There are proverbs which present the heart of man to us - so that we can know how to deal with men in a fallen world. This is one of those proverbs. The truth of this proverb needs to be grasped especially by those who are in the business world - and those who go forth to buy and sell in the marketplace. If we know this truth, we will be better armed to know the hearts of men - and to know how to bargain with them, as well as why they can be so stubborn and insistent on getting a price as low as possible.
We have here what seems to be a contradiction in the one who is the buyer. At one point he is saying, "Bad, bad," about the merchandise that he is seeking to buy. Yet in the next moment, after making the purchase, he boasts about what he has received. This is deceit on the part of the buyer - yet he is engaging in the deceit to make sure that he can get the lowest price possible. Not that this is ethical at all - but it is far too often how men think they need to negotiate.
A story is told by St. Augustine of a certain banker in his time who told an entire theater of men that he would show every man what was in his heart the next time they met. When the time came, the theater was full and all awaited with a breathless silence for his words. He stood up, and in a single sentence said, "You all wich to buy cheap, and sell dear." The crowd waited for an instant - then broke into applause for his statement, but everyone one of themt agreed that the same was in every one of their hearts. This reveals to us the very same thing that this proverb says today. We all wish to buy as cheap as possible, and then sell the same at the highest price we can get.
Some might say that this is why the captialist system needs to be destroyed and replaced with another system that is based on equality. Yet there is a fundamental problem with any other system - especially socialism or communism. Who is going to guarantee this so-called equality? Is there one among us who is NOT tainted by sin? Is there anyone who can say that selfishness does not enter the equation? And can anyone deny that when systems are put into place where the government is supposed to provide true equity, that the very government that promises this fairness, eventually turns to be the greatest oppressor of the people in the end?
Though this proverb may cause some to chafe at the thought of its inherent selfishness, we need to see that in a fallen world, no one is able to truly do business without an inherent self-interest. But when a system is put into place that allows the greatest freedom of choice by the people, then this inherent self-interest actually acts as a guard against any one person taking control of everything and acting in their own self-interest to the detriment of all.
The wise man knows the heart of God - and in this case, he also knows the heart of men. John 3 says that Jesus knew what was in the heart of a man. That is why He did not gauge His success or failure on the momentary accolades of the crowds that surrounded Him. They cheered Him when He multiplied bread and fish, but then left Him in John 6 when He spoke hard truth to them. A wise man knows the hearts of men - and that is why in the arena of men governing men, he sets up safeguards. Our forefathers were wise in setting up a system of government where all three branches had checks and balances to ensure that none would become dominant over all. In the same way, it is wise for man to function under an economic system where his own selfishness is a check and balance on him in the marketplace.