At times it amazes me how much can be found on business and finances within the book of Proverbs. There is enough counsel on business decisions and how we handle money to guide us throughout our entire lifetimes. That is why admonitions like the one today are such a blessing to us if we will heed what is said to us by them.
Today's proverb counsels us as to the proper way to obtain wealth. There are many in our day (and actually at any time in history) who are looking for a "get-rich-quick scheme." They want to obtain wealth any way that they can - and do not realize that to sell our soul or our integrity for any amount of wealth is far too high a price to pay to become rich. That is the warning that is given to us today in Proverbs.
When we obtain wealth by fraud - we are going to face problems and difficulties in maintaining that wealth. The word fraud here is the Hebrew word "hebel" and it refers to soemthing that is vain and empty. It refers to a person's character when it is empty of character - or when the character is fleeting and easily changed. It also has the idea of being evil as well. When we seek wealth but do so by being ungodly - we are on the wrong track.
The warning here is that when we get wealth by this kind of fraud, it will dwindle. It will dwindle first of all because God's blessing will not be upon it. God is sovereign over the affairs of mankind, and when we go outside what He says and commands, His blessing will be absent from our lives. There may be wealth to be had on the front end of godless business practices - but the latter end of these men will see a dwindling of their wealth. What is interesting is how their wealth may dwindle. One way it dwindles is by others having the same ungodly, fraudulent business practices that eventually takes their money. The saying, what comes around goes around is the rule here. The Bible puts it this way, if we sow the wind, we will reap the whirlwind. Act ungodly in securing your own riches - someone may use the same ungodly tactics on you later in life. The second way that wealth may dwindle later in life is through children that have no sense at all when it comes to finances. Solomon wrote these words about this dwindling of our wealth and riches.
"Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19, NASB) Some men spend a lifetime gathering wealth by fraud - only to have a son or daughter live foolishly and destroy a fortune left to them. This is because that child has watched a corrupt father gather millions - and in the process the true riches of that child's character are ruined. They not only inherit the riches - but also the fatal flaws in their father's actions. The third way that these riches dwindle is by the man's ability to enjoy them later in life. The older we get, the less we can enjoy the things of this world. Our taste buds go - our health goes - and our agility and strength go as well. So, whether God's judgment and discipline come immediately - or just through the course of life itself - wealth obtained wrongly will dwindle in the end. And this says nothing of eternity - where fraudulent wealth will disappear altogether as a man loses everything.
Consider the rich farmer who tore down his old barns to build new ones - thinking that his life indeed only consisted of his possessions. He was not rich toward God - and faced the loss of everything - most importantly his very soul as he burned in hell for all eternity for his focus on the wrong kind of wealth.
The promise of this proverb is that if we gather wealth by labor - we will increase. That is an aspect of his proverb that we need to see clearly. The translation says that we increase "it" - referring to our wealth. But the it is not actually in the text. The phrase says that when we gather wealth by labor - we increase - not just our wealth - but our entire being. God grows us as we learn to work hard and labor at what pleases and honors Him.
Another aspect of this proverb is that we are to gather wealth gradually - working for it at every turn. We are warned elsewhere in Proverbs that an inheritance gained quickly - will most likely be wasted. The prodigal son got his inheritance quickly from his father - but he wasted it on immoral living and wound up eating with the pigs in a foreign land. There is something to be said to having wealth come slowly by surely by labor and by effort. There is a promised increase - a blessing that comes as we work hard and appreciate what blessing God has given to us.
Beware of gaining wealth the wrong way - fraudulently. It will not give us the true riches that God desires for us to have. These come by hard work and effort. This kind of wealth will bring us great blessing in the end. May God help us to see this kind of wealth - and have a heart to covet it rather than wealth that will harm us instead.