Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
Personal integrity is better than riches. The man who walks uprightly, though he is poor, is more of a success in the eyes of God and good men than a perverse fool, though he is rich. The wisdom of God and Solomon promotes holy living far over financial success.
There is an ellipsis here – words left out by design to shorten the sentence and make it more powerful. You know there is an ellipsis by the incomplete antithesis, for there is no contrasting term for “poor,” and the good Lord gave you the full version in Pr 28:6. It is not just a poor honest man compared to a perverse fool, but rather to a rich perverse fool.
Here is one of Solomon’s many priorities – teaching wisdom by comparison. Young men should strive for righteous lives more than advancement in their profession or financial success. Honest dealings are more valuable than economic progress. Let them choose holy living over professional ambitions. Character and conduct exceed monetary gain.
There are some related comparisons found in the book of Proverbs. Little money with the fear of the Lord is better than riches with trouble (Pr 15:16); a little money with righteousness is better than great revenues without right (Pr 16:8); a poor honest man is better than a rich liar (Pr 19:22). These comparisons should set the priorities in your life.
Young man, ignore television advertisements, a fast track boss, or a wealthy neighbor. Making money and getting ahead are less important than walking uprightly in all you do. The man who does not fear the Lord and says profane things with his mouth is a loser, regardless of how much money he makes or the size of his house. He is going down.
You will face choices, maybe today, where you must choose between integrity before God and “getting ahead.” Will you falsify a quote or estimate to make a big sale? Will you be silent when your competitor is falsely accused? Will you pass a promotion that would require you to work for a dishonest boss? Will you tell the whole truth in the application for a job you really want? Will you falsify financial statements to a bank?
You have been warned. If you put professional or financial success ahead of holy living, you lose, both now and later. The Lord sees your heart and every action, and He will treat you strictly now and at His judgment seat. But He can also give joy now that no money can buy (Ps 4:7), and He will give eternal life to those who live righteously (Matt 7:21).
Your goals should be gracious and honest speech, impeccable business dealings, being a loving spouse, training your children well, and doing good to all men. You must avoid hypocrisy, evil thoughts, and even the appearance of evil. And you should do all this with God first in your motives and goals. Such a man is better than a compromising rich man.
A wise man will consider that God measures His moral performance, rather than worry about this foolish world that measures men by financial gain. The priority in ambition and goals of this proverb is from God Jehovah and written agreeably by Solomon. Believe it. Choosing these priorities when young can make you great before God.
Nabal was a very great man with much riches and a beautiful wife, but he was a fool and a son of Belial (I Sam 25:2-3,17,25). David was the most wanted man in Israel and running for his life, living in the woods and fields with the sheep. Which man would you want to be? Which man was better? What happened to these men? Give God the glory!
God turned Nabal into stone for ten days of cold fear, killed him, and gave his wife to David. God protected David, put him on the throne, and made him very great in the end. One sold his soul to the devil, and the other walked with God. One likely went straight to hell at death, and the other died the death of the righteous. The difference in time and eternity between these two men is immeasurable. Consider it. What are your priorities?
Young man, the way of the wicked seduces many (Pr 12:26). The lifestyles of the rich and famous are hard to ignore. It is the prosperity of fools (Pr 1:32); you should reject it, for it does not tell their horrible future (Ps 73:16-20). What did Solomon say, “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch” (Pr 11:28).
If you give up the things of this evil world for Jesus Christ, He promises to reward you with a hundredfold now and with eternal life in the world to come (Mark 10:29-31). Though this sounds hard to believe, it is true. How can you lose with such an incredible and certain offer from the King of kings? Earn it today by choosing godliness over riches.