The rich man’s wealth is his fortress , The ruin of the poor is their poverty.
This stood out as an odd verse to me. On the surface, it sounds like a “well, yeah, no kidding” statement. The rich are protected by their wealth and the poor are hurt by their poverty …and water is wet and the sky is blue.
But it can’t be that simple. Especially not when so much of Proverbs and the rest of the Bible warns against the love of money. So I looked at a few of the cross references. One was another Proverb (18:11)
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own imagination.
Now we are getting somewhere. Our riches can give us a false sense of security. (and as usual, I say “us” not because I consider myself “rich” but because in comparison to the vast majority of the world, those that live in suburban USA are rich in comparison) Since we don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from and even during an economic recession/depression, we have a steady job and a roof over our heads. It is easy to become self-dependent and forget about the Holy Spirit.
It helps to remember that all we have is actually the Lord’s possessions and we are merely stewards of it. We should be faithful stewards and we should by all means enjoy the fruits of our labors and enjoy the blessings that these possessions bring. But they don’t give us license to take the Lord for granted or assume that we’ll always prosper.
On the flipside, “the ruin of the poor is their poverty.” You don’t need to remind a poor person about their poverty, so maybe this is a message to the rich. Notice how it doesn’t say “the poor are just lazy and need to get a job.” Some very hard working, honest, bright people are poor because their circumstance made them poor. In most cases it takes money to make money and if you have none to begin with, it is very, very hard to work your way out of the hole you are in.
So understand the subtle message here. One of our roles as Christ’s body (the Church) is to care for the needy. To give generously and even sacrificially so that others do not have to suffer. It isn’t like the riches are ours to keep anyways.
A rich man may build up large wall with his money, but it will eventually fall down. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use that money to feed some starving mouths instead?