Proverbs 22:4

Humility and the Fear of the Lord


1. This proverb (like a few others) teaches us the MEANS by which we obtain “riches, honor, and life.”

2. Everybody wants what Solomon describes in this passage.

3. Nobody wants poverty, dishonor, or death.

4. He presents this trilogy of blessings in a good light.

5. “Riches, honor, and life” are presented in a good light here almost like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” are listed as the “inalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence.

The Trilogy of Blessings

A. Riches

1. Defined:

a. Wealth, prosperity.

b. All kinds of wealth in land, possessions, cattle, and descendants.

2. The Bible in general and the Old Testament in particular are a bit ambivalent in their description of and attitude towards wealth and riches.

3. Sometimes it speaks of wealth and prosperity in a good light as great BLESSINGS from the Lord.

a. Psalm 112:1-3 – It is the blessing of the righteous.

b. Prov. 10:22 – God’s blessing makes rich.

c. Prov. 14:24 – Riches are the crown of wisdom.

d. I Kings 10:23 – Solomon (the author!) exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches.

4. But on the other hand, sometimes riches are spoken of in a bad light as DANGEROUS… something to be warned about.

a. Prov. 23:4 – Labor not to be rich.

b. Jer. 9:23-24 – Let not the rich man glory in his riches.

c. Deut. 8:11-14 – Beware that riches do not result in pride and self confidence.

5. In this proverb, Solomon speaks of riches in a GOOD light, as something worthy of a healthy, proper pursuit.

a. This proverb teaches the RIGHT way to obtain riches in life.

b. The proper way to pursue riches according to Solomon has nothing to do with business techniques, but rather in personal attitude.

c. Of course, riches themselves are perfectly neutral – neither good nor bad.

d. But one’s attitude towards them and one’s attitude in the pursuit of them is what makes all the difference.

6. Thus, we see a kind of TENSION in the Scriptures concerning wealth. It is used in both a good sense and a bad sense.

a. Prov. 30:8-9 – The author wants NEITHER! He sees the danger in both categories.

b. Somewhere in the middle is preferable.

c. Having enough but not too much carries fewer temptations.

7. The first in this trilogy is earthly wealth: riches and prosperity.

B. Honor

1. Defined: Dignity; reputation; glory.

2. Gen. 45:13 – Joseph tells his brothers to go home and tell their father about all his “glory” in Egypt. (status; achievements; etc.)

3. Isa. 5:13 – Translated “honorable” men, which refers to men of high status in society.

4. It is certainly not wrong to attain high status in the land.

a. Many heroes of the faith were men of high status.

b. Job, Moses, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Saul of Tarsus.

c. All of these were men of “honor,” of “high status,” aristocrats living in high society.

d. They were wealthy, well to do, honorable men of dignity and reputation among the people.

5. The Bible does not speak disparagingly about men of honor and prestige.

6. That position (like riches) is quite neutral.

7. God is not so concerned about what status a man has in society (for He is sovereign over it all), but God IS concerned about what KIND of person he is.

8. Most of us, if given the choice, would prefer to be a king over a garbage collector.

9. The second of this trilogy is earthly status: Honor; dignity; reputation; and glory.

C. Life

1. Defined:

a. This term can simply refer to physical life as opposed to death. This does not seem to be the connotation in this proverb.

b. The term can also speak of a fulfilled, prosperous, full, and bountiful life.

c. It speaks of blessed favorable circumstance in life, contrasted with a cursed, unfavorable life.

d. Life speaks of the ability to exercise all one’s vital power to the fullest.

e. In light of the first two parts of the trilogy, this meaning better fits the context.

f. Ps. 119:50 – For thy word hath quickened me. (Quickened is related to the term “life” in Proverb 22:4.)

g. Deut. 8:3 – Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

h. Clearly some of the usages of the word “life” refer to more than just physical life.

i. It can mean something similar to what Jesus meant when He spoke of an “abundant” life.

j. Thus, it can refer to the quality of life rather than just the existence of it.

k. Often in the Jewish mind the length of life was also highly prized.

l. There are commands in the Old Testament that are accompanied by promises of long life for obedience.

m. This seems to be the way Solomon uses it in Proverbs 22:4: a long quality of life, a life worth living.

n. Prov. 3:16 – Lady Wisdom offers length of days and also riches and honor… (Same three qualities as in Prov. 22:4.)

How They Are Achieved

A. The main thrust of this proverb is to teach HOW this trilogy of blessings is achieved. (by what means)

1. The world has its way of achieving the “good life.”

a. The world seeks to be rich, famous, and to live the good life.

b. But their attitude is vastly different from what Solomon describes.

c. Their REASON for wanting to achieve this is entirely selfish.

d. Their MEANS of obtaining is also contrary to Scripture.

e. They say that if you want to be rich, famous, and live the “good life,” then you have to climb over people. You have to do whatever it takes to advance SELF.

f. It might require an occasion lie, cheating, back stabbing, etc… but (say they) that’s what you have to do!

g. Sometimes, you have to be aggressive, pushy, and assertive and not take no for an answer.

h. On other occasions, you have to butter people up, say what people want to hear, and even be deceitful.

i. On occasion you have to be ruthless, a cut throat; cold hearted; and not considerate of others if you want to advance self.

j. If you want to succeed, it is the survival of the fittest.

2. Solomon describes a very DIFFERENT means of obtaining riches, honor, and the “good life.”

B. The First Means is Humility.

1. This seems exactly the opposite of what the world says.

2. Humility defined:

a. Gentleness; meekness; mildness; tenderness; and lowliness.

b. It is the opposite of arrogance and pride

c. For the believer today, humility is much more than a natural temperament. (Some very ungodly souls have had a naturally quiet, shy, meek, human temperament.) For the Christian humility is not natural, but supernatural: it is the fruit of the Spirit.

d. Prov. 18:12 – “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.”
• Note that humility precedes honor in God’s sight.
• The kind of honor Solomon describes in this proverb is not the same kind of honor the world seeks after.
• There is a kind of honor that STEMS from humility.
• Humility is being like Christ… and that itself is honorable—whether you become part of the aristocracy or not.

e. James 4:10 – “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
• James 4:6b – “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”
• It should NOT be our goal in life to be lifted up on high… to a high position.
• It should be our goal to be Christlike and humble.
• When that is the case, God lifts us up… to the earthly status of HIS choice.
• Nothing could be more contrary to the true spirit of these passages than the heretical use of them by the gospel of success folks—who twist Scripture and use it to advance their own greed and personal wealth.
• The obvious point here is not that we should make it our life’s goal to be lifted up… into high society and to become rich, but that our goal should be to walk in humility before God and leave our status in life in HIS hands.

3. Proverbs 22:4 states that “riches, honor, and life” are obtained by means of “humility.”

a. “BY” = by means of; as a consequence of; as a reward for.

b. Riches, honor, and life are a reward for… or are the consequence of a life of humility.

c. David was a humble shepherd boy, and God lifted him up and gave him riches, honor, and an abundant life.

d. David did not humble himself SO THAT he would become rich and famous.

e. There was no selfish or greedy motive behind his humility. It was PURE humility… true humility.

f. Rather, when God sought for a man to serve Him as king, God looked for a humble man and found David, and raised him up.

4. Pride and arrogance will PREVENT us from being lifted up by the Lord.

a. Pride and arrogance often result in advancing SELF in the world… but that is a far cry from being lifted up by the Lord.

b. Prov. 16:18 – The Bible warns that before destruction comes pride! Pride does not bring success in the long run.

c. Prov. 11:2 – Pride does not bring honor. It brings shame.

5. God says that TRUE riches, honor, and life come from humility.

C. The Second Means is the Fear of the Lord

1. The fear of the Lord speaks of a genuine holy reverence for God.

a. It speaks of being afraid of offending God or disobeying Him.

b. It goes hand in hand with humility before God.

c. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, pride, and arrogance (Prov. 8:13).

d. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (9:10)
• And wisdom protects us… keeps us from danger and harmful things the fool engages in.
• Riches and honor are given to us from Lady Wisdom. (Prov. 8:18)

e. The fear of the Lord prolongs days. (10:27)

f. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. (Prov.14:27)

g. Living in the fear of God is a way of life.

2. Riches, honor, and an abundant life are the result a God-fearing life.

3. Prov. 21:21 – Life, righteousness, and honour are obtained by following after righteousness and mercy.

4. Ps. 34:9 – “O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.” (God provides for those who fear Him.)

5. Psalm 112:1-3 –Riches and honor and power to those who fear God.

6. Associated with the fear of the Lord are riches, honor, and life.