Reading Reflectively to Get Better Understanding Using Proverbs 19:1 as an Example

Reading reflectively, filling in the blanks to get a whole picture will bring you greater understanding and revelation. Let's use Proverbs 19:1 as an example.

Proverbs 19:1
(KJV) Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

Dropping a Word
Some commentator can't integrate all the ideas together and so he drops some. For example,

 (BBE) Better is the poor man whose ways are upright, than the man of wealth whose ways are twisted.

The 'fool' is dropped as the commentator seems not to be abe to relate wealth and foolishness at the same time. This gives a distorted view. Even if it doesn't make sense to us, it doesn't mean we can take away some words to make it meaningful to us. That is distortion.

All There but is it Complete?
Some commentators got it all together -- So we find: 

(CJB) Better to be poor and live one's life uprightly than engage in crooked speech, for such a one is a fool. 


(CEV) It's better to be poor and live right than to be a stupid liar.

But they miss the wealth part. 

Reflectively Fill in the Implied Words.
The author is talking about poor and upright together in the first half of the verse. The 2nd half of the verse, 'perverse lips'  is opposite to the 'walking in integrity".  The first half is poor + integrity. The second should be '?' + perverse, and '?'+fool, with the '?' being the opposite of poor, i.e. rich.

The Better Interpretation:
To fully tied in the whole message, I would suggest a better interpretation as:

(1) It is better to poor and upright than trying to be rich by lying; such an act is foolish.

If we separate the fool and the liar, then I can say,

(2) It is better to be uprightly poor than a rich cheater(one who get rich by illegal means) or a rich fool (one who inherits his wealth and could not keep them but waste them).

Whether (1) or (2) is the correct interpretation can be determined by the context with the subsequent verses. This we will discuss in the next post.

Lessons for Us:

What can we learn from this verse?

  1.  Integrity/Honesty/Uprightness is more important than wealth/money.
  2. There is nothing with wealth, it is just that you must get it the right way.
    Chinese has a saying, 君子爱财 取之有道 gentleman follows the righteous way to get wealth.
  3. Getting wealth by way of cheating/lying/false testimony is not wise but foolish. You either cannot get it or even if you get it, it will not last and you will suffer other consequences. (note: the details are found in the remaining verses of Proverbs 19)

What do you think? Which is the right understanding?

Lim Liat (c) 23 June 2013

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