“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
Growing Dominion, Part 164
“Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (Prov. 28:6)
Proverbs is full of trade offs, and this is the way that wisdom has in teaching us to establish an appropriate system of values. When you have two variables, like poverty and integrity, this gives you four possible combinations. A man could be poor and upright, poor and perverse, rich and perverse, and rich and upright. And when we are given the four options (which we would all prefer), we automatically say that we want to be rich and upright. That’s the ticket. But that doesn’t really make you think the way you really need to think in order to actually be upright.
Suppose we had two other variables (for women), right out of a blonde joke—beautiful and stupid. This gives us four options, beautiful and stupid, beautiful and intelligent, ugly and stupid, and ugly and intelligent. Given the four, everybody goes right to the easy one. But if someone were to say that it is better to be ugly and intelligent than beautiful and stupid, this actually reveals their hierarchy of values in a meaningful way. It would do the same thing if a person opted to be beautiful and dumb. If you had to choose (as you don’t always have to do), what would you choose?
And so, rather than lose his integrity, a wise man would rather lose his income. And if he hastens to assure us that he can have both, then perhaps he is too eager to avoid learning this particular lesson.