…
• Some obtain wealth quickly by winning the lottery…
• Some obtain wealth quickly by a rich uncle leaving them a fortune in an inheritance.
• Some struck oil… others invested a few dollars in a new company called Microsoft 20 years ago…
• Some young men become wealthy overnight and sign multimillion dollar contracts because they can run fast or throw a ball well…
• Some came into great wealth by selling pet rocks—inventing a hula hoop
• Some obtain money quickly in some “get rich quick” scheme –Some obtain wealth quickly by illegal means—robbing a bank… embezzling money… by fraud… selling drugs…
• Prov. 21:6 – obtaining money by lying is a “vanity”
• Prov. 28:20 – getting rich quick is often associated with illegal or questionable behavior

c. Solomon’s point is not whether the money was obtained legally or illegally. His point is that some men obtain money by VANITY… in a breath… rapidly… quickly…
• No doubt Solomon saw a lot of this. In fact he himself came into great wealth this way… he was BORN into money! Born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
• Solomon knew many young men in royal families, who, when their father died, suddenly became exceptionally wealthy and powerful!
• He comments on what happened next…

B. That Wealth “Shall be Diminished”

1. Diminished: make small; make few; diminish; become few in number.

a. His point here is that money that is obtained quickly, is often diminished quickly too.

b. We have a similar proverb: easy come, easy go!

c. Prov. 23:5 – money has a way of disappearing fast… especially money that was obtained fast!

2. Wealth obtained illegally will disappear! (Prov. 28:22)

a. If he is caught and thrown in jail, he is quite poor!

b. Even if he is not caught, easily gained money is usually not spent wisely… but foolishly… and before you know it—it’s gone.

c. This is a warning against trying to get rich quick by illegal means. That money won’t last you… and you will be forced to rob again and again… don’t start!

3. Wealth gained suddenly or quickly will soon disappear.

a. Solomon doesn’t actually tell us WHY this is so.

b. However, the second part of the proverb gives the answer.

But he that gathereth by labour shall increase. 

A. He That Gathereth By Labor

1. The contrast is between one who obtains wealth quickly… and this man who gathers wealth the old fashioned way—he works for it!

2. Gathering wealth by labor is anything but sudden or quickly.

a. This is the man who works hard every day—and slowly but steadily salts away a nest egg for the future.

b. This principle is true regardless of what economic level one lives at either…

c. The first part of the proverb is like our modern proverb: easy come; easy go.

d. The second part of the proverb is like another modern proverb: slow and steady wins the race… like the tortoise and the hare.

3. Something else is implied in the expression “gathereth by labor.”

a. The man who receives a bundle of money all at once—just laid on his lap… without any labor, is not going to appreciate the VALUE of that money. He has no sense of its real worth. He has nothing to gauge it by.

b. It is a good idea to teach children the VALUE of money…

c. Young people today might grow up thinking that you can get all the money you want by driving up to an ATM machine… that’s all there is to it!

d. When money is obtained easily or quickly—it might be assumed that it can ALWAYS be obtained easily or quickly. They will probably have to learn that lesson the hard way.

e. But those who gather their wealth the old fashioned way—by labor—they have something with which to gauge the VALUE of their money… the hours and sweat it took to earn it!

f. When a working man brings home his weekly check—he knows exactly what it took to get that amount of money.

g. If he has any brains, he is not about to squander it away foolishly—because he knows how hard he has to work to replace it!

h. Nobody is going to value this church building more than the men and women who devoted two full years of their lives to building it… working in the hot sun… and in the cold winter… carrying boards… nailing down shingles… putting on siding… painting… washing… etc.

i. Those folks will appreciate the value of this building… they can gauge what it took to put it up… and they will probably have more interest in its upkeep too. They wouldn’t want to see their hard labor go down the tubes.

j. If you spent two years painting a canvas, you are going to take good care of that painting. It won’t sit in the musty cellar growing mildew!

k. The man who works all summer long in his garden is going to appreciate the value of the fruits. The neighborhood kids who come in and steal his tomatoes for a tomato fight don’t appreciate their value.

l. There is something about WORK… labor… that causes a man to appreciate the fruit of one’s labor.

m. When a man appreciates the fruit of his labor—he is not going to sit by and watch it waste away.

n. That’s the point of the proverb.

B. Wealth Gathered by Labor “Shall Increase”

1. Slow and steady wins the race.

2. The man who slowly, but gradually—and through hard labor salts his money away—is going to keep an eye on that money. He has a vested interest in that money. He is not going to let his hard labor be wasted foolishly.

3. He knows the value of it, so he won’t spend it foolishly—like the man who got his money overnight and doesn’t realize its value.

4. Because of his labor, he understands its value… and thus he uses it wisely and with discretion… and gradually, his wealth increases.

5. While the hot shot who won the lottery is out foolishly blowing all his money on frivolous pursuits, the hard worker is wisely and gradually increasing his wealth.

Spiritual Application:

1. Spiritual wealth is obtained in two different ways too: quickly and easily… or through labor.

2. Some believers come to church and are fed meat from God’s Word.

a. It is easily obtained—just sit comfortably in a pew and listen.

b. It doesn’t take any digging… any studying… any preparation… any research… any toil…

c. Just sit and soak. What could be easier?

d. If that is all our spiritual life consists of—then expect the spiritual riches you are hearing about to diminish…

e. You won’t appreciate them as you ought… you won’t experience them in your life…

f. You will become dull of hearing after a while…

g. It will go in one ear and out the other.

h. Easy come, easy go. That’s the principle—and it holds for earthly riches as well as spiritual or heavenly riches.

3. II Tim. 2:15 – STUDY to show yourself approved unto God!

a. It is the WORKMAN that needeth not to be ashamed.

b. It is the man who LABORS in the word himself … reading for himself… looking up terms himself… comparing Scripture with Scripture himself—that will be truly blessed.

c. That man is going to do more than just HEAR about those truths… they will become REAL to him.

d. He will value them… treasure them… his spiritual riches will increase.

e. Let’s be that kind of man—or woman—or young person.

f. He that gathereth spiritual riches by labor—he that labors to enter into God’s rest—WILL enter—and will be blessed.

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