Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
9 for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12 like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse”—
15 my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
16 for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
17 For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors. – Proverbs 1:8-19
While this exhortation in Proverbs 1 is aimed at young people who are establishing their values and worldview, the concluding proposition applies to us all.
That which is particularly applicable to young people is the recognition that listening to your parent’s wisdom isn’t just some old-fashioned idea; God says it is something that will bring you honor. The imagery is that of a graceful garland on your head (a crown) and pendants for your neck. These are emblems of honor, and they are earned by youth who accept parental-wisdom and do not rebel against their parent’s godly wisdom. Picture the Olympic champion with the garland on his head and the gold medal around his neck. If you are a young person who has submitted to the Lordship of Christ, understand that this is a matter of being a disciple of Christ. In Ephesians, Paul states it this way:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3
There is a promise attached to your obedience to your parents. Proverbs says it is a garland and a pendant. Paul says it is the fact that your life will go well and you may live long in the land.
This admonition to young people precedes a universal truth applicable to us all. It has to do with our heart’s relation to the things of this world that the world considers the source of honor, that is wealth. There is a proper way to gain wealth and a way that will take away the life of its possessors.
Biblical business is neither pure capitalism nor communism. It is stewardship of God’s resources that are managed with the view to God’s honor and our joy and bringing him glory. It is not profit taken from customers in an unjust transaction that leaves the customer poorer and the businessman richer. It is profit earned from a fair trade in which the customer fairly obtains what he wants or needs, and the businessman is able to make a profit so he can care for his family, grow his business and contribute to his community.
This proverb makes it clear that profit unjustly sought at the expense of others will actually cost the businessman his life. I have seen this play out so many times in my life. This doesn’t necessarily mean the physical life of the businessman, but it takes away what is most precious. Marriages have been sacrificed on the altar of unjust gain. Family relationships have been sacrificed on the altar of unjust gain. So, when it is all said and done, the life of the one who seeks unjust profits is destroyed by the very one who was seeking to fill his life with the trappings of a “life of success.” If you pursue unjust gain so you can profit, you actually set your own trap to ruin your life.
There is profit and financial success that is good and honors God. This is no statement that all profit is wrong or evil. Not at all. Scripture doesn’t teach that. It does teach that one who places the gain of wealth above honor to God is headed for destruction.
“…those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” – 1 Timothy 6:9-10
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” – 1 Timothy 6:17-19