In the first phrases of Proverbs 10:15 and Proverbs 18:11, we see that Solomon describes the rich man’s wealth as his strong city. Although wealth cannot protect us from evil, sicknesses, or other life emergencies, it can provide our life with some level of security and stability. It lessens our emotional anxiety, knowing we have enough resources to pay for things. It helps us manage through unexpected and expensive life events. We can also use wealth to produce more and, in the process, benefit others along the way as we give.
In the concluding phrase of Proverbs 10:15 Solomon offers a contrast to the strong city analogy when he says, “…the destruction of the poor is their poverty.” I find this interesting because Solomon does not say that a series of unfortunate events happened in these peoples’ lives and those events are what destroyed them (or made them poor). The emphasis here seems to actually read that poverty itself is what causes their destruction. Interesting. What is he referring to here? What destructive impact would an impoverished financial state have on a person’s life?
I would contend that all destructive patterns of behavior begin in our mind. We think, reason, make conclusions, and evaluate every facet of our life by using the brain God gave us. When our thinking is in error, we set ourselves on a path towards inappropriate emotions and actions. In the process, our worldview gets misconstrued which creates a wicked snowball affect leading to more poor choices in our thinking and behavior. This is why it is so crucial for Christians to continually be transformed by renewing the mind in God’s Word each day. By reading the Bible we will be able more likely to accurately prove what is true and good and acceptable according to God’s standards. (Romans 12:2)
So, for those in poverty, the process of destruction would be no different. First, their lack of resources begins to play with their mind. They think they are ruined just because they are poor. They may even begin to conclude they are a failure. They may believe this will always be the state in which they live. And we recognize, of course, this is a mistake in their thinking because we all know people who have either been born into poverty or descended into it for some reason only to rise out of it later in their life.
I would think that those who rise out of poverty get their thoughts straight first. If they can’t correct the inaccuracies in their thinking, their emotions will be negatively affected. Their spirits will sink. They will feel defeated, crushed and overwhelmed. Shame…anger…fear…sadness…these emotions can rage out of control as they spiral down into the next step of destruction…
…which involves actions. Aren’t our daily actions affected by how we think and how we feel? And when our mind and emotions overwhelm us, we act stupidly. We say and do things in the moment that would usually be unlike us and not based in what we know is actually true or right. And when a poor person thinks they will always be poor and they feel awful about themselves, their actions will reflect those sentiments. They may begin to rely solely on handouts from others or become lazy with no initiative to work and pursue anything. Or perhaps worse, they will pursue risky behaviors (gambling, theft, cheating, etc.) they never would have considered before in a desperate and misguided attempt to deal with their financial situation.
Up until this point I think there is still hope for a turnaround. But when you cross the next threshold…when your mind, emotions and actions begin to alter your worldview (how you perceive the world to work)…you have reached the level of destruction to which I believe Solomon was referring. Think for a moment through these opposing views of how people see themselves and the world:
1. “I am responsible for meeting my own needs” vs. “It is your responsibility to meet my needs”
2. “I believe in working hard for what I have” vs. “I believe in surviving on the back of others’ hard work”
3. “I believe success is achieved over the long term” vs. “I believe in taking shortcuts to get ahead”
4. “I owe it to myself to do the best I can” vs. “You owe me just because of who I am”
5. “It was my fault I did not succeed” vs. “It was their fault I did not succeed”
6. “I am accountable for my own behavior” vs. “The devil (or someone else) made me do it”
Hopefully you were able to pick out the nonconstructive and pessimistic worldview above (hint: it was the second quotation of each number). I believe these attitudes describe the level of destruction Solomon defined for us in Prov. 10:15. And when you reach the point where you are making these type of statements, it seems clear that deep and abiding bitterness as crept into your soul…bitterness that is so strong, it will take nothing less than the convicting power of God’s Spirit to break you free from your line of thinking.
Let me conclude by saying that, although we have this warning from Solomon, poverty is not a death sentence to destruction. Just because you are poor doesn’t mean you are bitter and unhappy. The apostle Paul at many times during his ministry was without food, clothing or shelter, and yet he could still say that whatever state he found himself in (whether in abundance or in need), he had learned to be content (Philippians 4:10-12). His godly example is to what all of us – rich or poor or in between – should aspire.
(I’ll conclude this short series in my next post with a look at the second phrase of Proverbs 18:11)
Have you ever known someone who was always down on themselves because they were poor?
Next Post: A High Wall…Build It Or Not?
Prior Post: Wealth Is Like A Strong City