As our journey through Proverbs nears its end, we turn to chapter 28. Here we find two major themes: greed vs. integrity and lawlessness vs. righteousness.Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. (v. 6)
Greed is a devouring sin. From the account of Achan’s sin in helping himself to the spoils of battle in Joshua 7 to Jesus’s charge against the church of Laodocia, who claims, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” in Revelation 3.14-22, God warns us throughout his Word of the destructive power of the love of worldly wealth. Having wealth isn’t the issue here; the lust for wealth and the dishonesty and corruption that play into feeding that lust are the problem. A greedy person is a fool because she has no fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1.7). Instead, she fears poverty, loss of status or power, or not having the affirmation of her peers. Greed dehumanizes, and it is never satisfied. Anyone, rich or poor, is susceptible to it. It makes someone an oppressor (v. 3), a cheat (vv. 6, 8), arrogant (v. 11), stingy (v. 22), a troublemaker (v. 25), and lacking in compassion (v. 27). She will meet a terrible end (vv. 18, 20, 27). Integrity, however, is the antidote to greed. It is humanizing in that it makes us more like Christ, who was perfect in his humanity, and more like the perfected humans we will be after he returns. Integrity puts the greedy beast within on a holy leash. Someone who is walking in integrity is generous (v. 8), exposes the corruption of greed by her own wisdom (v. 11), trusts in the Lord and is enriched (v. 25), and has all she needs (v. 27). She is content with what she has, fears the Lord and not poverty or man, and is exponentially richer than the wealthiest of men.Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them. (v. 4)
Lawlessness, or a lack of discipline, is not an isolated sin. It affects entire families: “Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, ‘That is no transgression,’ is a companion to a man who destroys” (v. 24). It affects entire nations: “Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor” (vv. 15-16a). And it affects every part of the undisciplined person’s life: “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (v. 9). Lawlessness destroys and oppresses others and disgusts God. Righteousness, however, brings glory and prosperity to people, whether families, nations, or individuals (vv. 10, 12, 28).
Integrity and discipline bring blessing (vv. 10, 20), while greed and lawlessness bring destruction and curses (vv. 10, 27). I love that God, in his grace, not only warns us about the destructive power of these sins but also gives us the way out when we find ourselves coveting and gathering the (false) security of worldly wealth or wandering into a destructive disregard for his law:Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always (vv. 13-14a)
He knows us so well! Confession and repentance can be painful, but stubbornly holding onto sin is far worse. The fight against sin is difficult, but how sweet is the mercy and blessing we receive from our Father when we joyfully fear and honor him! He is so tender and ready to forgive and lead us to walk in integrity.
Gracious Lord, please give us the wisdom to walk in integrity and righteousness so we can honor you and be a blessing to others. Give us the grace to see when we have fallen into greed or lawlessness and lead us to repentance. Thank you for your mercy and loving discipline and for your promise to complete the work you have started in us.