The poor and the deceitful man meet together: the LORD lighteneth both their eyes.
Poor men and liars have something in common – God preserves and directs both of them. Others see them quite different, and they often despise each other, but they are both fully dependent on God’s merciful provision for this life and gracious salvation for the next.
Another proverb is worded very similarly, “The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all” (Pr 22:2). These two adjectives are antonyms – direct opposites. And the meaning is quite clear: God created both kinds of men, rich men and poor men.
Proverbs are dark sayings, so look closely at the words here (Pr 1:6). When poor and deceitful are contrasted, being very different adjectives, there is more than meets the eye. The comparison Solomon made is between a poor honest man and a rich deceitful man.
Is it ever right to add words to the text of the Bible? When there is an ellipsis, yes. What is an ellipsis? It is an intentional removing of words to create mystery, study, beauty, or power. This figure of speech requires adding words back in to get the verse’s full sense.
A good example is Proverbs 18:22, where not any wife will do; the adjective “good” must be added. The words “that is surety” must be added to Proverbs 20:16, the words “is rather to be chosen” to Proverbs 22:1, and the adjective “rich” to Proverbs 19:1. In fact, the proverb before you needs the word “man” supplied after the adjective poor!
Consistent with Solomon’s proverbs, the two men that meet together must be opposites in some way to give this proverb meaning. Since the one man is marked by poverty, and the other man is marked by deceit, the full comparison is a poor honest man and a rich liar.
In Proverbs and the rest of the Bible, riches are often associated with deceit, for they deceive men and are often gotten by deception (Pr 23:1-5; Matt 13:22). An important warning of Proverbs is for the rich to be careful how they treat the poor (Pr 22:16, 22-23).
Here you have a poor honest man and a rich deceitful man. They meet together in life and business, for the world has a considerable number of both. Though different in at least these two respects, they are similar in their dependence on Almighty God to lighten them.
How does God lighten both? Solomon used light for life (Pr 13:9; 16:15; 20:20; 24:20; Ps 13:3), for understanding (Pr 4:18; 6:23), and for blessings (Pr 15:30). God gave life to both (Pr 22:2), causes both to see (Pr 20:12), and sends His sunshine on both (Matt 5:45).
What doctrine or lessons does this obscure proverb have for wisdom? There is more here than just an observation by King Solomon. It is the reader’s duty to explore the inspired short sentence in light of scripture for its lessons of knowledge and understanding.
God is totally sovereign over all men, including the poor and their rich oppressors. Remember, “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Pr 16:4). The deceitful man is not an exception, for Job said of liars, “The deceived and the deceiver are his” (Job 12:16). God sovereignly governs rich and poor.
Though you may disrespect either or both, God’s government of the world uses them both. He is no respecter of persons, as earthly wealth means nothing to Him, yet the fear of God and works of righteousness, even by the poor, mean much (Acts 10:34-35).
God can enlighten a poor man to understand more than a rich man (Pr 28:11; 18:17; Eccl 9:13-16). The knowledge of God cannot be bought at an Ivy League school. A man poor in this world’s things and also poor in spirit is one that will meet God (Is 57:15; 66:1-2).
God can enlighten a poor man with wisdom to make him more successful than a rich man (Pr 19:1; 16:19; 28:6). Do not let the world reverse this order. Wisdom is better than riches and anything the world has to offer (Pr 3:13-17; 8:11; 15:16-17; 16:8,16; 17:1).
The rich rule by economic advantage over the poor, and borrowers must serve lenders, yet God protects the one and punishes the other (Pr 14:31; 17:5; 21:13; 22:7,9,16; 28:8). God surely avenged Naboth’s blood by killing both Ahab and Jezebel (II Kgs 9:21-26).
Circumstances, such as poverty or wealth, do not prove God’s love (Eccl 9:1). The rich of this world are generally reprobates (Ps 17:14; 73:12), and God has chosen a greater portion of His children to adopt from among the poor (I Cor 1:26-29; Jas 2:5).
God’s grace can reach the poorest – the beggar Lazarus; God can also justly reject the richest – the rich man living in luxury (Luke 16:19-23). It is sovereign grace, the mercy of an absolute Ruler, which makes such eternal differences among men (Rom 9:21-24).
God can lighten a rich extortioner like Zacchaeus to quit his career and give to the poor (Luke 19:1-10), call a tax collector like Matthew, or Levi, to be an apostle (Matt 9:9), or enlighten a proud rich man by death that earthly things do not matter (Luke 12:15-21).
The poor have no more advantage for God’s grace than do the rich, and vice versa. They both will reject the gospel of Jesus Christ unless and until God saves them and lightens their eyes to see and believe (John 3:3; 6:44; 8:45; 10:26; Eph 2:1-3; Titus 3:5).
Let your consideration of the rich and poor settle on Jesus Christ and those that believe in Him. Paul wrote, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Cor 8:9). Many of God’s elect are poor here, but they shall be infinitely rich forever.