24 The crown of the wise is their wealth,
but the folly of fools brings folly.
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
28 In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
but without people a prince is ruined.
29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.
31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
32 The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.
35 A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor,
but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully. – Proverbs 14:24-35 ESV
Solomon strongly suggests that there is tangible fruit that accompanies the life of wisdom. But it isn’t necessarily what we would expect. While he states that “The crown of the wise is their wealth” (verse 24), the context would suggest that he is talking about something other than monetary or material abundance. Godly wisdom is not a guarantee of financial success. No, Solomon is once again juxtaposing the way of the wise with the way of the fool. The crown of the wise is their wisdom. It represents their greatest asset and their most significant achievement in life. But for the fool, folly is their crowning achievement. An abundance of godly wisdom is of more value than silver and gold. Solomon has already made this point perfectly clear.
Tune your ears to wisdom,
and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures. – Proverbs 2:2-4 NLT
Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
the one who gains understanding.
For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
and her wages are better than gold.
Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her. – Proverbs 3:13-15 NLT
Those who seek wisdom discover something of far greater value than precious metals or rare jewels. A personal treasury filled with godly wisdom is more profitable than a portfolio filled with high-yield stocks or a savings account filled with money.
And one of the things that makes wisdom so valuable is its ability to have a positive impact on others. Unlike material possessions and monetary treasures, wisdom is almost impossible to hoard. A wise person can’t help but have a beneficial influence on the lives of others. They speak the truth and save lives (verse 25). They exude confidence in God that provides a sense of security to others (verse 26). They show concern for the poor (verse 31) and display an understanding heart (verse 33). And a nation that is blessed with the presence of godly people will stand a far higher chance of achieving greatness (verse 34).
With this last proverbial statement, Solomon provides a timeless truth that applies in every generation and across all cultural bounds. It isn’t a particular candidate, party, or platform that makes a nation great; it is godliness. Politics is never a reliable savior. There is no candidate who will ever be able to make a nation great because he or she lacks the ability to change the human heart. They can set agendas, enact policies, and attempt to direct a nation on to a particular path, but without a change of heart, their efforts will prove futile in the end. It is godliness that will make a nation great. A powerful military and a thriving economy are no match for a nation that destroys itself from within because of moral decay and uncontrolled unrighteousness. And the proof can be seen all throughout history. Rome was great but fell. Its mighty army and vast empire were insufficient to deal with its own moral inadequacies. Nazi Germany was powerful but ultimately collapsed under the staggering weight of its own decadence and godlessness. Nation after nation has experienced an ignominious end due to their rejection of God and a growing love affair with sin.
There is no doubt that a godly leader would be the better choice for a nation, but without a godly people to lead, his efforts would prove futile in the end. The people of Israel provide ample proof of this truth. No, what any nation needs s godly people who desire the will of God more than they do the temptations of sin. They turn to God for salvation and security rather than to the government, the economy, or the military. Their hope and trust are in God. They view sin as something to be avoided, not applauded and entertained by. They practice personal and corporate confession, calling on God to forgive their sins and cleanse their unrighteousness.
The godly are not religious people, they are God-dependent people. He is their ultimate authority and determiner of all things. The presence of the godly in a nation can have a tremendous impact. They can act as a preserving agent. Even in small numbers, they can have a positive and listing influence. A relatively small remnant can make a big difference in the direction of a nation. God sees them and preserves them. God has spared nations due to the presence of a handful of the faithful and godly. But those few must recognize that the hope of their nation lies in the hands of God, not men. They must call out to and depend upon God for renewal and revival, not a party or a particular candidate. They must understand that God is their hope, help, and ultimate healer. He alone can save a nation from destruction. He alone can bring about individual and corporate restoration.
Godliness is simply a recognition of these facts. It is a life lived in complete dependence upon and trust in God. That is what will make any nation great. While a nation that rebels against God will soon end in disgrace.
The way of the wise has far-reaching benefits that can extend to a family, a community, and even a nation. It is a fountain of life (verse 27). It brings peace to the heart and health to the body (verse 30). It honors God (verse 31). It exalts a nation (verse 34). And it incurs the favor of the powerful (verse 34).
The pursuit of wisdom is far from a personal and purely selfish endeavor. It is God-focused and other-oriented. Those who desire and passionately pursue the wisdom of God will find their heart’s treasury overflowing with an abundance of gifts with which to bless others. They will become a conduit of God’s mercy, grace, and love; leaving a lasting impact on all those around them, for generations to come.
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.