Proverbs 10:2 [CSB] Ill-gotten gains do not profit anyone, but righteousness rescues from death.
In my humble opinion, Solomon’s “wisdom” here is completely out of synch with society today. Perhaps his world worked differently than our modern one. Probably, he could not foresee the kind of world we live in now – one where it is more difficult to get ahead by honest gains and where ill-gotten gains (or “treasures of wickedness” as it is translated in the King James Version) seem to, in fact, be the best way to achieve money, fame and success.
We live in a world that rewards the kind of bad behavior that many reality shows produce with money and fame. We live in a world where we just accept that all or nearly all of the most powerful politicians are corrupt and not trustworthy. We live in a world where we just expect that major corporations are run on the greed of the leaders who choose profit over people and cut corners to line their own pockets.
In this world, ill-gotten gains often seem to be the fastest way to profits of all kinds.
Even though Solomon was the richest man in history at that time, he was known for his wisdom and the book of Proverbs is a repository of much of that wisdom, written down for those of us who can benefit from it later. So, maybe we just need a deeper look into his statements.
We can go to the New Testament and the words of Jesus for support of Solomon’s words and for expansion on the principle that ill-gotten gains don’t profit.
Matthew 6:19-21 [NIV] Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus warns us that, at best, treasures on earth profit only for a short time. He also warns that treasures gained in this life can be lost easily and long before we are finished enjoying them. Homes get destroyed by fire, tornados and floods. Nice things can be stolen. A nice wool sweater, considered a classic and a wardrobe investment for work, can be chewed up by a mouse momma to make a nice warm nest for her children. I know. Something similar happened to me.
But even if a person is “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” and manages to keep it all and even grow his wealth, death ends on all that. This is part of the warning from Jesus outlined in the parable found in Luke 12:16-34. I’ll just quote part of it here:
Luke 12:16-21 [NIV] And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."
In modern times, we have a saying that is probably based on this scripture: “You can’t take it with you.” When my life ends on this earth, so does my enjoyment of and benefits from the nice physical things I have accumulated.
God does not forbid us to be rich or to have nice things. He only asks that these things not be our priorities or goals in this life.
He also wants us to understand that the good things we do – these things do last forever. This is the message of the parable of the sheep and goats: what they gave away (not what they collected) on this earth created their eternal riches and rewards – rewards that could not be touched by the risks inherent in earthly treasure. [See Matthew 25]
So, maybe Solomon knew what he was talking about after all.
Sweet sisters, my wish for each of you is that you become ever richer in the things that last eternity. Let’s commit to the goal of becoming “spiritual billionaires” – with so much treasure in heaven that we need to build bigger barns to store it until we have the chance to spend it for all eternity.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org