Better Than Gold

12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
    and I find knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
    and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have counsel and sound wisdom;
    I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign,
    and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me princes rule,
    and nobles, all who govern justly.
17 I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me diligently find me.
18 Riches and honor are with me,
    enduring wealth and righteousness.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,
    and my yield than choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
    in the paths of justice,
21 granting an inheritance to those who love me,
    and filling their treasuries. – Proverbs 8:12-21 ESV

Wisdom makes some fairly lofty claims and promises. At times, it can come across as self-promoting and rather narcissistic.

“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment…” vs 12 (NLT)

“I know where to discover knowledge and discernment…” – vs 12 (NLT)

Common sense and success belong to me…” – vs 14 (NLT)

Insight and strength are mine…” – vs 14 (NLT)

“Because of me, kings reign, and rulers make just decrees…” – vs 15 (NLT)

Rulers lead with my help, and nobles make righteous judgments…” – vs 16 (NLT)

I have riches and honor, as well as enduring wealth and justice…” – vs 18 (NLT)

My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold…” – vs 19 (NLT)

“…my wages [are] better than sterling silver! – vs 19 (NLT)

I walk in righteousness, in paths of justice“…” – vs 20 (NLT)

“Those who love me inherit wealth. I will fill their treasuries.” – vs 21 (NLT)

Those are some confident assertions that could easily come across as boastful and pretentious. It wouldn’t be too difficult to view Wisdom as egotistical and consumed with her own self-importance. But then we have to stop and realize that Wisdom is not an actual person but a gift from God. It is one of the divine attributes He graciously gives to all those who reverence Him and long to know Him.

Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. – Proverbs 9:10 NLT

Wisdom isn’t bragging; it’s simply stating the indisputable facts concerning its life-enhancing benefits to mankind. The boastful-sounding nature of its assertions is meant to point out the absurdity of anyone ever turning their back on this incredible resource from God. And yet, the sad reality is that countless men and women have spurned the gift of wisdom because they have refused to acknowledge the One from whom it comes.

Agur, the son of Jakeh, was gracious enough to confess what happened when he decided to live his life without a proper reverence for God and the wisdom that He alone can give.

I am weary, O God;
    I am weary and worn out, O God.
I am too stupid to be human,
    and I lack common sense.
I have not mastered human wisdom,
    nor do I know the Holy One.– Proverbs 30:1-3 ESV

When you consider the laundry list of benefits that Wisdom claims to offer, it makes Agur’s decision all that more shocking. He could have had access to good judgment, knowledge, discernment, and common sense. And to top it all off, he could have enjoyed unprecedented success in life. Consider the promise that Wisdom offers.

“I have riches and honor,
    as well as enduring wealth and justice.” – vs 18 (NLT)

Wow, what a verse! This is what I like to call a coffee mug passage. It’s one of those kinds of verses we like to read, and love to claim as a promise from God. Here we have wisdom making a rather mind-blowing offer of wealth and riches, honor and justice. Who wouldn’t want to sign up for that offer? It’s like the American dream all wrapped up in one verse and found smack dab in the middle of Scripture.

If I were a TV evangelist, this would be my signature verse. But is the promise of health, wealth, and prosperity what this verse is all about? Upon closer examination, we discover that the answer is a simple, yet resounding, “NO!”

Yes, this passage does seem to say that those who find the wisdom of God will also find riches and honor, not to mention enduring wealth and justice. But here’s the problem. We tend to interpret this verse based on our working definitions of riches, honor, and enduring wealth. And as far as justice goes, we’ll gladly take it, as long as it flows in our direction. But if we’re being honest, we would much rather have the other three.

If I read this passage through my worldly lens of materialism and monetary blessings, I hear it offering me everything from power and possessions to recognition and financial rewards. But we have to take all this into context. A few verses earlier in the chapter, wisdom warned, “Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it” (Proverbs 8:10-11 NLT).

What Wisdom offers is more valuable than any precious metal or rare jewel. It’s better than a bigger, more expensive home or a burgeoning stock portfolio. Just a few verses later, Wisdom states, “My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold, my wages better than sterling silver!” (Proverbs 8:19 NLT).

So, the riches, honor, and enduring wealth Wisdom offers must have to do with something other than money or financial rewards. When Wisdom states, “Those who love me inherit wealth. I will fill their treasuries” (Proverbs 8:21 NLT), it must not be talking about cash and coins. No, the enduring wealth that comes with the wisdom of God is something of an eternal nature and it has true lasting value.

When we learn to fear God and avail ourselves of His wisdom, the benefits we receive are more than monetary in nature. A little later in the same chapter, wisdom clarifies and qualifies the benefits it offers.

“for all who follow my ways are joyful…” – Proverbs 8:32b NLT

“Joyful are those who listen to me, watching daily for me at my gates, waiting for me outside my home!” – Proverbs 8:34 NLT

The real value of a life lived in the fear of God and in total dependence upon the wisdom of God is clear.

“For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 8:35 NLT

That’s something you can bank on – for eternity – no matter what happens to the economy. It is lasting and life-changing. It is a rock-solid investment opportunity that will pay dividends in this life and the one to come. When Wisdom states, “Those who love me inherit wealth,” it is more than a promise of a monetary windfall; it is the guarantee of a God-blessed life. And God knows that our needs cannot be met by material wealth alone.

Solomon himself would later record his failed attempts to seek satisfaction and significance from worldly treasures and pleasures.

I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. – Ecclesiastes 2:3-11 NLT

He had it all but in the end, he had nothing. He had health, wealth, and prosperity but he lacked joy and a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Yet, the apostle Paul, who lived in relative poverty when compared to Solomon, was able to tell the believers in Philippi, “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 ESV). And he told the Corinthian believers the same thing.

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. – 2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV

Wisdom doesn’t guarantee us our best life now; at least not in monetary terms. But it does promise us abundant life, just as Jesus did.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10 ESV

Solomon had been blessed with great wisdom, but he failed to keep his eye on the true prize: His relationship with God. Instead, he sought after the things of this world, in a sad attempt to find satisfaction and meaning for his life in the gifts rather than the Giver. Speaking on behalf of God, Wisdom states, “I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me” (Proverbs 8:17 NLT). Solomon stopped seeking God and put all his time and energy into pursuing the things of this world; only to discover too late that he had leaned his ladder against the wrong wall.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.