Proverbs 21:17-20

In Proverbs 21:17-20 Solomon reminds us that spending all our time seeking and enjoying pleasure won’t end well. To find success and prosperity, there must be a measure of discipline and self-denial. The person who loves pleasure lacks this discipline and self-denial and often ends up a poor man. Success requires doing what needs to be done, not what is fun or wanting to be done. “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” In this proverb wine and oil represent the luxuries of life. There is an appropriate way to enjoy wine and oil without setting one’s heart on them; but if these are loved too much, it is a pathway to poverty.

We live in a world filled with good and evil.  They are constantly at odds with each other. In the end, we know that good will triumph over evil. This verse is a way of saying that the righteous will ultimately succeed and will triumph over the wicked. “The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the traitor for the upright.” God promises that in the end, all His righteous and upright will be lifted above the wicked and the unfaithful.  We know how the story ends, and the good guys win.  It doesn’t mean that every victory happens for the righteous and upright, but when the dust settles and the scoreboard is final, they will win.

Solomon again reminds us of the pain in an unhappy relationship. You may recall that in a previous proverb he said it was better to live in the corner of a rooftop than with a contentious woman. This proverb removes the man from the house entirely and sets his better place in the wilderness. This shows the great value of peace and happiness in the home. “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.” This knife cuts both ways. It isn’t merely focused on wives or women, but is the responsibility of both to focus not on areas of disagreement and contention, but to always be working toward creating a peaceful home.

Money becomes the topic in this next verse. Solomon reminds us that the wise man lives a life blessed by God, and sometimes that blessing is shown in material things. They may have desirable treasure and good oil in their home.  All blessing comes from God, and we need to act as good stewards to everything He entrusts to our care. “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” The foolish man would have trouble gaining what the wise man has. He doesn’t have the character of life or blessing of God that leads to prosperity. Yet even if he were to gain it, it would not last. His foolish nature dominates as he squanders and consumes it.

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