Proverbs 15:16

Better is a Little


1. Vs. 16 and 17 are 2 of the 19 “better than” proverbs in this book.

2. The purpose of “better than” verses is to give us wisdom in making choices.

a. We will all face similar issues in our lives.

b. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do.

c. God gives His advice: 19 times God says, “This is better than that!”

d. The implication is obvious: choose that which is better!

e. That simplifies decision making considerably.

3. Whenever we approach a fork in the road and have to decide which way to go… read through the book of Proverbs.

a. There are lots of proverbs which tell us “this way is better than that way.”

b. Following God’s counsel is always the best way to travel through life’s journeys.

4. This proverb deals with the fear of the Lord.

a. Better is a LITTLE with the fear of the Lord than great treasures accompanied by trouble.

b. Solomon pictures a crossroad: a right turn leads to you becoming a poor man but God-fearing. A left turn leads to you becoming wealthy—but a life of turmoil.

c. When faced with that choice, turn right. Solomon says that it is better to go right.

d. Prov. 1:29 – For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD—the fear of God is a choice—a choice we make every day… a test we face continually throughout our lives.

16a Better is little with the fear of the LORD

1. Solomon contrasts the following in this verse:

a. Little with great treasures (poverty vs. wealth)
• Prov. 16:8 – the same contrast is made between little and great revenues.
• Little in both passages means a little money: poverty.

b. Fearing God vs. trouble

2. The fear of the Lord.

a. Ps. 111:10 – is the beginning of wisdom.

b. Prov. 8:13 – leads to hating evil.

c. Prov. 14:27 – is a fountain of life and safety.

d. Ps. 19:9 – “is clean” = cleanses and purifies.

e. II Cor. 7:1 – holiness is perfected in the fear of God.

f. Ps. 89:7 – Godly fear is an integral part of worship. —God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.

g. Ps. 147:11 – The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him.

h. Ps. 103:13 – Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

i. Ps. 103:11 – For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

j. Ps. 115:13 – He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.

k. Ecc. 8:12 – Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him.

3. The fear of the Lord is OVERWHELMINGLY good for the believer.

a. Solomon’s point here is that it is overwhelmingly good even if it must be accompanied by poverty (a little in this life) it is far better than the other route.

b. The eternal SPIRITUAL treasures of being a God-fearing man, woman, or child by far surpass any temporal, physical treasures that may be accumulated by violating our attitude as a God-fearer.

c. If you come to a crossroad in life and are forced to give up or leave something behind, leave the wealth or opportunity for wealth behind. Don’t ever leave behind your fear of God.

d. It is far better to have just a little of this world’s goods and the fear of the Lord than to choose a path of great earthly treasures which cause you to COMPROMISE the fear of God.

e. I Tim. 6:6 – godliness with contentment is GREAT gain—in this life and in the life to come.

f. James 2:5 – God has called the poor of the world to be RICH in faith.

4. There are many occasions in life where a man is faced with this kind of choice; crossroad in life- where important decisions must be made.

a. The fear of the Lord causes us to HATE iniquity and to DEPART from evil.

b. When you have been out of work and are desperate for a job, and have an opportunity for a good job IF you embellish your resume… would you do it?

c. Or, your boss offers you a promotion with a huge pay increase, BUT it requires working every Sunday.

d. You live in a country where Christianity is persecuted. Christians are denied decent jobs and are relegated to servitude if they fear God and make their faith known. If they fear man and refuse to take a stand, their income is secure.

e. At such crossroads in life, it is as if the devil were standing there appealing to the flesh: “Choose the way of wealth; forget fearing God—that is the way of losers. That will get you nowhere!”

f. It is also as if the philosophy of the world makes its appeal to us at that crossroad too: appealing to the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

g. Then of course, there is the old self-life who HATES a little for self. He would prefer the great treasures for self. He too is an influence to take a wrong turn.

h. But if we fear God, we will put all those thoughts aside and choose that which pleases Him—and we do so because we fear displeasing Him.

16b Than great treasure and trouble therewith.

1. Great treasure in context.

a. In this proverb, the great treasure is seen in contrast to the little in the first part of the proverb.

b. There is an assumption made in this proverb that this particular great treasure is gained by means of rejecting the fear of God.

c. This choice is seen here as the OPPOSITE of choosing a little with the fear of God. This is choosing a lot without the fear of God.

d. This involves making a conscious choice to ABANDON the fear of God in order to obtain earthly wealth and prosperity.

e. Not ALL treasures are obtained that way. Consider Solomon. He was the wealthiest king Israel ever had—and his treasures were a gift from the Lord.

f. But the context of this proverb indicates a particular KIND of treasure.

2. This great treasure (material advantage) is accumulated or obtained by violating or abandoning the fear of the Lord.

a. The examples cited above illustrate the type of choices and crossroads where decisions need to be made.

b. If we choose to fear God, sometimes it results in poverty.

c. If we choose to fear man, compromise our fear of the Lord, choose NOT to depart from evil, we may prosper in the world…

3. BUT there are strings attached.

a. It may be the way to prosperity, but not the way to peace and rest.

b. It may be the way to financial gain, but to spiritual loss.

4. Trouble:

a. Defined: has a wide range of meaning
• Strong’s: tumult; confusion; disquietude; discomfiture; destruction; trouble; vexation; disturbance; turmoil; disquietude; panic.
• Turmoil seems to fit best here.

b. The one who rejects the fear of the Lord and chooses the way of prosperity at the expense of godliness is in for serious trouble!
• Those who receive great treasures the honest and godly way have a blessing from the Lord.
• Those who use their great treasures for the glory of God receive a blessing from the Lord.
• But those who receive great treasures by rejecting the fear of the Lord and choose mammon over God do so to their own peril.
• This crossroad decision forces the believer to choose masters: Christ or mammon… which way will I go? For whom do I live—Christ or self? Whom do I really serve?
• It is far better to choose the route that leaves us with little to show in this life, but treasures in heaven!
• Those who choose to reject the fear of the Lord and walk down the opposite pathway of earthly riches will have TROUBLE… from without and from within.

5. He can expect trouble and turmoil from WITHOUT.

a. One of those roads led to God’s protection, satisfaction, contentment, mercy, pity, and blessing.

b. This man has chosen the OPPOSITE way!

c. When a man steps OUT OF the way of fearing God is also stepping out of the way of God’s pity, mercy, protection, and blessing, he is on a dangerous path spiritually—even if he does prosper in the world.

d. He may obtain the riches, but he soon discovers that the way of the transgressor is hard.

e. Treasures obtained by abandoning the fear of the Lord come with strings attached… a heavy price…
→ Consider Lot—choosing the land that was lush: Sodom. He had to flee for his life.
→ Consider Achan who coveted riches and was stoned to death.
→ Consider Gehazi, the servant of Elisha who did not fear God but chose mammon—and was smitten with leprosy!
→ Consider Ananias and Saphira—who did not fear God, but coveted wealth… and were struck dead by God. THEN the church walked in the fear of God and was multiplied!

6. He can expect trouble and turmoil from WITHIN.

a. The believer who forsakes the fear of God for earthly gain will NEVER have the peace of God ruling in his heart.

b. He will not have contentment.

c. He will not have rest of conscience—but will be plagued with guilt and remorse.

d. When a man forsakes the fear of God for monetary gain, things may go well for him on the outside (the ungodly who prosper in the world seem to have no plagues as other men)… but if he is saved, it is a different story on the inside!
• I Tim. 6:9-10 – The motivation for rejecting the fear of the Lord in this proverb is the love of money… two masters… choosing the way of prosperity OVER the way of the Lord.
• This man will never be at rest. He will live with guilt and shame until he repents… and chooses the fear of the Lord.

e. Prov. 10:22 – The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
• When we choose God and put Him first, He often blesses us abundantly with the things we need for this life…
• And far better is it to possess material goods that come with God’s blessing than (like Achan) possess things that come with His curse!