In studying what Proverbs teaches about wealth it is important to remember what was said about proverbs in the first lesson: these are general statements that are generally true. They are not absolute in ever case. Having said that, Proverbs does have a lot to say about wealth. There are at least 58 individual passages in the book that deal with wealth.
First we should note that wealth is a blessing from God for righteousness.
Prov. 13:22 "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous."
Prov. 22:4 "The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life."
Obviously, this isn't true in every instance. Paul died destitute in prison. Generally speaking, though, if a man is righteous and lives in terms of being a good steward of the blessings God has granted him, he will have something to pass on to his children and grandchildren. Because he is righteous he is not a drunkard or glutton. He doesn't waste his income on loose women. Instead he takes care of what God has bestowed upon him and builds wealth. We may never obtain Bill Gates' level, but we can be comfortably well-to-do. In general.
A second point about wealth is that if it was obtained through wickedness, it is not a blessing.
Prov. 10:2 "Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death."
Prov. 21:6 "The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death."
Prov. 22:16 "Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty."
Wealth obtained in this way becomes a burden dragging us down rather than a blessing.
Just like Jesus and Paul, Solomon notes several dangers of wealth. The first is that wealth can lead to a false sense of security.
Prov. 18:10-11 "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination."
The rich man trusts in his wealth to protect him. His wealth is his strong city, rather than the name of the Lord. All to often we can come to rely on our wealth protect us rather than relying on God. As the next verse shows, it is our righteousness before Him that will deliver us, not our wealth.
Prov. 11:4 "Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death."
Wealth can also lead to an inflated ego:
Prov. 28:11 "A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has understanding will find him out."
Prov. 11:7 "When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too."
The rich man thinks he is wise just because he is rich. He thinks his wealth makes him better than others. However, he dies like everyone else. His inflated ego does him no good then.
Sometimes being wealthy can put you in physical danger:
Prov. 13:8 "The ransom of a man's life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat."
Have you ever noticed that really, truly wealthy people rarely go anywhere without guards? They are in constant danger from everything from annoying time-wasters to kidnappers demanding a ransom. Solomon notes that the poor man hears no threat. The wealthy is at risk because he is wealthy.
A final danger of wealth is that of false friends.
Prov. 19:4 "Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend."
Prov. 19:6-7 "Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts. All a poor man's brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them."
Everyone loves the man who gives gifts, but do they really love him or the gifts he gives? The new friends that wealth brings are often phony. We can leave the discussion of the dangers of wealth with these two passages:
Prov. 23:4-5 "Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven."
Prov. 30:7-9 "Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God."
Despite all the warnings, Solomon also gives some practical advice on how to obtain wealth.
Prov. 13:11 "Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it."
I once heard that about two thirds of all lottery winners are bankrupt within three years of winning the jackpot. The wealth that lasts is the wealth built up slowly, over years, while one learns from his mistakes and learns how to hold on to it. Building wealth takes time. It also takes work.
Prov. 12:11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
Prov. 12:24 The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
Prov. 12:27 Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
Prov. 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
Prov. 14:23 In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.
If you are busy doing what you are supposed to be doing you will always have enough to eat, but if you are chasing get-rich-quick schemes, you'll get into trouble. It is the diligent who will rule, who will obtain wealth, who will be richly supplied. The profit is in the work, talk is cheap.
If you want to become wealthy, listen to and learn from those who have already done it.
Prov. 13:18 "Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored."
Prov. 24:3-4 "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches."
It is by wisdom and knowledge that wealth is built. Ignoring instruction leads to poverty.
Also, work must be done in its proper order if the best results are to be achieved.
Prov. 24:27 Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.
If you spend all spring building your house, you will find yourself in the middle of summer with nothing planted in the fields. You just missed an entire year's harvest because you worked out of order. This surely can be applied to almost any endeavor. Take a moment to think about it and do the jobs in the appropriate order to maximize results.
One thing Solomon said about building wealth was especially interesting. If you want to build wealth, be generous.
Prov. 14:21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
Prov. 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
Prov. 28:8 Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
Prov. 28:22 A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
Blessed are the generous. Being generous is like making a loan to God. You know that will be repaid. The purpose of wealth is to be generous, and, in general, the stingy never obtain wealth.
The final bit of practical advice Solomon gives regarding wealth building is to never be a pledge for others. In other words, never cosign anything. [Now, don't go off on a tangent or I won't sign your check!]
Prov. 22:26-27 "Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?"
The reason they need a cosigner is because they can't pay. Eventually, you are forced to take over the debt and then the repo man is coming after your stuff. At least four times Solomon warns against this practice.
Finally, after giving practical advice for obtaining wealth, Solomon makes sure to tell us that there are more important things than wealth.
Prov. 15:16-17 "Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it."
Prov. 20:15 "There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel."
Prov. 22:1-2 "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the Maker of them all."
Prov. 28:6 "Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways."
Fear of the Lord, love, knowledge, a good name, and integrity are all more important than wealth. Those are the issues we should be focusing on, and if the Lord blesses us in the meantime, great.
Matt. 6:20-21 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."