Proverbs 21:17

The Road to Poverty


1. This proverb is a synonymous parallelism. Both sections of the proverb say basically the same thing. It is reworded to drive home the point.

2. This proverb warns that the love of pleasure and luxuries is a sure road to the poor house.

Things That Result in Poverty

1. Prov. 6:9-11 – laziness.

a. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 10Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 11So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth

2. Prov. 11:24 – stinginess; hoarding

a. There is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.

3. Prov. 14:23 – Talking, when you should be working.

a. In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.

4. Prov. 21:5 – Being “hasty” to get things done; cutting corners; doing things the quick, cheap, and easy way.

a. The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want

5. Prov. 23:21 – being a drunkard or a glutton

a. For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty.

6. Prov. 28:19 – following vain persons

a. He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.

7. Prov. 21:17 – Two more reasons for poverty are given:

a. A love for pleasure and a love for luxuries.

b. Hedonism and Epicureanism.

17a He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: (The Hedonist)

1. Pleasure: Joy, mirth, gladness; a state of happiness, with a focus on sensory input to the body which gives entertainment to the senses.

a. The term is quite the same as our English word for pleasure.

b. In some contexts it can have a positive connotation, (mothers get great pleasure from their kids) and in other contexts a negative connotation (My boss seems to get pleasure out of seeing people suffer.)

2. The positive side of pleasure.

a. God does not expect us to live the life without any pleasure. That is wrong concept of holiness.

b. Godliness is not the same as being a Stoic.
• The term Stoic originally referred to a member of an ancient Greek school of philosophy that asserted that happiness can only be achieved by accepting life’s ups and downs as the products of unalterable destiny. The school was founded around 308 B.C. by Zeno.
• A Stoic came to mean somebody who is unemotional, especially somebody who shows patience and endurance during adversity.
• This is not part of the Christian world view.

c. God is not opposed to pleasure.
• II Tim. 6:17 – God has richly given us all things to enjoy.
• Ps. 104:27 – These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. 28That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.”
• Ecc. 5:18-19 – God gives us the fruit of our labors to enjoy.
• There is a need for pleasure, and there is a place in life for pleasure.
• We need a day off during the week. We need to get away on a vacation every once in a while.
• God made parts of ordinary life pleasurable: food; relaxation; the physical relationship; hobbies; sports; entertainment.
• There is a need for pleasure in all of our lives.
• It is good for body, soul, and spirit.
• Pleasure is good in its place.

3. The negative side of pleasure.

a. But in this proverb, Solomon isn’t speaking about the positive, healthy side of pleasure.

b. Solomon is writing about the spiritually unhealthy side of pleasure.

c. Like so many things in life, a good thing can be taken too far.

d. Solomon is not speaking about a man who experiences pleasure from time to time, when appropriate.

e. Solomon is speaking about a hedonist: one who lives for pleasure. One who loves pleasure.

f. Pleasure is his goal in life… “Life’s a beach” is his motto.

4. Loving pleasure.

a. Pleasure is not a bad thing.

b. However, the LOVE of pleasure is.

c. Money is not a bad thing either, but the LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

5. Love: To have affection for; to be attracted to; to have a desire for; to have a preference for one thing over another…

a. Pleasure is fine in its place. But it ought NOT to have the place of preeminence in our lives.

b. Pleasure is fine in its place, but we should not LOVE it… in the sense of being dedicated to seeking it.

c. Col. 3:1-3 – Our affections are to be set on things above, not on the things of earth.

d. The things of earth may be USED by God’s people, but they ought not to be ABUSED.

e. I John 2:15 – We are not to LOVE the world or the things of the world. We are to love God with ALL of our heart.

f. II Tim.3:4 – Love can mean to have a preference for one thing over another. Paul writes of those who are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.

g. Pleasure is fine in its place, but it CAN (if we allow it) take the place of a god in our lives. It can have the preeminence, which belongs to Christ alone.

h. That’s where pleasure becomes sinful. It’s not a line we can accurately draw for others, but it is a line we can accurately draw for ourselves… because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He lets us know when enough is enough.

6. Solomon himself knew something about the dark side of seeking for pleasure.

a. Solomon dedicated a portion of his life to seeking pleasure.

b. He did so as a philosophical experiment, to see if pleasure was really worth it… if it was all it was cracked up to be… what it produced… if it was in fact worth pursuing.

c. And as an extremely wealthy king, he was ABLE to carry this experiment out to the fullest.

d. Ecc. 2:1-2 – Solomon put “living for pleasure” to the test and concluded that a life dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure is vanity and madness!
• Vanity: Meaninglessness emptiness; futility; uselessness.
• Mad: Insanity
• It is an empty, worthless pursuit.
• It doesn’t satisfy the soul.
• It doesn’t accomplish anything of lasting value. (What doeth it?)
• It can be a colossal waste of time and money.

e. It seems that half the world is engaged in that same experiment… seeking to satisfy the soul with pleasure, only to discover as Solomon did, that all is vanity!

f. There really is no need to keep on repeating that test. The test has already been made, and the conclusion has already been arrived at.

g. We would do well to BELIEVE God’s Word on this point, rather than waste a portion of our lives on the same empty pursuit.

7. In Prov.21:17, Solomon concludes that the man who pursues pleasure will end up POOR.

a. The end of that road is poverty… the poor house.

b. The lusts of sensuality are extremely expensive… for they are never satisfied, but constantly require more and more… bigger and better…

c. One commentator named Wilmington reworded the thrust of this proverb in a cute little rhyme: “Love pleasure, lose your treasure.”

d. The prodigal son learned this lesson the hard way. He didn’t want to work on his father’s farm. He wanted his inheritance NOW so that he could seek out pleasure. He wasted his substance with riotous living and ended up poor: eating with the swine!

17b He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich. (The Epicurean)

1. Here Solomon speaks about the man who loves wine and oil.

a. These represent luxury items.

b. They were good in their place, but they were not to be LOVED.

c. Pursuing a life of luxury often leads to the opposite: poverty!

2. Solomon is describing an epicurean in this part of the proverb.

a. An epicurean one who is devoted to sensual pleasures and luxury, especially good food.

b. He wants the best food always… and it is but one outward trait of an inner desire for pleasure… to experience the best.

3. The man or woman who always has to have the best often ends up POOR… because he or she cannot always AFFORD the best.

a. He wants to go to the best restaurants (even if he cannot afford it).

b. He has to drive a big, expensive car… and live in an oversized house… and wear the most expensive clothes.

c. This is a person with very expensive taste.

d. That kind of person often ends up poor.

e. He is constantly splurging on himself… spending more than he makes… and before you know it, he’s in debt up to his ears.

f. Expensive, luxury items are ok if you can afford them.

g. But Solomon observed people buying BEYOND their means and noted that their love for luxury was leading them to the poor house!

h. This was a needful warning in his day; but it is a pretty good warning for Americans in the 21st century too.

i. Credit cards make living beyond our means so easy… but it is deadly. It will put you in the poor house.

j. And how timely a reminder… especially as our country and world experience a terrible economic downturn.

4. Hedonism (love of pleasure) and Epicureanism (love of luxuries) ought to be replaced with a love for the Lord and learning to be CONTENT in whatever state we find ourselves. (Phil.4:11)

a. Those who indulge in carnal pleasures will not become rich in this life; but also they are usually not too rich in spiritual things either.