Proverbs 10:15, 16
10:15 — A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
This proverb makes a very simple observation. Wealth is to be preferred over poverty because it can protect us from some (not all) of the problems of life. “A strong city can keep an invader out, so wealth can keep problems at bay.” Positive statements about wealth can be found in Proverbs (though Lawson believes this is not one of them since he argues that the rich man has only made his wealth his strong city). In Proverbs, we are reminded that wealth comes from the Lord (cf. 10:22; 3:16). Of course, this is not the only thing it says about wealth (there are other proverbs that speak about the wicked being wealthy)! This proverb needs to be considered with what is taught in 18:11, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.” Waltke observes, “Half of the ten occurrences of wealth… in Solomon’s proverbs instruct the youth to prize it… and the other half not to trust it.” (Waltke)
Solomon makes a statement of fact and in this proverb, he avoids making a moral statement. Simply put, the poor man’s poverty can easily lead to his ruin. Eventually, his poverty could rob him of health, protection, etc. Wealth can surely help but it can also deceive and destroy. The man’s character determines how his wealth will help him— his moral nature will govern its effects on him. The next proverb develops this point.
10:16 — The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin.
“This verse assumes that both the righteous and the wicked may gain some material substance, but contrasts the value that it has for them. Money in the hand of the righteous person is a positive thing, but money in the hand of a wicked person is a negative thing.” (Longman) The godly can use the world for good; the wicked will use his wealth for sin. Sin begets more sin.
The fruit of the wicked man’s labours, on the contrary, tends to sin; it does so, whether it be hoarded up by his covetousness, or spent in the gratification of vanity and luxury. With all your getting, get righteousness, which will make your labour pure and profitable. Without it, your ploughing is sin; your gains loss to your souls. (Lawson)
We can think of many examples. Some will waste their money on sinful things (drugs, sex, wicked amusements, etc.) while the righteous will use is for good (family, those in need, the cause of Christ, etc.). We could list many other examples. Once again, the character of the person will determine how he will employ his wealth (much like how one’s character determines the use of his tongue).