Summary: Part 7 of the Sermon Series, "Rich Man Poor Man in Proverbs"
"A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape" (Prov. 19:5).
"It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes" (Prov. 19:10).
"To be poor is to be powerless. But to be rich is to be powerful and influential. The rich live an advantageous life. Wealth brings many new friends" (Prov. 19:4). The rich man also exerts a powerful influence on others. "Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts" (Prov. 19:6). In any culture, a generous person draws friends and followers. Indeed, money talks (Prov. 18:11).
However, the rich can abuse their power and exploit the poor. One example of the abuse of power is a false witness. Hence, the writer says in Proverbs 19:5, "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape." He repeats the same words in v. 9, "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish."
The writer adds an interesting thought about the qualification for wealth. "It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes" (v. 10). In Proverbs 30:21-22, we read that the earth cannot bear the reign of a slave and prosperous fools. It is that serious. The fool is compared to the slave. The common thread is likely, incompetence. A fool is incompetent to handle prosperity. The slave is incompetent to govern princes. It is bad already that a fool is prosperous. It is worse for a slave to rule over princes. It is not fitting then for a fool to be rich, as it is much less for a slave to rule over princes. Both are incompetent, except for the wise slave (Prov. 17:2; 14:35).
Fools are not fit to be rich. Their prosperity will only give them a false confirmation of their folly.31 Prosperity has a way of enlarging their foolishness.32 Thus, they are unworthy to possess the power of prosperity. Therefore, prosperity is not a blessing for everyone. It is not meant for fools.
Do you desire to be rich? Before you desire riches, are you a fool by divine standards? Do you reject divine instruction (Prov. 1:2)? Do you consider your own wisdom alone or the wisdom of others (Prov. 18:1)? Do you watch your tongue as much as you watch your heart and life carefully (Prov. 19:1)? Do you make foolish, hasty decisions without consulting the wisdom of others (Prov. 19:2)? Do you blame God for your calamity caused by your foolishness (Prov. 19:3)? These are just some of the marks of a fool in Proverbs. If you are a fool, then you are not fit to possess the power of riches.
Thus, Proverbs does not encourage us to seek poverty or prosperity by itself. Rather, it points us to one’s integrity despite poverty. It also cites one disqualification for possessing the power of prosperity—the heart and mind of a fool.
31 Murphy, Proverbs, 143.
32 Toy, A Critical, 371.