Proverbs 10:15

Proverbs 10:15 "The rich man's wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty."
Proverbs 10:15 Baptist Church Buffalo NY
Not all of Solomon’s proverbs are instructional but they are all informative.  Not all of Solomon’s proverbs are counseling in nature but they are all educational in nature.  In this proverb, we are not being instructed to do something or to be something but we are being taught something.  This proverb is purely educational and insightful.  Solomon is not assigning morality or immorality to either party in the proverb.  He is not condemning or condoning a particular mindset nor is he suggesting any particular behavior.  Solomon is simply sharing his wise observations with his readers and allowing them to make personal application.  These observations regarding money will be built upon and wisely applied throughout the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes but in this proverb, these two observations were sufficient on their own.

There is a lot more to wisdom than just knowing the answers to life’s questions.  There is a lot more to wisdom than just knowing what to do or what to say.  When God gave Solomon wisdom, He didn’t give Solomon the answers to all of his questions.  When God gave Solomon wisdom, He didn’t give Solomon all of the knowledge he would ever need.  When God gave Solomon wisdom, He gave Solomon the mind to find the answers and the logic to solve the problems of life.  Wisdom is the mindset necessary for finding the truth.  When a person is given wisdom from above, he becomes keenly aware of how much he needs to learn.  When a person is given wisdom from God, he becomes thirsty for understanding as much as he can.  When a person is given wisdom from Heaven, he begins to observe as much as he can so as to understand as much as he can.  The moment Solomon awoke from the dream where God promised him wisdom, he became incredibly observant – intensely observant.  He observed human nature, body language, gender tendencies, relationship dynamics, reactions, responses – everything.  Seven times (a number representing completion and fulfillment in the Bible) in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon used the phrase, “I have seen.”  He was a diligent student of life primarily by observation.  He was wise and because he was wise, he sat and observed life with the intent of understanding as much as possible.
 
Before giving any specific instruction about money by means of counsel, Solomon intended to help his audience by simply learning an incredible fact about the human mind.  Solomon wanted his children and all of his readers to realize how much money impacts the mind.  Solomon instructs in the area of finances more than any other Bible author but this proverb is not instruction as much as it is information, and powerful information it is!  When it comes to money, this is the most important information anyone can receive.  Before learning how to manage money, a person needs to learn how influential money is to the mind.  Money, although it is just paper and ink or gold and silver, does something to our minds and it does something often without us even knowing it.  Solomon wants his audience to understand their minds before attempting to instruct them on how to manage their money.

Solomon is not promoting wealth as a good thing nor is he denouncing poverty as a destructive thing.  Throughout the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, Solomon links wealth to both good and bad circumstances while doing the same with poverty.  Nowhere in the Bible does it declare wealth a goal nor does it declare wealth an evil.  Furthermore, the Bible doesn’t teach us to despise poverty but it also doesn’t tell us to seek it.  This proverb is the observation of a wise man teaching us the natural mindset of all men.  Wealth does something to our minds.  Poverty does something to our minds.  When we have a lot of money, we feel strong and when we don’t have a lot of money, we feel weak.  When we get a lot of money, we feel like there’s nothing that we can’t handle and when we lack a lot of money, we feel like there’s nothing that we can handle.
 
If we’re going to be wise in life, we need to understand human nature.  If we’re going to be wise with money, we need to understand what it does to the human mind – to our minds.  Did you know that wealth makes us feel more secure than we really are?  Did you know that poverty makes us feel more vulnerable than we really are?  As long as we have money, we see that money as more valuable than health, abilities, friends and relationships.  As long as we lack money, we see that money as more desirable than health, abilities, friends and relationships.  “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city”in his mind, it is what makes him more important than everyone else and it is what makes him more successful than everyone else.  “The destruction of the poor is their poverty”in their minds, it is what makes them feel like they’ll never succeed and it is what makes them feel like they’re less important than everyone else.

Solomon observed this fact throughout his lifetime throughout his kingdom and probably in his own mind.  There’s something about money that substantially impacts the brain and some people are catching up to this ancient wisdom of Scripture.  In an October 2015 article on Inc.com, the author cited neuroscience research being done with imaging machines to determine brain activity when making financial decisions.  In one cited study, researchers scanned the brains of 12 people as they played games for money and everyone in the group experienced heightened neural activity.  Researchers compared their brain scans with those of addicts who were high on cocaine and found that they were almost identical.  Researchers concluded that nothing had an effect on people like money – “no naked bodies, nor corpses.”

Money changes the way we think and it changes the way we see ourselves.  In a December 2013 blog called, TED Blog, a blogger referenced an UC Berkely study that found people with more expensive cars were far less likely to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks (despite being a state law) and far more likely to cut off other drivers.  The same blog referenced another UC Berkely study where Monopoly was used to gage behavior related to money.  They had more than 100 pairs of strangers play the board game where one person in each pair got twice as much money to start with, collected twice the salary when passing “Go” and rolled both dice instead of one.  What happened?  The rich players moved their pieces more loudly and displayed more enthusiastic gestures. They even ate more food and of course, started to become rude to their opponents.  Worst of all, the rich players’ understanding of the situation was warped as they would brag about their success after the rigged game.

Wisdom is more than knowing how to manage money; it is knowing how money impacts the mind.  In a September 2017 article on Wisebread.com, the author referenced a study where participants were invited to a lab where they were told that they would be tested for finger dexterity.  One group of people was asked to count a stack of currency while another group was tasked with counting blank pieces of paper.  After the counting was complete, some of the participants were asked to put their fingers in a bowl of hot water and rate their level of discomfort.  Amazingly, the participants who counted currency expressed much lower levels of discomfort than those who counted blank paper.  The same article mentioned two other experiments that measured the relationship between wealth and cognitive ability.  In one of those experiments, sugar cane farmers from India were asked to perform a series of tasks both before their harvest (poor) and after the harvest (rich).  The researchers found that the farmers performed better at cognitive tasks after the harvest than they did before, concluding that poverty-related concerns leave less mental resources for other types of tasks.
 
Money has a profound impact on our mind.  It is wise to learn this fact and it is wise to learn this fact before trying to learn everything there is to learn about credits, debits, stocks, bonds and bitcoin.

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