I read what you said about Solomon's writing being the words of God, but it seems to me that something must have changed. How do you explain Proverbs 10:15 (in light of James 1:9-10), Proverbs 10:27 (in light of Jesus and John the Baptist), Proverbs 12:21 (in light of people like Hugh Heffner), and Proverbs 12:24?
|"The rich man's wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty" (Proverbs 10:15).||"Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away" (James 1:9-10).|
Any statement needs to be taken within its context, else it is possible to come away with a false conclusion regarding what is being said. Concerning the rich Solomon also said,
"The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding searches him out" (Proverbs 28:11).
"The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem. Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility" (Proverbs 18:11-12).
"He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage" (Proverbs 11:28).
Many of the proverbs are commentary or observations. Rich people tend to put their trust in their wealth while poor people let their poverty ruin all confidence in their ability. By itself the statement does not pass judgment as to whether the attitude observed is right or wrong; it is just an observation of what tends to be. by other passages in Proverbs we learn that the rich man's trust in wealth is a foolish thing. "Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven" (Proverbs 23:11).
This is no different than what is taught in the New Testament. Jesus made the same observation regarding the wealthy's trust in money. "And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:24). Paul gives the same warning against such trust, "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy" (I Timothy 6:17). James is pointing out that people need to reverse their attitude toward wealth. Rather than be miserable, the poor in this life should focus on his salvation in the life hereafter. Rather than trust in wealth, the rich should keep in mind that he is no different than anyone else, his life is very short. "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (II Corinthians 12:10).
|"The fear of the LORD prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened" (Proverbs 10:27).|
This too is a statement of a general trend. People who follow God's wisdom tend to live longer.
"My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you" (Proverbs 3:1-2). Such is no different than what was recorded by Paul, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth"" (Ephesians 6:1-3). Wicked people tend to do risky things that end up shortening the normal life span. Righteous people are forewarned and so stick to paths that are generally safer.
However, this general observation does not imply that there are not exceptions to the rule. Every righteous person does not automatically live long lives. Every wicked person does not automatically live short lives.
|"No grave trouble will overtake the righteous, but the wicked shall be filled with evil" (Proverbs 12:21).|
Once again, this is a general observation. It speaks of the fact that God cares for his people. It contains the same point that Jesus made: "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:25-33).
This doesn't mean that the righteous don't experience difficulty. "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials" (James 1:2). Our advantage is knowing that all troubles will work out in the end. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Nor does it mean that some wicked people won't get by easy. "Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I had said, "I will speak thus," Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me - until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors" (Psalm 73:12-19 -- the whole of this Psalm makes good reading on this subject). As Solomon warned, "Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; for their heart devises violence, and their lips talk of troublemaking" (Proverbs 24:1-2).
|"The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor" (Proverbs 12:24).|
Again this forms a general truth, one that we see all the time.
"He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame" (Proverbs 10:4-5). Work tends to cause prosperity and laziness tends to cause poverty. Back in the ancient days there was no bankruptcy. A person with large debts was usually sold off as a servant (forced labor) to pay off his debts. Thus a person who is willing to work tends to become the master of those too lazy to work.
Work is commanded of the Christian. "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need" (Ephesians 4:24). Good effort is to be given, not because we are looking for earthly wealth, but because we are serving God (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-24).
The same general rule also applies to spiritual matters. "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:11-12).