Proverbs 3:16

Proverbs 3:16 “Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.”
Christian Church Buffalo NY
In this passage, like many passages in the Book of Proverbs, Solomon builds a strong case for wisdom.  Playing matchmaker between son and virtue, he describes wisdom’s attractive qualities in great detail just as a man would describe a woman’s attractive qualities in great detail in order to convince his friend to pursue her.  In verse sixteen, he points out what this woman has in each of her hands.  In her right hand, she possesses “length of days.”  Based on the context, I think it appropriate to define “length of days” as something other than “long life.”  Solomon starts this chapter by mentioning both “length of days” and “long life.”  In the first two verses, he said, “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, AND long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.”  If “length of days” and “long life” were the same thing, it seems improbable that Solomon would’ve mentioned both of them in the same breath.  What is in wisdom’s right hand?  It is the ability to lengthen one’s days; the ability to extend one’s day; the ability to manage and SAVE TIME.  The Apostle Paul spoke of this quality and credited wisdom for it in his letters.  
Ephesians 5:15-16 “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as WISE, REDEEMING the TIME, because the days are evil.”
Colossians 4:5 “Walk in WISDOM toward them that are without, REDEEMING the TIME.”

The ability to manage time and in particular, to extend the work day would appeal to a young man because in general, men tend to be overly ambitious toward accomplishment.  Men have work on their mind and often great work on their mind.  More than relationship building, men generally want to do big things with their hands and accomplish large tasks with their skills.  Whether on the job site, in the back yard, in the basement or in the garage, men tend to focus on projects.  Because projects take time, time tends to be man’s greatest obstacle to accomplishing their goals.  Therefore, “length of days” in the right hand of wisdom would be an attractive quality for Solomon’s young man.

In her left hand, we see wisdom holding “riches and honour.”  It is important for Solomon’s readers to note that wisdom is not holding riches alone.  There are few, if any in this world that would find riches unappealing.  But the question we should all ask ourselves is this: What are Riches without Respect?  For a son of royalty in the Ancient East, honor meant something more than it does today.  Today, people see wealth as something worth risking everything for.  People pursue wealth at the expense of relationship, reputation and even freedom.  One doesn’t need wisdom to obtain and accrue riches.  Silver can be stolen.  Gold can be taken by force.  Diamonds can be smuggled.  Dollars can be embezzled.  Wisdom is not necessary to become wealthy.  Solomon already spent considerable time in chapter one talking about how the wicked forms gangs in order to take treasure by force.    

Furthermore, riches can be accrued by hard work.  One doesn’t need to be wise to work hard.  Riches can be accrued by working long hours.  One doesn’t need to be wise to work long hours.  Riches can be accrued by getting lucky at the slot machines or at some other attempt to get rich quick.  Obviously, one doesn’t need to be wise to play a game of chance.  Riches can come through wickedness, foolishness and even through fiscal responsibility.  Again, Solomon didn’t paint the picture of a beautiful woman holding only wealth in her left hand.  He painted the picture of an attractive woman holding both Riches AND Respect.  This virtue would’ve been attractive to a young man because men are attracted to Respect as much as they are to Riches, especially for the son of a king.

Why will a man be happy if he finds wisdom (vs. 13)?  
Because he will possess the ability to manage time in such a way that he will maximize accomplishment.

Why will a man be happy if he finds wisdom (vs. 13)?  
Because he will possess the ability to accrue riches without losing respect in the process.

When a person makes a living by pushing the ethical envelope, he loses the respect of his peers.  When a business owner cuts corners to make money, he loses the respect of his employees and his customers.  When a person takes an inheritance by force or by haste, he loses the respect of his family.  When a young man or woman turns to theft to fill their piggy bank, they become the shame of their parents.  When a believer increases his bank account by not paying his fair share of taxes, he loses the respect of his fellow saints.  When friends choose to make every decision based on how it will impact their wallet, they lose the respect of their friend.    

What are Riches without Respect?

Hard work is no substitute for wisdom.  Hard work will earn you the money your family needs but it will not earn you the respect you want.  Too many hard-working men spend years providing for a family only to be frustrated to receive no respect from their family.  This is the result of working without wisdom.  Wisdom helps a man “lengthen his days” so he can balance his responsibilities at work and at home.  Wisdom helps a man manage his time so he can earn a living while leading his family.  Men, respect isn’t the product of accruing riches – it is the product of building relationships.  While families may appreciate the hard work a man puts in to earning a living, wives and children have little respect for a man who puts more hard work into his job than into his family.  

Wisdom brings riches without losing respect.  It is wisdom that tells a man to take time off of work to go on vacation with his family or to be there for special occasions.  Wisdom tells both men and women how much money is enough money.  It tells us how much money should be in a bank account.  It tells us how much money should be spent on a relationship.  It tells us that there is no amount of money worth straining a relationship over.  It tells us that money is meant to be used to provide for our needs and ultimately, to be a blessing to others.  Wisdom tells us that riches come from God and that we need to honor Him with those riches (verses 9-10).  Respect isn’t given to the rich.  It is given to the man or woman who uses riches to build their relationship with God and with others.

What are Riches without Respect?

Proverbs 3:16 “Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.”

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