The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
Money is power. Those who have it, rule. Those who do not have it, serve. Solomon saw this fact by observing human society (Ec 1:12-18). The proverb is an observation: you are to find the lessons. Solomon did not teach the rich to oppress, nor did he teach the poor to revolt. The Bible condemns both errors. God made the rich and poor, for each other (Pr 22:2). The financial wisdom of this proverb is slightly hid for the diligent to find (Pr 1:6).
Money corrupts. Those with it are often blind to wisdom (Pr 18:11; 28:11), to religion (Pr 30:9; Matt 19:24), and to others (Pr 18:23). Those wanting it are blind to its vanity (Pr 23:5; Eccl 5:10), temptation (Pr 28:20,22), and danger (I Tim 6:9-10). Money itself is no measure of character, because God sends prosperity to fools (Pr 1:32; Ps 49:6-20). It can corrupt both master and servant, but both are accountable to Christ Himself (Eph 6:5-9).
Money is leverage. It can buy you out of trouble (Eccl 7:12; 10:19). It can be loaned to others, which makes them servants. God protected the poor in Israel – interest or terms favoring the creditor could not be used (Pr 14:31; 22:16,22; Ex 22:25; Lev 25:36-37; Deut 15:1-11). Interest was charged only to unbelievers (Deut 23:19-20). Men who did not work were rejected, since hunger is the best teacher (Pr 16:26; 20:4; II Thess 3:10).
God wanted Israel to be a creditor nation – loaning money (Deut 28:12-13,43-44). Lenders are the head, and borrowers the tail. The creditor wags the debtor. If Israel obeyed Him, He promised to make them creditors; if they disobeyed Him, He promised to make them debtors. God has better things in store for His people than being servants through financial debt. You should work and save to avoid debt (Rom 13:8; I Cor 7:21).
Godly ambition avoids foolish or unnecessary debt (I Cor 7:32). Obligations are paid on time (Pr 3:27-28; Rom 12:17). Personal bankruptcy is not an option for Christians (Ps 37:21; I Pet 4:15). Good men pray for moderate income and wealth (Pr 30:7-9). Every believer should have enough for himself and also be able to help others (I Thess 4:11-12; Eph 4:28). True salvation involves paying back everything you owe (Luke 19:8-9).
Minimizing debt is a rule of Bible economics. Both nations and citizens are in debt today; advertising promotes it; easy credit funds it; tax laws encourage it; bankruptcy courts protect it. God considers it folly and servitude (Deut 15:6; Neh 5:1-13). America is a tail! A slave nation! Regardless of what they think! It has built a house of cards on a pyramid of debt. Zero-down mortgages and interest-only loans? God forbid! The head will soon wag the tail, and the house of cards will be swept away in financial panic and ruin.
Only fools love leverage, because it cuts both ways. Solomon warned often against financial risks (Pr 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26-27; 27:13). The poor should never borrow, because interest is higher for them, and they have no assets to pay off debts. The poor stay poor due to their foolish spending and borrowing habits. Credit cards are a curse to all but the very wise – the easier the credit, the higher the charge.
A godly man has perfect credit, because he always pays on time (Luke 16:10-12; I Cor 10:32; I Thes 4:12). He wants borrowing power, if he ever needs it (Pr 22:3). He is a lender and a giver, ready to help those in need, laying hold of eternal life (Pr 28:8; Ps 112:9; I Tim 6:17-19). He knows liquidity is a secret of wise men (Pr 21:20; Eph 4:28).
If you are justly poor, do not be dismayed. It is a good sign, for God’s election is stacked with the poor (Luke 1:53; I Cor 1:26-29; Jas 2:5). You might even be the slave of a rich tyrant on earth, but you are the Lord’s freeman. And if you are a freeman on earth, you are the Lord’s servant (I Cor 7:22). God made both for better things (Pr 22:2). Rejoice!
There is a story of rich and poor that blesses saints. Jesus Christ was rich as God Himself (Phil 2:5-6). He became the poor carpenter’s son of Nazareth and died on a cross (Phil 2:7-8). Why? That God’s elect, who were condemned to wages of eternal torment for their sins, through His poverty would be the rich inheritors of eternal life and heaven itself (II Cor 8:9). How did God reward His deed? He is exalted forever (Phil 2:9-11).