Contrasting Rewards

Series: Proverbs

by D. Marion Clark October 11, 2012 Scripture: Proverbs 11:16

Proverbs 11:16

A gracious woman gets honor,
and violent men get riches.


An English teacher would have given this proverb poor marks for its attempt at making a contrasting parallel. It goes from singular to plural, from woman to man, and the objects do not match. One would think that violent men would get dishonor. But they get the money. And as far as they are concerned, they get the better end of the bargain.

But then, the writer would note, they are fools. Their very problem is that they get what they value, and only what they value. And, as other proverbs note, they get the wrong end of the bargain. Consider these:

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death
(11:4).

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf
(11:28).

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold
(22:1).

An implied contrast between the gracious woman and the violent men is that the latter obtain mere money. To be gracious, by its very nature, means that the woman's goal is to bless others. One can feign to be gracious in order to win honor, but one cannot actually be gracious with the same goal in mind. Virtue actually is its own reward, or achieves its reward. For honor will come from other people, but especially from God the Just Rewarder, and the only rewarder who matters.