1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. 2 Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all. 3 The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. 4 Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honour and life. 5 In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls, but those who would preserve their life stay far from them. 6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. 7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. 8 Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken. 9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. (Prov. 22:1-9 NIV)
1 A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
A good name means a good reputation. It is important to maintain a good reputation. People may disagree with what we believe but they should be able to see that there is a consistency between what we believe and what we do. That is, we should be people of character and integrity. Your good name is a more desirable thing than great riches. Some people have acquired riches with little regard for their name or reputation. There are a number of TV programmes that have nastiness as a feature of getting on in business. They make it appear that you have to be tough and ruthless to succeed in business. This is contrary to what is taught here. A good name is to be valued more than silver and gold. Of course, this is not restricted to business; getting on in the church, moving forward in ministry or our standing in the neighbourhood are a few examples of communities where we need to consider protecting our reputation. Protecting our reputation is not the same as manufacturing a reputation.
2 Rich and poor have this in common:
The LORD is the Maker of them all.
The rich and poor may not meet often in a social setting. The rich may have an air of superiority and the poor can also show them deference. However, we need to acknowledge that there is a difference between the rich and poor and we need to recognise that a certain tension exists between the two. The rich and the poor can be equally proud of their position. Neither riches nor poverty is guarantee of good character. What all have in common is that the Lord is their Maker. This applies to people of different race and religion. All have the Lord as their Maker and we are all made in the image of God.
3 The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
When the prudent see danger, they have the caution of wisdom, and they shelter from the threat. The simple or naïve see the danger but carry on regardless. There is a penalty to be paid for pursuing the folly of sin. An example of how this can apply to us is when we know we are weak in a certain area and when faced with that set of circumstances we fail to protect ourselves. We can protect ourselves by staying away from bad company, by being careful what we watch on TV. If we are wise we will not put ourselves in a position where we know we are likely to fail.
4 Humility is the fear of the LORD;
its wages are riches and honour and life.
Living in the fear of the Lord is the key theme to Proverbs and indeed all the biblical wisdom literature. When we fear the Lord, we will naturally have a humble attitude. When we see the Lord for who He is then we will see ourselves for who we are. The consequences of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honour, and life. When we place ourselves in God’s hands we will receive material blessing (riches), social blessings (honour) and personal blessings (life). God blesses us materially by giving us our daily bread. In all aspects of our lives when we are living the wise way it is life as God intended it to be. The fullness of that design will only be realised in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
5 In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls,
but those who would preserve their life stay far from them.
The wicked or perverse person is someone who has a distorted view of reality. The choices that he makes appear wise in his own eyes but only because of his perverse or twisted view of reality. The path that he has chosen is bedabbled with difficulties that will further ensnare and entrap him. The wise are those who seek to preserve their lives and they make a conscious effort and decision to stay away from the path of the foolish and wicked.
6 Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
This proverb has caused anxiety to a number of parents who have sought to bring up a child to the best of their ability and then they blame themselves when the child turns away from the faith as they get older. We have to consider the nature of these ancient proverbs. Proverbs were never designed to be an absolute guarantee of what will always happen, in every case, without exception, but rather an observation of the basic laws of life. It is generally true that what we instil into our children will serve them throughout life. We teach them the Gospel and pray that God will bless them, but they make their own choices when they come of age. Many children of Christian parents continue in the faith, but some don’t. While the spiritual teaching is the most important that we impart to our children, we also teach them to be polite, to respect others and various other social skills. We raise our children in the fear of the Lord and leave them in the hands of a merciful God.
7 The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
The Teacher here is not recommending a pattern of rule, he is just observing a harsh reality in life. The rulers are most likely to be rich and they will rule the poor. History has shown that the borrower is the slave to the one who lends. The government in this country has tried to regulate money lending to try and get people away from using ‘payday loans,’ but ‘loan sharks’ still exist charging exorbitant interest rates, and often threatening violence when the money cannot be paid back. Some people get caught in an endless cycle of borrowing to pay off borrowing. Sadly in our country it is an observation that still applies, the borrower is slave to the lender.
8 Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity,
and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.
We reap what we sow. When we sow injustice in our lives, relationships and work, we will reap calamity. Therefore, we need to be careful what we sow. The rod that they wield is the power that they have, that power will be taken from them. God will often use their power to serve His purposes but He will surely bring them into judgement for their ill treatment of people.
9 The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.
The Lord is no person’s debtor. Those who are generous and give to the needy will in turn themselves be blessed. We shouldn’t give in order to be blessed, we should give because it is the right thing to do. Charlatans have over the years used verses like this to persuade gullible people to give generously to them. The money has not been used for charitable purposes but to finance the lavish lifestyle of those who obtain this kind of money by deceit and false promises.
Lord help us to be careful what seeds we sow in life. We sow thoughts, words and actions that can harm ourselves and others. Help us to be thoughtful and reflective on how we make our way through life that we might have the compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking to forgive others and attributing the best motives to others. Help us we pray in Jesus name. Amen.