Proverbs 19: Wealth & Friends

Read the Bible in 2011Week 34: Thursday

Wealth adds many friends,
But a poor man is separated from his friend.

Proverbs 19:4

Thursday’s Bible reading of Proverbs 19 is in the third section of Proverbs: “The first book of Solomon.”1

Proverbs has a great deal to say about work and money, and it also speaks on friendship. Chapter 19 contains some proverbs about the way money (and the lack of it) can impact relationships. Charles Bridges in his classic commentary on Proverbs from 18402, had this to say about Proverbs 19:4:

“We have had the substance of this proverb before. [14:20] It is nominally true, that wealth maketh many friends. But generally they are little worth. ‘Riches have them’—says Bishop Hall—‘not the man.’ The principle is selfishness—no earnest for true and permanent friendship. Few among them will be found “loving us at all times, brethren born for adversity.” [17:17] …But what, if the Lord’s poor be separated from his selfish neighbor? [19:7] There is one that “knoweth his soul in adversity,” [Ps. 31:7] and that hath pledged his word—“I will never leave thee, not forsake thee.” [Heb. 13:5] Yes! this is the joy, the stay of his confidence“I am poor and needy; but the Lord thinketh on me.” [Ps. 40:17] Poverty may separate him from his neighbor. But who or what shall separate him from his God? [Rom. 8:38–39]…”3

Proverbs 19 also states:

“Many will seek the favor of a generous man,
And every man is a friend to him who gives gifts.
All the brothers of a poor man hate him;
How much more do his friends abandon him!
He pursues them with words, but they are gone.”
Proverbs 19:6–7

Bridges comments on these two verses:

“The fourth verse is here further opened with too accurate a description of man’s native selfishness. ‘A prince never wants suitors for his favor.’ [Bishop Patrick] Every one loves, or professes to love, those from whom they expect a benefit; “having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage;” [Jude 16] valuing them for their possessions, not for their virtues. Yet if “riches make to themselves wings, and flee away,” [23:5] will not they take their flight with them? If the same person, now fawned on for his gifts, were by Providence brought to poverty, the same friends would hate or neglect him. ‘Which of them’—asks Bishop Hall—‘would dare acknowledge him, when he is going to prison?’ The friends of the poor go from him, and if he pursueth them with words, yet they are deaf to his entreaties for help and sympathy….

“But how ought we to entreat the favor of our Prince! What gifts does he give to his beloved people! And shall not they exhibit his rule of mercy to their poorer brethren, [Gal. 4:10. Hebrews 4:10] specially to his poor—the princes and heirs of his kingdom? [Ps. 43: 7–8. James 2:5] As a spiritual writer pleads [Swinnock in Christian’s Man Calling]—‘Lord! in my greatest plenty, help me to mind and feel others poverty; and in my most prosperous condition keep me from forgetting the afflictions of thy Joseph.’4

I really like Swinnock’s prayer; it’s especially important in today’s economy.

The impact of wealth on relationships is not only a problem for the church today, but James’ words indicate there has always been a struggle not to evaluate people the way the world does.

“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

“Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
James 2:1–9

In America the great markers of worth are prosperity and level of education. Churches and Christians too often pick up on these values and use them as an indication of spiritual depth and maturity. Bridges quotes Bishop Hall as saying, “Riches have them, not the man.” Neither prosperity or education should ‘have’ us, but genuine love for each other and a wise understanding of the true riches of Christ.

UPDATE: I’ve added the first footnote reference that I had inadvertently omitted, and I’ve also changed the section order from the second to the third. My apologies for the inaccuracies.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1A. F. Walls, “Proverbs,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 550.
2Charles Bridges, Wikipedia.
3, 4Charles Bridges, An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs, pp. 261, 262.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

One thought on “Proverbs 19: Wealth & Friends

  1. Like the concept of “submission” in your previous post, there are few things that generate more heat in the church than the concept of “prosperity” or wealth. Views run the gamut from what has been termed the “prosperity gospel” to a “vow of poverty.” Obviously, the pitfalls of having wealth are legion, as the spirit of mammon seeks to enslave us so that we would supplant God’s rightful place in the center of our hearts with “the love of money.” When we use it as a measuring stick to determine another’s worth, clearly we have violated Scriptural truth.

    It seems like in the church we have two opposite camps: those who appear to have “greed” in their hearts for wealth (with the trappings of it) and those who are actually afraid of money. Neither position can be right. Wealth (or money) is only a tool. For those who have it (or are called to have it), the temptation for self-indulgence and the abuse of power must be great. And yet, it is difficult to help others in need without substance to share. Having grown up with a rather schizophrenic view of money (work hard to prosper, but don’t prosper “too much”), separating the love of God from the love of mammon has been a difficult one.

    It would seem, from Old Testament example, that God does not have an inherent problem with wealth, per se. Clearly, there are multiple examples (Job, Abraham, David, Solomon, Joseph, etc.) where God manifested His blessings with wealth. Likely, the same can happen today. The question then becomes, what is done with it? If God grants someone wealth, I believe the purpose is to sow into the spread of the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. It is not possible to determine from someone’s external trappings of wealth whether or not that has been done. We knew someone years ago who said, “When you are an irrigation ditch for the Lord, even the evaporation amounts to a fair bit.” He gave away far more than he kept, but still had the external “show” of wealth.

    It is possible to have wealth, without wealth having you. Difficult, but possible.

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