“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”- Proverbs 13:11
Get-rich-quick schemes are plentiful in our society, and it is easy for people to find opportunities to pursue the promise of wealth in exchange for working very little or not very hard. The news is filled with stories of those who lost their life savings because they gave their money to those who made promises of a fast return on their funds. Many lives have been destroyed by an addiction to gambling or a view of chance games that sees them as means to a lasting income. It is not uncommon to read of people who win millions of dollars in the lottery only to file for bankruptcy just a few years later.
Because of those sad realities, today’s passage remains an invaluable bit of wisdom nearly three millennia after it was first written. Societies may change, but the fundamental nature of humanity does not. People are just as apt to seek the easy way to riches today as they were during Solomon’s era. and they need to be reminded that the easy way to wealth is as sure to lead to the destruction of wealth as the broad, easy way of salvation is to lead to the destruction of souls (see Matt. 7:13).
The Hebrew word translated “hastily” in Proverbs 13:11 refers to more than the attempt to gain wealth quickly. It also has the sense of earning money by prohibited means. Unjust weights and measures are an abomination to the Lord (Deut. 25:13–16), and those who earn money by wicked means will surely lose it in the end. They may seem truly wealthy, but they are poor with respect to the things of God, and they will be held accountable for their sin.
It is common wisdom that we only treasure that for which we labor, and that helps to explain why the slow and steady accumulation of wealth tends to preserve it (Prov. 13:11). The idea is not merely that patient investing is the key to success with money, although the verse certainly implies that. Instead, the phrasing of the verse points to the fact that riches earned by working steadily and industriously will be preserved and will grow. The verse does not give us an exhaustive reason why this is the case, but the answer must lie partly in the fact that we treasure the fruits of our work and are more ready to save our dollars when they are hard-earned dollars than if we are just given a handout. Thus, today’s passage also commends working hard unto the Lord in hopes of earning a reward. Matthew Henry comments, “That which is got by industry and honesty will grow more, instead of growing less.”
As today’s passage indicates, the Bible does not frown upon the gathering of wealth, but only improper means of gaining it. In fact, Proverbs 13:11 indicates that the honest gaining of wealth is something to which we should aspire. What Scripture forbids is the love of money and dishonest means of earning it. Let us ask God to help us not fall prey to such love, to unethical ways of earning a living, or to get-rich-quick schemes.
Passages for Further Study
Proverbs 12:11; 20:21; 28:22
1 Timothy 6:10