What is your goal in life? What is success to you? How we answer those questions is essential. The wisdom of Proverbs says, “Better is a little with righteousness Than great income with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8, NASB95) But this verse is not about money and wealth but something much more important.
The balancing point is on “better,” and what is being weighed is not wealth but righteousness vs. injustice. In the scope of the Bible, “righteousness” contains several meanings. We are righteous before God in Christ. Not because of anything we’ve done but because of what Jesus did. This is judicial and relational righteousness. But there is also the sense of being righteous in our choices. Are we just towards one another?
A few verses down in Proverbs 16, we read, “A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; All the weights of the bag are His concern.” (Proverbs 16:11, NASB95) “A just balance” is one that is true and honest. Do we use one set of weights for some and another set of weights for others? Do we show partially or fairness?
Being unjust in business may make us wealthy. There are plenty of stories of folks that were ruthless and unjust in their business practices and amassed great fortunes. This proverb is reminding us that there is something more important than wealth – our integrity.
It is better to own little and walk with integrity towards others and righteousness before God. We all have to make hard choices at times. Do we lie to protect ourselves? Do we do something unethical or immoral at work because we’ve been ordered to by our employer? I’ve had to face those choices, I’m sure that you have too. The risk is that if we do the right thing, we may lose our job. This proverb places the priority on our righteousness (our integrity) over our income. That’s not easy.
One day many years ago, a few months into my new job at an office machine company, I was delivering a new copier with the owner’s son. We soon discovered that a rail was missing, which connected the sorter to the copier. As luck would have it, the machine we were replacing was a related model and had the part we needed. But, the machine was owned by a rival company. The owner’s son told me to “borrow” the part, but I refused. I’m happy to report that my bosses respected my integrity when they found out. I also realize that it could have ended differently.
God does not judge us on the size of our wealth. Neither is wealth a sign of God’s blessing and approval. What is much more important in God’s eye is our righteous integrity. Are we fair to all? Do we make the hard choice of honesty even when it costs us something? Do we value and treat each other with humble impartiality? Are our business practices just for all? These things all matter to God.
As Christians, however, we need to take one step farther. Not only are we to be people of righteous integrity, we are to also show the same kind of love to others Christ showed to us. Sometimes this means tipping the scales of justice in someone else’s favor. There are many flavors of this, and it is not our responsibility to judge the Spirit directed efforts of others. However, we as Christ-followers need to be listening and ready to do that, which is beyond fair and just.
“Better is a little with righteousness Than great income with injustice.”