Honor or Riches

Reading the Word

Proverbs 11:16–17 (ESV)
16 A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches.
17 A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

Understanding and Applying the Word

At first glance these verses may seem strange. It may seem verse 16 contradicts verse 17. This is the beauty of proverbs. They make us stop and think. We have to consider carefully each word if we are going to understand their message.

In the first verse, we are told that being gracious brings honor while violence brings riches. It may seem that both the gracious and the violent are receiving good things until we read the next verse. In verse 17, we are told that being kind is beneficial, but being cruel will come back to hurt you. How do we make sense of this?

Honor is far better than riches. The gracious person receives honor, which is the respect and love of others, whereas the violent gain only material wealth. They do not receive honor. The one who is kind helps himself because others will like him and help him if need arises. The cruel man hurts himself because no one will come to his aid. He will be on his own. It is far better to live our lives in grace than in pursuit of riches because honor is far more valuable than material wealth.

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