“Better to have little, with godliness, than to be rich and dishonest.” – Proverbs 16:8 NLT
There are simply some things that are better than others. But who gets to choose? According to Solomon, God determines the value of one thing over another. He establishes the relative worth of one action as opposed to another. As is so often the case in the Book of Proverbs, he uses comparison to get his point across. He contrasts poverty and wealth and deems it better to have little than much. But he inserts a qualifier. Because by themselves, these two conditions are amoral. They are neither wrong or right, just or unjust. The qualifier has to do with the spiritual condition of the individual in each case. It is better to have little AND be godly than to be rich and dishonest. The presence of godliness in the life of the person with less automatically improves the condition of his life. Wealth, while it appears to improve life, does nothing for the person who achieved his income through dishonest means – without doing the just and right thing.
Solomon goes on to say that it is actually better to get wisdom than gold, and good judgment than silver (Proverbs 16:16). As has been made perfectly clear through the Book of Proverbs, these things are only available from God and require determination and dedication to find. We must search for them like we would hidden treasure. They must be a priority and a passion in our lives. Their value is far beyond that of riches of any kind. To put it simply: They’re just better. And as if to drive home his original point even more, Solomon tells us it is “better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud” (Proverbs 16:19 NLT). Now while the qualifier is less clear, its comparison of these two types of lifestyle go beyond mere poverty and wealth. It has much more to do with the condition of their hearts. One is humble. The other is proud. Our friendships should be based more on the condition of the heart than quality of lifestyle. We should be more concerned about the spiritual state of the ones with whom we associate than their financial health.
Solomon gives us two more comparisons. “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city” (Proverbs 16:32 NLT). Once again, the emphasis is on character, specifically patience and self-control. While God is not mentioned in these verses, it is clearly He who establishes the basis of these comparative clauses. God values patience over power, self-control over what appears to be success. Man tends to judge by externals, while God looks at the heart. He examines the motives. We see that clearly in verse 2: “People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.” God values godliness, justice, wisdom, good judgment, humility, patience and self-control, because each of these things are given by Him. They are not man-made or self-manufactured. They are evidence of a life lived in dependence upon God. And therefore, they are better. The world puts little to no value on any of them. The world looks to results. It basis value on externals and judges worth based on effectiveness. But God judges by different criteria, and at the end of the day, He alone determines what is better and best.
Father, I want what is better. Give me a desire for heart change. Produce in me a desire for character. Let my life be marked by godliness, patience, humility, patience, and self-control. Produce in me what I cannot produce on my own. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men