Proverbs 19:4 -- Wealth makes many friends... - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Biblical Wisdom
January 2, 2019

Proverbs 19:4 -- Wealth makes many friends, but the poor is separated from his friend

by Dr. Bill Edgar, former chair of the Geneva College Board of Trustees, former Geneva College President and longtime pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPNCA)

Some proverbs expose the relative value of things, for example, “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool (Proverbs 19:1).” Some directly exhort, as in, “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them (Proverbs 24:1).”

Yet other proverbs just report how things are, with the implicit message: “Don’t be surprised.” So don’t be surprised that people love any man -- or pretend to -- if only he be rich. College Presidents will befriend and visit him in his old age. Relatives will always remember his birthday. Politicians love the rich. So do inventors who are looking for “angels” to invest in their new enterprises.

On the other hand, men’s love of one another is so weak that if someone falls into poverty, whether through business failure or illness, even old friends find reasons not to contact him. Who wants to hear tales of woe? Who wants to see needs he should help alleviate? Not many!

Even in the apostolic church, wealth got attention. James, the brother of the Lord delivered this rebuke (James 2:1-4):

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

And the Apostle Paul criticized the rich in the church at Corinth for eating feasts at the Lord’s Supper, shaming the poor for their humble food (I Corinthians 11:22).

Solomon, however, in this proverb is neither evaluating nor exhorting, he is just reporting what believers need to know. If we do not know how our sinful and often heartless world behaves towards wealth and poverty, how can we be wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16)? This proverb should not make us cynical, but it should leave us ready and unsurprised when we encounter its truth. Rich people have lots of friends. The poor often lose the friends they have. That’s how it is. In the church of Jesus Christ, it should be different, where the rich remember that Jesus became poor for their sakes, and the poor know that they have a rich inheritance in Christ, so we all treat one another with friendship and love.

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Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash