Proverbs 16:8

Wealth vs. Righteousness



1. This is a familiar theme in Proverbs.

2. In several other passages Solomon speaks of the comparative value of earthly wealth to other things:

a. 12:9 – honor or being despised

b. 15:16 – the fear of the Lord…

c. 15:16 – trouble wealth often brings

d. 16:8 – to righteousness

e. These proverbs are similar to Prov. 16:8.

3. But there is another proverb that is virtually identical.

a. But this proverb isn’t found in the book of Proverbs. It appears in the book of Psalm 37:16

b. Yes, some of the psalms are actually proverbs!

Better is a Little with Righteousness

A. A Little

1. This speaks of a little money… little wealth… little property… as is made clear by the second half of the proverb.

2. The little is contrasted to great revenues.

3. The contrast is between having a little of this world’s goods and having a lot.

4. But the contrast focuses in on a particular

B. A Little With Righteousness

1. All things being equal, great revenues would be better than a little.

a. There is no special value in being poor.

b. It isn’t any more spiritual…

c. It isn’t an indication of one’s spiritual life or morality either.

d. II John 2 – John wishes the best for his friends (prosperity and good health).

e. All things being equal, who in their right mind would choose to be poor and sick over prosperous and healthy?

f. A believer can learn good lessons during a period of poverty or sickness… but there is no intrinsic value to being poor or sick.

g. Normally, it is better to have plenty of money to put food on the table and pay one’s bills… than not to have enough.

2. But the particular situation Solomon has in mind speaks of an occurrence where all things are NOT equal.

a. He adds another element into the mix… righteousness!

b. That changes the whole formula.

c. The contrast is not simply little revenue vs. great revenue. That would be an easy decision.

d. But the contrast is between a little revenue by doing things righteously vs. great revenues by not doing things right.

3. Solomon observed that quite often, those who do things the right way… those who put righteousness first, don’t always prosper in the world like the wicked.

a. It is a fact of life… the wicked often prosper in the world.

b. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it is often true.

c. Ps. 73:3, 12 – this fact has caused a lot of grief to men throughout the ages.

d. Ps. 73:13-14 – a believer can begin to think that perhaps he is walking in righteousness for nothing! What’s the use… when the wicked don’t pay any attention to righteousness and seem to do so well!

e. Asaph did things right… he walked with God… but did not prosper in the world like other men… like the wicked.

4. But even though unrighteousness is often accompanied by great revenues, LITTLE is better when accompanied by righteousness.

a. Better for your peace of mind. You can sleep at night…

b. Better for your freedom. No fear of the law or incarceration

c. Better for your family…

d. Better for your spiritual walk… because God is on your side

e. Better for your conscience… free from guilt

Than Great Revenues without Right

A. Unrighteousness Often Brings Success and Prosperity

1. Cheating your way through school… in order to get your degree. That may result in a better paying job.

2. Cheating on your taxes. This gives the crooked small businessman an edge over his honest competitors!

3. Embellishing your resume—gives you at an advantage over someone else with equal qualifications.

4. False advertising—is likely to win customers that honest advertisers will not get.

5. In the Lord’s work: following the neo evangelical principle of “the end justifies the means”… and using methodologies that attract many people… violating the principle of separation… which outwardly appear to bring success…

6. Taking a more lucrative job in a region where there is no good local church will enable you to make more money… increase your revenues.

7. Taking a job which forces you to be in compromising situations daily… might also increase your revenues.

8. Skimping on building materials—quick, shoddy workmanship brings in lots of revenue… results in prosperity for many. (Irish gypsies)

9. Selling drugs is very lucrative…

10. Stealing can be quite lucrative too (little overhead; low taxes!)

11. If making money is your goal and you don’t care about righteousness, honesty, or integrity, there are lots of ways to prosper in the world.

B. But There Are Consequences

1. This is true in everyday life.

a. Cheating your way through school… living with a guilty conscience… knowing you didn’t really earn you degree.

b. Cheating on your taxes… and getting caught and paying massive fines!

c. Embellishing your resume… and living with the guilt of dishonesty.

d. False advertising… the fear of lawsuits…

e. In the Lord’s work: following the neo evangelical principle of “the end justifies the means”… and using methodologies that attract many people… violating the principle of separation… which outwardly appear to bring success… but having to live with a violated conscience… at the expense of doing things right.

f. Taking a job in a region where there is no good local church (more money, but having to settle for a shallow ministry… with no standards… fleshly music… etc.)

g. Taking a job which forces you to be in compromising situations daily… (more money, but vexes your righteous soul from day to day)

h. Skimping on building materials—quick, shoddy workmanship brings in lots of revenue, but living with the fear of being caught… and the guilt! (Irish gypsies)

i. Selling drugs is very lucrative… but they eventually get sent to prison.

j. Stealing can be quite lucrative too… but thieves usually get caught too…

2. The Bible speaks often of this truth.

a. Prov. 10:16 – The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin. It often leads to other forms of sin… which also have further consequences. (stealing leads to lying to cover up… etc.)

b. Prov. 11:4 – Riches profit not in the day of wrath.
• There is a temporary earthly gain… but an eternal loss for wealth gained through unrighteousness. It isn’t worth it!
c. Prov. 13:11 – Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.
• Often such wealth does not last even in this life…
• Those who come into quick easy money usually spend it just as quickly and easily!
• The mindset that gathers wealth the wrong way tends to be lazy… which over all leads to poverty, not wealth!
d. Prov. 22:16 – He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
• Again, dishonest gain leads to wealth… but often results in WANT!
• The oppressed may revolt… and overthrow! (Solomon spoke as a king here…)
• God may judge with famine or worse…
e. Prov. 21:6-7 – The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.
• It can be dangerous…
• Dishonest men travel in very bad circles…
• Example: the mafia… their dishonest gain leads to violence… death… murder…

f. Prov. 15:27 – He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house (Cf. 15:6,16)
• Note how often TROUBLE is associated with greed and dishonest gain!
• Greed is the motive behind almost all dishonest gain.
• This man may by his greed and even through dishonesty bring great revenues into his home… but there are strings attached to that wealth.
• Often it comes with a price tag: trouble at home!
• Often it brings trouble home… divides families… an honest wife may not be able to deal with her husband’s dishonest gain… it may bring shame to the family if he is caught… which can eventually bring financial ruin…

3. Great revenues without righteousness are NOT BETTER than little!

a. The price tag is too high.

b. It comes with strings attached…

c. It brings trouble into the home… it leads to more sin… it is often diminished over time… it leads to violence and death… and ultimately brings eternal loss!

d. It might be quicker and easier in the short term, but in the long run, it is not better!

e. A little is enough for the righteous to be happy and content. Plenty is never enough for the wicked and the greedy.

4. Having a little is not bad at all!

a. Prov. 30:8-9 – having a little—enough to get by on—is GOOD for us spiritually.

b. Extremes in either direction come with great temptation.

c. Great wealth carries with it a temptation to forget the Lord.

d. Great poverty carries with it a temptation to steal.

e. Having a little to get by on isn’t so bad after all!

f. If we have food and shelter… enough to pay our bills—let us be content… and thankful.

g. Who knows how we might deal with temptation if we were in another position financially? God knows best.

Matthew Henry:
It is maintained that a small estate, honestly come by, which a man is content with, enjoys comfortably, serves God with cheerfulness, and puts to a right use, is much better and more valuable than a great estate ill-got, and then ill-kept or ill-spent. It carries with it more inward satisfaction, a better reputation with all that are wise and good; it will last longer, and will turn to a better account in the great day, when men will be judged, not according to what they had, but what they did.

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