Doing Business: Proverbs 11:19-12:6, especially vs. 27: “He who trusts in riches, this man will fall, but he who helps the righteous, this man will rise.” The manner in which we conduct business discloses not only our attitude toward material things, but also the state of our hearts and souls. Forensic technicians can distinguish between two individuals by carefully noting the patterns of loops, whorls, and composites in the lineation of their fingertips. Similarly, we may observe how people conduct their work and identify telltale patterns that disclose their deepest values and convictions.
Six verses in this reading speak of workplace interactions, including both our own and those of others. The remaining proverbs, although we might deem them to be more general, may be applied to business or work transactions as well. Each proverb in this passage affirms integrity and honesty. Since many people have been swindled through unscrupulous dealings, a major focus of the law concerns contracts: what constitutes a deal, how parties become obligated, and what is and is not fraud.
Without question there are people who persistently take advantage of others in their business dealings. Over time we learn to avoid those whom we deem to be unscrupulous operators (see the lawless man, vs. 12:2). This proverb affirms that those who sell and buy fairly are apt to be more successful in business. They earn the trust and respect of the public, even at a cost to themselves in some cases, and thus their businesses gain public approval. People want to do business with those who deal honestly. Furthermore, the Lord stresses the importance of telling the truth in business (vs. 11:19).
Wisdom warns us to be on the alert for those who do not conduct business for the benefit of others, but rather are driven by their passions to exploit, to appear more knowledgeable than they really are, or to make a sale no matter what (vs. 25). Employers and supervisors also should heed the warning of this proverb, for any superior who deals roughly or inconsiderately with subordinates finds that he will “inherit the wind” (vs. 28) instead of enjoying the pleasure of a job well done (vs. 29). Let us realize that God is party to every business transaction and holds the participants accountable, buyer and seller alike (vs. 19).
Two proverbs concern our basic attitudes toward material things (vss. 25, 27). We learn to trust those who give an extra measure when they supply us with goods or perform a service. The mechanic gains our confidence when he fixes our car or appliance and then says, “If you have any trouble with this, bring it back to me.” This holds true especially when he indeed makes it right when something does go wrong.
It is not always obvious to us where the fault lies when things go awry. May we at least be generous toward those we serve, and toward those who serve us. Even when resources are scarce, it is better to absorb some loss in order to remain openhearted and fair. God’s declaration of blessing falls upon those who share their surplus, but His curse is on those who do not care about the conditions or needs of others (vs. 25).
The fundamental orientation that assures success at work and in business is summarized in verse 19. Our Lord, the Master Employer asks of us: “Where do you actually place your trust in life: in material gain, profit, and success? Or, as I have shown you, do you set purity of heart above every task that I entrust to your hands?” He wants us to be honest and industrious, and to extend His care beyond those whom we serve on an immediate basis.
O Lord, may I ever be diligent and faithful, avoid evil company and influence, resist all temptation and advantage, and labor always for Thee on behalf of those whom I serve. – General Intercession