"Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness"
Solomon is selling the advantages of going after wisdom. Everything that temptation promises, wisdom actually delivers with none of the bitter aftertaste of foolishness. Too often we, as believers, have taken the route of saying that God will make up for our sacrifices in this world with rewards in the next one. This is true but this is not the inducement that Solomon or Jesus give. Both say that the path of wisdom and faith will be highly rewarded in this life as well as the next.
It is important to say that the Christian way of life – the life of faith and righteousness; the life of wisdom – is the best life here and now. If one has to sacrifice wisdom, righteousness, or faith in God to have this world's goods or this world's adulation, then it means submitting to a fool’s world that will fall apart. Do not run after the world's fools gold; instead run hard after wisdom and God will reward you. If you seek first the kingdom of heaven, He will add all these other things to you. The life of faith and wisdom is worth it. It pays off in this life and in the one to come.
Let's take a look at the four payoffs that Solomon knows we are all looking at:
This is the Hebrew word oser, which means abundance or riches or plenty. Solomon's perspective is to try and get the young person to understand what is very difficult to understand from an American cultural perspective. He is saying that when you embrace the life of wisdom, you will have more than just one of something; more than just what is needed at the moment. Instead you will have multiples and abundance of food, clothing, shelter, and resources. American culture, being built upon a whole culture of people who embraced wisdom, is experiencing this plenty – even those who are themselves fools. This was also true of Israel during Solomon's day. There was so much plenty that even silver was common. The economy was good in Solomon's day. Our culture is, however, fast forgetting the wisdom of our past and embracing the fool’s way of believing that our position of abundance is ours by right. American young people can often not imagine a world where one does not have multiples of everything. This is why a missions trip is often so enlightening to American youth.
Solomon's selling feature of plenty is important to mention. It suggests that it is not against God's will for a person who follows His will to have plenty. It is not more spiritual to be poor. It matters whether the plenty is handled with righteousness and justice.
This is the Hebrew word kabod, which means glory or honor or weightiness or even heaviness. The idea of this word is heaviness or weightiness and is applied to both good and bad ideas. In this context – as in many – it means that a person is a valuable or weighty and respected person. This is what people want as they progress through life. They want to be respected and valued. They want their opinion to count and their presence to be noted.
Solomon is saying that those who embrace wisdom and look for the win/win/win scenario will become a person who is respected and valued. The opposite is also true: The people who only look out for themselves will be devalued and diminished in their respect and place of prominence.
American culture has begun to substitute a fool's honor for real honor and is beginning to convince teens and others to pursue it. The fake honor is fame: I want to be known or noticed. What is amazing is that people don't care what they are known for as long as they are noticed or known above others. This is not the honor that Solomon is talking about; it is vainglory of the pilgrim's progress. It is pride and vanity. What is interesting is that if people actually become famous, then they enter a prison of their own making. They cannot go out like they used to because everyone notices them. They are not respected for who they are. They are followed around by paparazzi and hounded. This is portrayed as a shortcut to honor and adulation; it does not end up where you think it does.
We do want honor where people value us; where they want to know what we think and we have something of substance to say; where people give us room to live because they value us. We want honor and the path to attain it is wisdom.
This is the Hebrew word hon, which means enough, riches, abundance, and/or wealth. There is not a huge difference between the word riches used in the first phrase and wealth used in this second phrase. What is different is the describing adjective: enduring.
This is the Hebrew word sedeq, which means justice; righteousness. It comes from the idea of conformity to a standard; staying within God's proscribed boundaries.
One of the grave concerns of those who are raised in a religious context or supernatural worldview is: What if I am good my whole life and then near the end I make a major error and blow away – through giving into temptation and sin – my righteous life. We may have a hard time understanding this great concern, but Solomon is addressing this concern with this word. The person who embraces wisdom will have enduring righteousness. They will not destroy all they have been through evil choices later in life.
This does raise issues about Solomon's own life as he made very poor and unrighteous decisions near the end of his life.
This is the Hebrew word ateq, which means durable or in this case translated enduring. It is this word which changes the meaning and gives the significance to what Solomon is promising. If you embrace the path of wisdom, you will not only have abundance and value but it will not be fleeting. The danger of those who gain abundance and honor is that it could go away, especially those who gain it the fool's way. They do not know how they really got it and it is not necessarily repeatable.
We don't just want abundance and value. We want to make sure that we won't lose it and that we won't make major mistakes so that whatever value we have built up will be snatched away.