Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivers from death.
No moral system is complete which does not treat with clearness and force the subject of wealth. The material possessions of an individual or of a nation are, in a certain sense, the prerequisites of all moral life. The production of wealth, it not, strictly speaking, a moral question itself, presses closely upon all other moral questions. Wisdom will be called upon to direct the energies which produce wealth, and to determine the feelings with which we are to regard the wealth which is produced. Moral problems mightier still begin to emerge when the question of distribution presents itself. If production is in a sense the presupposition of all moral and spiritual life, no less certainly correct moral conceptions — may we not even say, true spiritual conditions? — are the indispensable means of determining distribution. In our own day this question of the distribution of wealth stands in the front rank of practical questions. Religious teachers must face it. Socialists are grappling with this question not altogether in a religious spirit. But all socialism is not revolutionary. In the teaching of the Book of Proverbs on this subject note —
I. ITS FRANK AND FULL RECOGNITION THAT WEALTH HAS ITS ADVANTAGES AND POVERTY ITS DISADVANTAGES. There is no Quixotic attempt to overlook, as many moral and spiritual systems do, the perfectly obvious facts of life. The extravagance and exaggeration which led St. Francis to choose poverty as his bride find no more sanction in this ancient wisdom than in the sound teaching of our Lord and His apostles. As poverty is a legitimate subject of dread, there are urgent exhortations to diligence and thrift, quite in accordance with the excellent apostolic maxim, that if a man will not work he shall not eat; while there are forcible statements of the things which tend to poverty and of the courses which result in comfort and wealth.
II. BUT, MAKING ALL ALLOWANCE FOR THE ADVANTAGES OF WEALTH, WE HAVE TO NOTICE SOME OF ITS SERIOUS DRAWBACKS. To begin with, it is always insecure. If wealth has been obtained in any other way than by honest labour it is useless, at any rate for the owner, and indeed worse than useless for him. There is wealth of another kind, wealth consisting in moral and spiritual qualities, compared with which wealth, as it is usually understood, is quite paltry and unsatisfying. A little wisdom, a little sound understanding, or a little wholesome knowledge, is more precious than wealth.
III. POSITIVE COUNSELS ABOUT MONEY AND ITS ACQUISITION. We are cautioned against the fever of money-getting; we are counselled to exercise a generous liberality in the disposal of such things as are ours. Happy would that society be in which all men were aiming, not at riches, but merely at a modest competency, dreading the one extreme as much as the other.
(R. F. Horton, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.