A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin.” (Proverbs 10:15, ESV)

The book of Proverbs is a book about wisdom.  Ray Ortlund Jr. writes about Proverbs:

The book of Proverbs is a gospel book, because it is part of the Bible. That means the book of Proverbs is good news for bad people. It is about grace for sinners. It is about hope for failures. It is about wisdom for idiots. This book is Jesus himself coming to us as our counselor, as our sage, as our life coach.

If this is true, and I believe that it is, what is Jesus saying about wealth in Proverbs 10.15?

I think that he is saying that there are two equal and opposite failures we can have in regards to wealth.  We can rely too much on our wealth: A rich man’s wealth is his strong city.  [Which suddenly reminds me of Tevya’s wish in Fiddler on the Roof : “May God strike me with riches, and may I never recover!”] Rather than trust in God, the rich trust in their wealth, this works very well…until the wealth is suddenly destroyed.  “Go ahead,” Solomon seems to say, “see how well your wealth will protect you.”

On the other hand, we can go to the opposite extreme and despise wealth.  We can read the first part of the verse and say to ourselves, “well, if wealth is a bad place to put our trust, then I will do the opposite and embrace poverty.  I will despise wealth!”

This approach will get you no further down the road of wisdom than an over reliance on money.  There is no automatic virtue in poverty, indeed, many times it is just the opposite, poverty leads to many other problems and difficulties.

I love Tevya’s comments about poverty in Fiddler on the Roof:

 Oh, dear Lord. You made many many poor people. I realize, of course, it’s no shame to be poor… but it’s no great honor either. So what would be so terrible… if I had a small fortune?

The Tyndale Commentary summarizes the message here as: Don’t despise money.

Jesus calls us to lives of balance.  We should neither rely on our money, nor should we embrace poverty as if it were a spiritual virtue.