The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.
Riches and success can be blinding. They cause pride leading a man to think foolishly. A poor man with wisdom can see the rich man’s errors and prove he is wrong. It is better to be poor with wisdom than rich without it. Buy wisdom today, and never sell it (Pr 23:23).
Results prove very little, for many contrary factors often contribute to the end result. A man with understanding, no matter how poor, can dissect and condemn a rich fool. Wisdom is the principle thing for you to get, and it includes sober skepticism of all ideas, regardless of the accomplishments, wealth, or popularity of the source of those ideas.
Riches and success cause some men to think they are great or invincible, though God made them as certainly as He made their poor neighbors (Pr 18:11; 10:15). They must put on their pants the same way, and they generally die about the same age (Pr 22:2).
The rich man in this proverb is a fool – he thinks he is wise by the false value he puts on wealth. He cannot hear the instruction or warnings of wisdom, for he is deaf by a bloated ego from success (Pr 26:16). This makes him worse than a fool (Pr 26:12). He arrogantly assumes he is righteous by his positive results and assumed financial invincibility.
The poor man in this proverb is a wise man – he has understanding. He can look at a rich fool and easily see the vanity of his life. The rich man’s wealth, success, or position does not deceive or distract him. He is able to clearly analyze his actions and identify his errors and sins (Pr 18:17). Prudence and wisdom are not affected by economic status.
Rich men are generally treated reverently, which deceives them into thinking too highly of themselves (Pr 14:20; 19:4). Rich men have many business or financial victories, so they arrogantly conclude they are winners (Pr 18:11). But the poor man, without such blinding influences, is able to discern the flaws and transgressions of the rich man’s life.
Results are deceiving. Moses got water by striking a rock, but God told him to speak to it (Num 20:7-13). You will meet children who seem civilized enough and were never spanked, but their parents are fools (Pr 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15). Men may get rich with speculative ventures built on debt, but they are wrong (Pr 13:23; 20:21; 22:7).
Results are deceiving. Consider them well. What appear to be successes may be God merely using you (Is 10:5-15), the curse of prosperity of fools (Pr 1:32), incredibly temporary (Ps 36:1-2; 50:21), just your limited view of a matter (John 19:15-16), wishful thinking, a placebo effect, or the initial payment of “profits” in a Ponzi scheme! Beware!
Gain is not godliness (I Tim 6:3-5). Godliness with contentment is great gain (I Tim 6:6). This profound wisdom is an essential and valuable rule for life. A poor man with contentment can easily have greater joy and peace than a rich man without it. Christians should be the most content, for they have God as their portion (Heb 13:5-6; Ps 73:25-26).
Do not let riches blind or distort your judgment. Do not envy the wicked for apparent prosperity (Ps 37:1-3; 73:1-24). The truly wise man is able to see past appearances and judge righteous judgment (John 7:24). Never let apparent success in any area ever distract you from “thus saith the Lord,” for that alone is wisdom. The rich shall soon be laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; they cannot redeem anyone from death (Ps 49:6-14).
God chose to save more poor of earth to eternal life than He did of the rich (Matt 19:23-26; I Cor 1:26-29; Jas 2:5). Poor believers should rejoice in this wonderful news (Jas 1:9). At the moment of death, the rich fool will pass eternally into the bleakest poverty and greatest torment imaginable, but the poor man with faith will pass into unspeakable wealth and pleasure forever. Have you believed on Jesus Christ as your portion in life?