Proverbs is an interesting book in that it is presenting wisdom to us. But as we read it there are times when we struggle with what is being said. Here we read about how the rich rules over the poor - and we wonder about the wisdom of this statement. But before we make the fatal mistake of questioning an all-wise God, let's take a moment to look at this proverb without the liability of the class warfare that has too often been used to color our thinking about such things.
The rich does rule over the poor. This is too the advantage of both if they are wise in how they conduct themselves. The rich often become that way because they have learned how to manage things and deal with them so that they are profitable. These sound like the kind of skills needed to be a leader. Solomon is saying that this is the case - that the ones who rule over others are usually those who have worked hard to accomplish something. Ones who have used their abilities to manage and accumulate wealth and influence. that influence naturally puts them in a position to exercise even greater influence over a larger and larger number of people.
For those who are offended that the Bible speaks of the rich ruling over the poor also need to consider the things the Bible says to protect the poor. God has said numerous things to make it clear that He bring judgment upon the man who oppresses the poor. He warns the rich again and again not to put their hope in riches. He also warns about how riches can deceive a man and destroy him if he decides to pursue wealth about pursuing the things of God. God may say that the rich rules over the poor - but He does not in any way condone the rich abusing the poor. In fact, God promises that He will rise up to defend the poor and needy.
The second thing we learn from this passage is the dangers and evils of living on borrowed money. We learn that the borrower becomes the lender's slave. When I read this statement I remember the rendition of a Disney song that goes, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go." The borrower owns the lender - or at least he owns whatever was purchased with loans until they are completely paid off. Things become worse for the one who owes an exorbitant amount to the lender. More and more interest is charged the larger the amount - and the worker suddenly is working to pay off the interest without even touching the loan amount itself. Then the borrower becomes the lender's slave. He will never get out of debt and spends a lifetime paying for something he will never own.
When I read this particular proverb I fear for our nation. We are no longer a lender nation - but a debtor one. Our leadership on both sides of the aisle have mortgaged our future trying to buy our votes. The sick reality of our situation is that they've bought our votes promising things they've bought with our money as they enact more and more confiscatory tax policies. Thus we've been bought using our own money - and those who have used it have done so to further enslave us to government programs and promises to save us. In the end, this house of cards will come crashing to the ground. Our greed to become rich with loans will come home to roost as our currency and our economy become worthless.
The wise man does not seek riches through becoming a lender's slave. Instead he uses industry, sacrifice, and saving to purchase what he wants - and greater wisdom to have what he has saved be used to increase his ability to earn more. And if he is truly wise, he will use the wealth God has given him the ability to earn to bless others. He will not allow riches to use him, he will use riches to bring glory to God.