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Bible Study Guide

Proverbs

Proverbs 13 11 Summary

We hope you’ll be edified and admonished by this summary of Proverbs 13 11.

Proverbs 13 11 Summary: In 2002 a business man from West Virginia named Jack Whittaker won the lottery in the amount of nearly $315 million US Dollars. That was the most anyone had won to that point in the history of the US. It would seem that he was set for life, financially. But after a lot of bad spending decisions and numerous other calamities, Jack was left broke.

And this story shouldn’t surprise us. After all, God reminds us in Proverbs 13 11 of what happens to “wealth gotten by vanity.”

So, let’s read Proverbs 13 11 and be reminded of the importance of how we seek to obtain our wealth in this world.

KJV Proverbs 13:11 {Wealth gotten by vanity/Wealth obtained by fraud/Wealth gained quickly/Dishonest money} {shall be diminished/dwindles/will dwindle away/dwindles away}:

but {he that/the one who/he who} {gathereth/gathers/gathers it/gathers money} {by labour/by labor/little by little} {shall increase/increases it/will become rich/makes it grow}.

Now, whenever I study a proverb in Scripture, I first look at whether God is making a contrast between two things. Is he doing that in Proverbs 13 11? Indeed, he is!

First, God is contrasting two approaches to making money.

Proverbs 13 11 Summary
Wealth Gotten by Vanity

The first way to gain wealth mentioned is to do so “by vanity” literally in Hebrew (מֵהֶבֶל). Some other translations take the idea of “vanity” to mean that this wealth is obtained by fraud or that it’s done so in a dishonest manner. Another translation takes the approach that to obtain wealth “by vanity” is to obtain it quickly.

So…which is it?

Well, the best way to hone-in on exactly what one line in a proverb means – in this case, what it means to obtain wealth “by vanity” – is to see what God declares to be the opposite of that approach, which we see in the second line of Proverbs 13 11.

Proverbs 13 11 Summary
Gaining Wealth by Labor

And that opposite approach to gaining wealth is to gather it by labor – or literally to gather it “by hand” (עַל־יָד). This calls to mind manual labor – or perhaps metaphorically, diligent work. God holds out to us the ideal of making money by working hard.

Contrast that to the get-rich-quick schemes that our world and our flesh seem to love. Our sinful human nature loves the idea of winning the lottery or falling upon an inheritance from some long-lost rich uncle.

But whereas our world might try to seduce us into thinking that gaining wealth in this easy-come kind of way is ideal, God himself tells us that this way of making money is not his ideal for us. As the saying goes, easy-come, easy-go!

And that’s exactly the direction Proverbs 13 11 takes next. We’ve already seen the Lord in Proverbs 13 11 contrasting two ways of gaining wealth. You can gain wealth diligently with hard work and labor – or you can gain it by an unexpected windfall or even by deceiving others.

The Result of Gaining Wealth

But the other reality that the Lord confronts us with in Proverbs 13 11 is the effect of those two different ways of gaining wealth.

And you might tend to think gaining wealth is gaining wealth. I mean, if you earn some money it’s all the same. The result will be the same – you get money!

But Proverbs 13 11 alerts us to the fact that there are different results of attempting to gain wealth depending on how you go about doing it.

Proverbs 13 11 Summary
Result 1: Dwindling Wealth

The first potential result of gaining wealth “by vanity” or quickly or deceitfully is that you lose it. It diminishes or dwindles away. It “becomes small” (יִמְעָט) in Hebrew.

And you see this playing itself out in real life. One third of lottery winners in the United States declare bankruptcy often within a few years of their win. Stories of celebrities and athletes who have gone broke after making ridiculous amounts of money abound.

Yes, the Bible – and the God who wrote the Bible – is true – wealth gained by vanity dwindles away.

What’s the alternative?

Proverbs 13 11 Summary
Result 2: Increasing Wealth

Proverbs 13 11 holds out for us the plain ideal of gaining your wealth by hard work. And the not-so-plain result – what everyone ultimately is after – is that your wealth will increase (יַרְבֶּה) as you work hard to earn it. You make your wealth grow as you diligently obtain it. You might even become rich! But you’re not looking to a get-rich-quick scheme to achieve this goal. You are working honestly and diligently. And God might see fit to cause your wealth to grow.

Conclusion

So, you have two choices – try to become wealthy through scheme and games – or gaining wealth by hard work and toil and labor. The latter approach is not glorious, but its result is. You can bank on it!

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