Summary: Part 18 of the Sermon Series, "Rich Man Poor Man in Proverbs"
"To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong. A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him" (Prov. 28:21-22).
The background of Proverbs 28:22 is v. 21. The setting is a court of law. The man wants to make quick money by taking a bribe. That is the picture here in v. 21. The bribe corresponds with a piece of bread. For a piece of bread, the bribe-taker will do wrong.
In other words, for something as paltry as a piece of bread, the judge will show partiality. For some quick and easy money, the witness will sell the truth. For a little money, he will give a false witness in court. For pocket-change, he will sell his integrity.
Now in v. 22, this bribe-taker is called a “stingy man.” It does not refer to a miserly, sparing, or tightfisted man. In the Hebrew, it literally reads, “a man with an evil eye” (NKJV) or “a man of evil.” The word “stingy” is from ra’a, “bad” or “evil” as opposed to “good.”84 OT writers use the word “evil” to refer to the ungodly thoughts and actions of men (cf. Num.14:27, 35; Jer. 8:3; Ezek. 38:10). In the OT, the eye measures the inner thoughts of men. An “evil eye” refers to evil intentions resulting to evil actions. In the sub-context of Proverbs 28:21-22, the man with an evil eye gives a false testimony against another for a bribe. It represents in general, deception against others in order to get rich.
Thus, a man with an evil eye is one doing evil acts out of evil intents. The evil intent is greed (cf. Prov. 28:20, 25). The evil act is to show partiality to someone in court who bribes him to give a false report. The man with an evil eye tries to get rich quick by selling his integrity. But the greedy one who takes a bribe, the stingy man, the man with an evil eye, or the man who wants to get rich by selling his integrity—will only become poor.
There is an irony here. The one who “hastens” to get rich quick will become poor. In general, the wise man in Proverbs condemns the folly of hasty actions. Impulsive actions lacking careful planning and judicious deliberation are bound to fail.85
Anyone who sells his integrity for quick prosperity shall end up in inevitable poverty. He who sells his integrity to gain such a paltry thing as a piece of bread will end up poorer.
Are you tempted to sell your honesty for money? Are you tempted to stop doing right to make money? If you will sell your uprightness for a piece of bread, then you will lose that bread. You will become poor.
Avoid poverty by maintaining your integrity. Do what is right. Do not sell your integrity for a piece of bread.
84 Harris, Archer, and Waltke, “???,” TWOT 2:2191a.
85 Perdue, Proverbs, 237.