Even in the original Hebrew this particular proverb is difficult to understand. But when you grasp what is being said by this first phrase - and that it is more than just being nice and kind - and that the word means kindness manifest in loyalty - then the proverb begins to clear up in its meaning.
What is desirable in a man is kindness - manifesting itself through loyalty and honesty. This is what the first part of our proverb is saying to us. A wise man is an honest, kind, and loyal man. What a great picture for us to examine for a few moments here.
Here you have a wise man. He is wise because he is kind. This is important for us to see - because too many value the cut-throat approach to life, business, and even leisure activities like sports. The cut-throat may have a period where he does well, but in the end this is not a desirable thing to others. This one will be alone in his short lived success. And, as with most people who are cut-throat in their dealings with others - unkind if you will - people will rejoice when they are gone. But a kind man is one who is desired. This does not mean that we cannot be competitive - I know men who are very competitive and who are also very successful - but who are kind in their victories. Our society has moved away from this - valuing trash talking and "in-your-face" actions. But it should be no shock to us that as these things are valued more and more in sports and business - we see less and less civility and loyalty in our world.
The wise man knows that kindness is manifest in loyalty. What is desirable in a man is a loyalty to others. Even more desired is a loyalty to principle in what they do. The man of God is loyal to God and to His principles. He is loyal to his wife - loyal to his children - loyal to his friends and those with whom he works. Our society has thrown this idea of loyalty to the curb. Marriages and families disintegrate - and we've just shrugged our shoulders and moved on. We no longer demand loyalty in marriage in our leaders - and even have begun to scoff at the idea of loyalty to a guiding set of moral principles. We see these as outdated and not applicable to us. As we thrown these things away, seeing no value in them, we are dumb enough to be shocked when we see scandals in the business world where people are robbed of millions of dollars. We are ignorant enough to gasp at the crookedness and lack of integrity in our government, in business, and even in the church. Why are we shocked? We threw away kindness and loyalty for pragmatism and results. We are fools because when you throw these things away - you throw away your entire societies' structure for moral integrity.
The wise man knows that kindness is also manifest in honesty. The second half of our proverb says that it is better to be a poor man than a liar. Let me help you understand this plainly. Rather than lie and be rich and powerful - its better to be poor and honest. It is more desirable to have nothing and still have your integrity - than to have all the riches in the world. I fear that more and more this is no longer the way we think in America. Integrity and honesty are not valued - and we are paying a very high price for it every day. It is sad to watch the nation I love begin to degenerate into little more than a third world corrupt, thug-ridden, bribe-taking beaurocracy rather than a nation where its leaders are elected on the basis of their honesty - and willingness to lose everything before they will lose their integrity.
What is truly desirable in a man is kindness, honesty, loyalty - and in this things - integrity. These things are such wonderful traits that we should be willing to lose everything before losing them. If we would become a nation that values these things again - we would once again become a nation that aspires to greatness. To re-use a phrase that led to our demise - and to completely debunk it - "It is NOT about the economy, stupid," it is about kindness, honesty, and loyalty, sir." Lose these and in the end whatever economy you have will be destroyed as it implodes on the basis of a collapse of integrity, honesty, and loyalty to priniciple and moral rectitude.