The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.
Riches ruin most men. Their pride grows with their money. They see no need for God or most men. They believe they are safe from trouble; they assume their success proves they are smart. They are blinded to the fact God made them rich, they cannot avoid death He will soon send, and they will give their most detailed accounting to Him with hell to pay.
Rich men trust their money for safety. It is their strong city. They think they can buy their way out of trouble. It is the high wall around their city formed by their conceit. But their arrogance deceives them. They cannot postpone death; they cannot take a cent with them; and the holy and terrible Judge they will soon meet cannot be bribed by any payment.
The rich think themselves secure from all enemies, as if in a strong city; they imagine the city has a high wall to repulse even aggressive attackers. But both city and wall are the deceit of conceit. Cancer has no regard for money, nor does Father Time. Trouble will breach the wall; death will storm the city; and the final judgment will sweep it all to hell.
You will not fully appreciate this proverb, without reading the one before it. There you find, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Pr 18:10). What a difference between the righteous and the rich! The righteous find safety in the LORD Jehovah, while the rich look to their assets and income for help.
Can the rich buy themselves safety? They can hire a crop duster to spray their property for mosquitoes. They can post bond for a prodigal son. They can buy politicians for laws to subsidize their businesses. They can pay the best doctors for a nearly perfect facelift. They might even be able to pay the ransom to get a young child back from kidnappers.
So the rich man lives with the arrogant confidence of a conqueror. He eats at the best restaurants, flies first class, and has a chauffeur. He does not worry about unemployment, braces for the children, his failing parents, paying the mortgage off, getting the kids through college, or anything else. He thinks he has it made – until he dies and wakes up naked in the blinding light of the Judge of all flesh, Who has no regard for rich men!
David wrote about these men and their insane thinking (Ps 49:6-14). They cannot buy off Death for any in their family, no matter how beloved. They presume Death will not strike them like others. They see great estates transferred or destroyed when rich men die, but they ignore the warnings and continue in arrogance. They name buildings and parks after themselves to promote their honor. They die like hyenas and rot in the grave, but their descendants or beneficiaries approve their lifestyle and the same arrogance. Fools!
Are you enticed by the lifestyles of the rich and famous? Hollywood and the devils behind it want to sell you that damning picture of empty pleasure. Do gated communities with massive mansions and manicured lawns cause you to envy the wicked? Do you resent your job or your modest home or even your life? Be wise and choose contentment, lest you also fall for their dysfunctional lives, divorces, drugs, drunkenness, and so forth.
Jesus described a haughty rich man, who had more abundance than he could store. He conceitedly boasted he would build bigger barns to hold it all, and he would then begin his luxurious retirement in total pleasure for many years. But the Lord said to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20). His high wall fell down! His strong city was taken!
The rich are rich by God’s choice (I Chr 29:12; Ps 75:6-7; I Cor 4:7). They ought to be the most humble, for they should know and admit more quickly than others that it was all of God’s sovereign mercy and favor that they have anything. There is no such thing as a self-made man, and anything by inheritance is merely a function of birth. Anything a man has or is able to do is a gift from God, and He should give God all the glory and praise.
There is a terror they dread, and they cannot defer or postpone its visit to their bedroom. It will cause fear in every direction. It will root out and destroy all their confidence. It is the king of terrors – death itself (Job 18:11-14). What lies ahead for the foolish rich man, “He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world” (Job 18:18)?
No wonder Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved (Matt 19:24). He had just seen a fine young man turn away from following Him due to his money (Matt 19:21-22). Never desire something so dangerous! You cannot serve two masters, so choose God today and hate riches (Matt 6:24). Be thankful for what you have, and give any extra away to those in need (I Tim 6:17-19).
Reader, reject any confidence in riches that come your way (Ps 62:10; I Tim 6:17). Do not seek them, as they have damned many souls before you (I Tim 6:7-10). Remember that infinite wisdom says godliness with contentment is great gain (I Tim 6:6). Choose wise Agur’s prayer as your own, and be content with moderate means (Pr 30:8). Build instead your confidence in God by faith in Him and good works (Pr 18:10; I Tim 6:19).