I wrote in my review of Proverbs 8 that our culture is far too focused on the influence of feelings and private perceptions, and that this distorting mentality causes us to neglect pursuing wisdom as the rightful driving force of our actions and intentions. Another thing our culture wrongly emphasizes is the pursuit of wealth and temporary pleasures. This, too, is contrary to what the book of Proverbs promotes.
While Proverbs speaks about a benefit of righteousness being honor and riches, this does not mean we seek to demonstrate righteous works on the basis of accumulating possessions and good fortune. Proper exegesis of Proverbs shows us that the proverbs of Scripture are principles, not promises. They are not magic codes we can plug in to manifest tangible (or even intangible) rewards. Rather, as David Mathis puts it in an article for Desiring God titled “Parents, Beware: Proverbs Are Not Promises”: “[Proverbs] are adages that direct us toward general principles that must be applied carefully in a fallen world where life is always somewhat out of kilter.” When Proverbs speaks of God’s people being prosperous on Earth, it generally means to tell us that there are everlasting rewards and benefits to living in obedience to God that are incomparable to temporary, unsatisfying wealth (which is often, though not always, acquired on Earth through deceitful means like those spoken of in the first verse of the eleventh chapter).
With that said, the overarching message of Proverbs 11 is that it matters whether or not you live in obedience to God. The state of your heart matters. Your character (or lack thereof) matters, and it affects your experience of life on Earth despite the corruption and death that horribly taints the beauty in this world. This chapter of Proverbs wastes no time by opening up with contrasts between the way of the righteous - as they are guided and enabled by the regenerating Spirit of God - and the way of the wicked, which ultimately brings them destruction.
Proverbs 11:2-5 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.” Humility and integrity are guiding forces that bring us guidance, peace, and hope in this broken life when we live by them. On the other hand, the way of pride, crookedness, and the exhausting pursuit of temporary riches will ultimately bring misery, even if they appear to profit us for a time.
Jessica Hageman is a native to the Appalachian mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, although she now resides in northern Virginia with her husband. She has been a lover of reading since elementary school and a lover of Christ since high school. She is a full time English major, in hopes that her studies will help her more effectively minister to other through written words. Her favorite things in the world are British tea, old books, autumn leaves, dry humor, and rainy weather. Her goal as a writer is to demonstrate how the Gospel, objective truth, and sound theology are not only applicable, but essential, to all aspects of life as a woman, especially in a world that celebrates sin, false doctrine, and self-sufficiency.