A Poor Man of Integrity
1. This is yet another one of Solomon’s “better than” proverbs.
2. Here Solomon states that a poor man of integrity is better than a perverse fool.
3. At first glance it seems almost like it goes without saying.
4. However, there are some subtleties in this passage to consider.
1. Perverse: twisted; distorted; morally crooked.
2. Prov. 11:20 – God HATES the twisting and perverting of moral standards. But He LOVES the upright.
3. This man is perverse in his LIPS…
4. This man is a fool – stupid fellow, dullard, simpleton, arrogant one, a rebel.
5. I think it is also IMPLIED in this passage that this foolish man who is perverse in his lips is also RICH.
a. Otherwise, the comparison would hardly need stating.
b. Why would he have to tell us that a poor man of integrity is better than a perverse fool?
c. Well, of course! Why would anyone ever think otherwise?
d. If these two men were in the same social or financial condition (say both were poor)—no one would ever think a perverse fool was better than a man of integrity.
e. The only way anyone might to be tempted to think that the perverse man was better than the poor man of integrity was IF the perverse man was also filthy rich!
f. The man’s financial and/or social standing is only mentioned in the first part… but because it is being contrasted, it is best to understand this contrast to include their finances too.
g. Prov. 28:6 – is nearly identical to this. That proverb DOES mention that the perverse man is rich.
6. Thus, the contrast here is between a poor man of integrity… and a rich man WITHOUT integrity. He is a perverse fool.
a. That is not always the case with ALL wealthy people. Some wealthy men are fine, moral citizens… and today some are even fine, godly Christians.
b. However, Solomon saw MANY wealthy men in his day.
c. He noticed that wealth was not always accompanied by good manners… by a good, wholesome, moral lifestyle.
d. Solomon noted that many wealthy men are perverse fools.
e. Solomon saw a side of the wealthy that man OTHER people never saw.
f. The poor people only saw their earthly glory and splendor.
• Poor men were often jealous of the rich… jealous of their lifestyle…
• The poor often LONGED to trade places with the rich.
• Perhaps some of US have those same feelings. It is part of our nature.
g. As a king, having to deal with Kings, nobility, and wealthy landowners on a daily basis, Solomon also knew all about the ugly side of wealth.
h. Thus, Solomon writes this proverb to let the poor men in his kingdom know that things aren’t always as they seem.
i. Poor men had one snapshot of the wealthy… and it seemed SO appealing and attractive.
j. Solomon wanted to broaden their perspective of wealth and the wealthy… so he gives them another view…
k. He gives them another view of the wealthy nobles AND another view of their own humble circumstances.
• Solomon wants his readers to know that the wealthy might SEEM to be in an enviable position… looks are deceiving!
• Solomon also wants his readers to know that the poor aren’t in such a bad position after all…
• Not once they broaden their perspective and look at the WHOLE LIFE of the man.
1. Poor man
a. To be poor financially
• To be in want, lacking, impoverished, destitute.
• To be in a state of not having enough income or means of livelihood for normal essential needs.
b. To be in a poor or lowly position
• Used of a man’s lowly position in society.
• It could be used of a common laborer in contrast to the nobles.
• The difference being his status and not his finances are considered.
a. Sometimes in Proverbs Solomon uses this term poor implying some fault on the part of the poor.
b. Ex: Prov.10:4 – because of laziness.
c. However, that is not the case here.
d. This poor man is not poor because of laziness or folly.
e. This poor man is a man of integrity. And in spite of living his life honestly and diligently, he is still poor.
f. He has fallen into hard times through no fault of his own.
3. The poor man’s WALK
a. Behave, conduct, live, formally, to go about doing certain actions in a regular, more or less consistent manner, so possibly constituting a life or lifestyle.
b. Thus, Solomon is considering the whole manner of life of this poor man.
c. If you narrowly focused on his position in society one might conclude that it is better to be a nobleman.
d. If you narrowly focused on his finances, one would conclude that it is better to be a rich man than a poor man.
e. But Solomon is not focusing narrowly. He is looking at the man’s WALK… his life as a whole… all things considered.
f. He is comparing this man’s whole life to the whole life of the man in the second part of the proverb.
4. This poor man’s LIFE is one of INTEGRITY.
• Innocence, simplicity, uprightness,
• A state or condition of moral goodness in a life.
• Clear conscience, i.e., a state of integrity and moral purity and so not guilty of wrong-doing or sin.
• Ps. 25:21 – integrity preserves us—keeps us pure.
• Ps. 26:1 – it keeps us from sliding—spiraling downward.
• Ps. 26:11 – enables us to experience God’s mercy.
• Ps. 41:12 – God upholds those who live in integrity.
• Prov.2:7 – God is a buckler (protection) to those who walk in integrity (same term).
b. A WALK of integrity:
• This speaks of a lifetime of living… a whole life full of integrity.
• This man LIVED uprightly… he did things the right way.
• He lived in a pure conscience… refused to violate his conscience.
• He was concerned about morals and purity…
• I Kings 9:4 – This is how David walked. He was a man after God’s own heart.
• Now naturally, that kind of life is harder to live than simply going with the flow… walking the broad way.
• A life of integrity is a pretty good indication that this man is on the narrow road… that leads to life.
• His whole life is characterized by uprightness.
• He’s not perfect.
» Here and there you could take a few snapshots of this man and catch him in behavior he would be ashamed of.
» Prov. 24:16 – Good men fall from time to time… but they get back up.
• However, when you widen the lens to see the WHOLE life… it can only be characterized as one of integrity.
1. When the lens is narrowly focused on his position or his finances, one concludes that it is better to be rich and famous.
a. However, when the lens widens to include the man’s whole life… the picture is very different.
b. AND the conclusion changes as well.
c. Now the poor man of integrity is seen to be BETTER OFF.
d. We might liken this difference to the difference between a heavenly and an earthly perspective.
e. From earth’s perspective,
• We see narrowly.
• We see only the here and now…
• We see a narrow snapshot. A snapshot captures only the moment.
• Take a picture of a poor man’s house and a rich man’s house.
• Take a snapshot of their weekly income.
• Take a snapshot of the food they eat
f. From heaven’s perspective
• We see a very different angle.
• From far above, we can see the man’s whole life.
• From heaven we can see his life not in the moment but from eternity’s perspective.
• From heaven we can see things that really count… things that last forever…
• Take a picture of the rich man’s earthly house—and compare that to our dwelling place in glory.
• Take a picture of the fancy clothes of the rich man—and compare that to our robes of glorious white in heaven!
• Take a picture of his earthly riches… and from heaven—over time—we see them all rusted… or stolen… or moth eaten…
• From heaven the camera’s lens widens out far enough to see the WHOLE life…
• It widens far enough to see the whole parade…
• It widens far enough to see time and eternity…
• That angle forces one to a completely different conclusion: the honest poor man is BETTER OFF!
• Rev. 2:8-9 – Jesus said of the poor, suffering believers in Smyrna, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich).”
• Prov. 15:16-17 – if you have righteousness, integrity, and the fear of the Lord you are much better off than the rich.
• Wealth is often accompanied by things you would never really want in your life.
• We look at the glorious side of wealth and envy it.
• We ought to look at the ugly side too—hatred, bitterness, envy, trouble, pressure, etc.
• When we widen our angle to see the whole picture—we’re not so bad off after all!
• We may not have the big fancy house… the gold and rubies… or the jet set lifestyle…
• But Solomon wants us to know that our little can actually be BETTER than their much…
• A man of integrity has a clean conscience. He can sleep at night… and have peace of mind… and experience rest.
• His friends like him because of his character—not for his money. That is priceless.
• The true measure of a man is his character—not his outward circumstances.
» One man noted that Job on a dunghill was really better off than Ahab on his throne…
» Lazarus in his rags was better off than the rich man who fared sumptuously every day.
• The believer whose life is one of integrity—though he may be poor on earth—will be RICHLY rewarded at the Bema.