Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 11:16
"A gracious woman attains honor and ruthless men attain riches"
This is one of the delightful proverbs that tells us about the real world. It says that if you want honor or value in the eyes of lots of people, then be gracious. It would seem to be an interesting irony that in order to get people to value you publicly, you must be a person who dispenses favor to others.
This is the Hebrew word hen which means favor, grace, charm. The idea here is a woman who always celebrates the best in the other person; the one who sees you in a favorable light and also gives favors to those she meets. She is a giver not a taker. Who are the people that you want to spend time around – those who are selfish and focused upon themselves or those who consistently give and grant favors? The idea of gracious here is to grant a favor or put a person on a pedestal of importance. We all think that we have strength which should cause people to be impressed with who we are, so it is wonderful when we find people who are willing to focus on that aspect of our personhood that is our strength and not our weakness.
This is the Hebrew word kabod which means abundance, honor, glory. Solomon wants to point out the fact that this woman is always granting others grace and favor and giving herself away to help and promote others’ lives in abundance of what she gives away. How do you gain true honor in the eyes of others? Serve others and stop trying to protect your prestige, value. and/or reputation.
It is absolutely true that a woman who does not air other people's dirty laundry will be thought of very highly, while the woman who climbs the social ladder by knowing and dishing dirt on others will be universally despised.
and ruthless men attain riches
This word ruthless is a word that means mighty, aggressor, and the like.
Solomon's insight here is unexpected. It is not what we would expect in this "religious" book, but Solomon is a realist with his wisdom insights. He basically says that those who are assertive and aggressive are those who will amass greater levels of wealth. Those who wait and demur will be passed by as the goods are gobbled up by the assertive and aggressive men.
Do not miss the point in this proverb. Women who want to be highly valued for their charm and grace must give away grace, favor, and compliments to others. Men who want to have riches must have a single-minded focus and assertiveness or the goods will be gone. Do not dawdle, Solomon says, in business it may be gone.
It is important to say that the attainment of earthly riches may be gathered this way, but heavenly riches are not collected through assertiveness or ruthlessness. These are gained by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.