(1) Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.
(2) For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.
(3) Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
(4) And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
This is one of those passages in Proverbs where it looks like the writer is focused on one subject and then switches gears to a different one. That’s not the case, however. The writer is drawing a comparison between the evil and the wise. The evil look for shortcuts to get the wealth, power and influence they want, and they’re not afraid of the things they have to do to get there. Proverbs says, they make a career of working angles and finding loopholes: “For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief” (v.2).
Then the writer shifts his attention to the wise and it is abrupt in order to make the contrast clear. Unlike the evil, the wise seeks after God’s way to succeed. The way of the wise takes longer, sometimes faces setbacks and even ridicule, but the way of the wise always has God’s approval and always results in eternal rewards. What the way of the wise does not have is regret. Their chambers are “filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (v. 4). They are rewards that have God’s approval and come without guilt.
Perhaps a good New Testament comparison can be found in Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus, the man who begged by the rich man’s gate (Luke 16). This is not to say that the rich man in this account was morally evil or that being rich is evil. The Bible does not teach that. Some of the greatest heroes of the faith were rich. So, wealth in and of itself is not evil, but wealth can be a distraction. In the case of the unnamed rich man, he placed his faith in his riches, and not in God. Chances are in his day he was very well known. When his name came up, people paid attention. But Jesus does not even tell us his name because his wealth and his fame did not follow him into eternity. On the other hand, we have Lazarus whom the Lord is careful to name. In his life, Lazarus’ circumstances led him to trust God and not riches. Based on what Jesus tells us of him, he lived a wretched life. In his day, Lazarus was probably little known. If his name came up, it was quickly forgotten. But God remembered and rewarded his faith. After the rich man and Lazarus both pass, we find the rich man in torments and Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, a Jewish reference to Heaven (Luke 16:23). It was not Lazarus’ poverty that put him in heaven, and it was not the rich man’s wealth that sent him to hell. For both men it was the focus of their faith. Like the evil men mentioned in Proverbs, the rich man’s focus was on his wealth and that is where his faith was. He led a wonderful life but gained a horrible eternity. Lazarus had no wealth. He only had God and that’s where his faith was. He lived a wretched life, but he gained a wonderful eternity.
Lazarus’ way was difficult, but it was the way of the wise. His circumstances forced him to look beyond the material and helped him to see the eternal. The rich man had this world’s goods and those material goods kept him from seeing what really mattered.
When God puts us in circumstances that make life difficult, we need to remember that He is not keeping us from a life of ease. He is saving us from it. He is helping us to see the things that really matter.