Proverbs 21:20

Saving vs. Spending

20 There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.


1. This is a simple proverb, comparing the actions of the wise and the foolish.

2. In particular this proverb speaks of finances: handled wisely or foolishly.

3. It is an antithetical parallelism – contrasting two opposite views in the scope of one short proverb: saving vs. spending

4. Perhaps we should send a copy of this proverb to the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and our treasury secretary… and to congress and to the White House.

Treasure Saved

1. “Treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise.”

a. Treasure:
• Defined: Storehouses of supplies; treasure (gold, silver, etc). or supplies of food or drink.
• Solomon is obviously speaking about earthly treasures here: Supplies; money; food supplies; etc.
• And the term is used in a positive sense. Having a treasure here is spoken of as good.
• The proverbs are intended to be very practical for everyday life.

b. Oil:
• Oil here spoke of olive oil. It was a basic commodity.
• It was relatively expensive, but it was needed for cooking, anointing, cleansing, medicinal, and other uses.
• It was often used figuratively to represent expensive luxury items… riches and plenty. That seems to be case in this proverb.

c. Desired: These items were desirable.
• Desired: to desire; covet; take pleasure in; delight in.
• Solomon seems to be using this term in a positive sense too.
• He is not speaking about sinfully coveting or lusting after luxury items.
• Rather, he is speaking about the desirability of having a storehouse of goods, supplies, and money for the future.
• The point is not about hoarding selfishly, but rather planning wisely for the future.

2. The first part of the proverb speaks of the WISE man and his concept of prosperity.

a. It is the WISE man who has a storehouse of goods accumulated and saved for a rainy day in his dwelling.

b. Prov. 6:6-8 – Solomon earlier used the ant as an illustration of this same thought.
• The ant gathers food in the summer.
• Summer represents a “good economic time” when goods are easily available. It is a time of plenty.
• But summer is also a time when some like to relax and take it easy. It is so nice out… why work? Let’s go to the beach!
• But not the ant. The ant is busy when others are relaxing, gathering in her goods for the long, hard winter, when supplies are not so readily available.
• Winter represents an “economic downturn”—something that hardly needs explanation nowadays!
• The winter is harsh and cold. When that time comes, the ants need to be sure that they have enough in store to last through the winter.
• The ant here speaks of being diligent, hard working, frugal, planning ahead for the future, and one who SAVES during good times to have enough for the bad times.
• The ant is our friend… and a great example for us all.

c. The wise man’s view of prosperity is through saving.
• The wise man has a storehouse of treasure in his dwelling because he (like the ant) saved it up.
• He put some aside for a rainy day… for hard economic times.
• When Joseph was made prime minister of Egypt, this was exactly the economic advice that he gave to the Pharaoh.
» He warned the Pharaoh that there would be 7 years of prosperity followed by 7 years of famine.
» His advice was that they should store up during the good economic years in preparation for the bad times.
» That was wisdom in operation, and it saved the Egyptian Empire, perhaps from total collapse.
• The Lord Jesus also taught His disciples to be frugal.
» The Lord fed the multitudes fish and bread.
» That was surely a “good day.”
» But He told the disciples to gather up the left overs that they did not waste any.

d. The wise man’s view of prosperity is through the making of long range goals… planning ahead for the future.
• The wise man did not live lavishly for the moment.
• He had long range goals in his planning.
• Because he salted some away during good times, his dwelling place continually had a stockpile of the goods and funds he needed.

e. His view of prosperity is to portion out today’s income in order to salt some away for tomorrow.
• He was frugal today so that he will have enough for tomorrow.
• He pinched his pennies in order to make them last.
• He didn’t spend more than he made.
• He didn’t borrow more than he could pay back.
• He didn’t live above his means.
• To use today’s vernacular: he didn’t buy more house than he could afford!
• Nobody had to bail him out.

3. The end result of the WISE man’s view of prosperity: he has enough treasure and oil to get by for now and he has enough for the future.

a. The desirable items are found in his house because he was WISE.

b. There is s direct connection often in the Proverbs between wisdom and having our needs met.

c. Of course, these are proverbs and do not cover every possible scenario.

d. Remember that Solomon also wrote that time and chance happen to all men.

e. Sometimes wise planning and frugal living leave men in poverty—especially if the entire economy fails… or a new, unforeseen invention makes his business obsolete.

f. There are lots of exceptions to the truth in this proverb, but the general truth still stands: all things being equal, wise planning and frugal living results in a house full of desirable treasures.

g. Also note here the term “dwelling.”
• This term simply means abode; a personal dwelling place; a home; also used of a pasture for sheep.
• The point to note is that Solomon is not speaking about a palace where one finds great treasures.
• He seems to be speaking about the average home… (some translated it cottage).
• The kind of wise, frugal, living and planning Solomon describes here works for paupers as well as kings.
• Those who are relatively poor can be wise and plan ahead. They will normally have enough for today and tomorrow.

Treasure Spent

1. Next Solomon describes the other side of the coin: “But a foolish man spendeth it up.”

2. Note the two main contrasts here:

a. Wise man and a fool

b. Saving (treasuring up) and spending.

3. Spend: To swallow down, swallow up, eat up, devour, consume, (Jonah was swallowed up by the great fish—same word.)

a. The wise man is a saver (treasures up); the foolish man is a consumer (spender).

b. The foolish man spends money as soon as he gets it.

c. Money seems to fall through holes in his pockets.

d. When good times come economically, instead of saving for bad times which will eventually come… he decides to blow his money on having a good time.

4. But the expression “spending it up” is much deeper than a financial matter.

a. It’s not JUST that he’s not good with money.

b. The deeper issue is one of the heart.

c. It demonstrates a heart attitude of “living for today”… a “here and now” mentality.

d. It is similar to the thinking of Esau. He was hungry and wanted his porridge NOW… and didn’t care if it meant a loss in the future (he lost his birthright).

e. The fool cares only about feeding his desires NOW; he cares only about experiencing pleasure NOW.

f. Prov. 20:17 – The fool loves to SPEND.

g. It is shortsighted thinking that Solomon describes in this portion of the proverb… and it is foolish.

h. Another example is the prodigal son.
• He took his inheritance early. He wanted his goods NOW.
• And he did not use it wisely. He spent it up quickly and foolishly on riotous living.
• And then we are told that a famine struck the land (bad economic times).
• During the economic downturn, the prodigal son had nothing. His house was not full of treasures and oil. His cupboards were bare.
• He ended up eating chaff and husks with the swine… not a very flattering ending to his spending spree.

5. The obvious point of the second part of this proverb (though not stated) is that the fool loves to “spend it up” and as a result there is nothing left!
a. He ends up poor. He doesn’t have a storehouse of goods and supplies. He has nothing.

b. He loves to spend his money on pleasure. He loves to consume all his wine and oil. He’s a big spender.

c. Prov. 21:17 – “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.

d. Prov. 23:20-21 – “Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: 21For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty.”