Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
Wisdom is the surest way to wealth and reputation for nations and persons. Folly, the opposite of wisdom, generally leads to poverty and trouble, as many proverbs and human experience prove. But there is even more, for true wisdom also leads to the eternal wealth of riches in glory and the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Glory!
At first pass, this proverb seems simple. But its difficulty is in dividing the blessings rightly (II Tim 2:15). Are the riches natural or spiritual? To avoid doctrinal shame, we must divide it with great care and true submission to the Holy Spirit and Scripture.
Consider the context from three vantage points. First, the whole book of Proverbs is primarily spiritual wisdom for natural life here. This is apparent throughout. Second, the eighth chapter is a personification of wisdom and its benefits (Pr 8:1-9,32-34). Third, the surrounding context is wisdom's blessings on nations and governments (Pr 8:10-21).
The preceding verse encourages us to seek wisdom early - in life, in each day, in each situation - and we will be blessed. The following verse indicates that the most substantial riches under consideration are of greater value than financial riches. Wisdom will bring success in this life and the world to come, for it is the true fear of God (Pr 8:12-14).
Wisdom does bring natural success to the nations and men seeking her. The success she brings is of an enduring sort based on righteousness. When Israel was wise, they were rich, very rich (Deut 28:1-14; I Kgs 10:27). When Israel sinned foolishly, they were reduced to poverty, great poverty (Deut 28:15-68; I Kgs 11:9-13). And this is one of the basic lessons of this book of wisdom (Pr 10:4,22; 11:24; 12:24; 19:15; 20:13; 21:17).
Adam Smith only saw surface aspects of success in "The Wealth of Nations." For God had declared 3000 years earlier, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance" (Ps 33:12). And He also wrote, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Ps 9:17). Wise political theory would include initial and thorough understanding of the God of nations!
America was great, and still has greatness, for one simple reason - God's blessing. A large part of America, now much smaller, feared Him and sought Bible wisdom. "Witty inventions" (Pr 8:12), "strength" (Pr 8:14), "justice" (Pr 8:15), "judges" (Pr 8:16), "judgment" (Pr 8:20), "substance" (Pr 8:21), and "treasures" (Pr 8:21) are all blessings of wisdom on this great country. And our proverb adds riches, honour, durable riches, and righteousness!
There are exceptions. Wicked men may get rich, as Nebuchadnezzar and Saddam Hussein; but these riches are not durable or righteous. They are God's judgment - the prosperity of fools (Pr 1:32; Ps 17:14). Wise men are sometimes made poor, like Job and Jesus, for God is providentially doing other things in their lives (Job 1:1-12; Phil 2:5-8). Therefore, riches are not an absolute proof of wisdom, nor does wisdom always lead to riches. But the general rule is true - wisdom brings wealth and honor.
This general rule for nations and men is the primary thrust of the book, the chapter, and our proverb. Yet, spiritual riches of a durable nature extend beyond this life. They are superior to wealth, and they ought to be sought diligently (Matt 6:19-21,33; 13:44-46). True wisdom leads God's children to a wonderful life now and eternal life to come (Ps 73:23-24; Mark 10:29-31). Whether rich or poor financially, glory shall soon be revealed of such splendor that nothing here can be compared to it (Rom 8:18; II Cor 4:17-18).