This chapter gets personal, quickly. It features topics that stride up to you and stand too close for comfort. We will look at three topics stated as warnings and one presented as an endeavor.
- Warning against greed: verses 4-5
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. Proverbs 23:4-5
The word for “toil” in verse four can also be translated “over-work.” It has the idea of exhausting oneself in effort. Solomon, a remarkably wealthy king, advises against working too hard or too many hours for the sake of piling up money or gaining wealth. That’s a slap to the forehead. Even though he didn’t know it then, he is warning against the American dream of “work hard to get more.”
Verse five tells us why we should not toil for money or riches: it all goes away eventually. Yep, there you have it in clear and vivid pictures. You long for it, you see it, it is within your reach, then it sprouts wings, and flies away. Unlike quail which fly a few feet, then land, and offer you a chance to chase them again. Wealth flies away fast, up high, and never returns. This is a stern truth to save us from hardship. Let’s add a few more verses to bolster this point.
“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 5:10
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:10
Notice that Paul does not say that money is the root of all kinds of evils. He says that the “love of money” is.
Not much left to say after reading those verses; on with the other two warnings.
- Warning against envying the success of others: verse 17
We are instructed to not envy the ungodly, their success, riches, position, or possessions. Why? See the first warning. And, envy is a trait of the selfish (aka fools).
- Warning about over-indulgence: verses 29-35
Big drinkers can become big complainers who harm themselves, and others, in big ways. Be wise. Be careful.
A endeavor worth pursuing:
- What to chase after: verse 23
If we are to pursue something, we are to work toward wisdom and truth. The greatest treasure is one that lasts, and grows, and helps others as well. That treasure is the wisdom of God in Christ.