Economics is a fundamental part of human society. It involves the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Though the word “economics” does not appear in the Bible, there are principles and examples throughout Scripture that provide wisdom for how God’s people should think about money, wealth, work, and material possessions.
In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon frequently personifies wisdom as a woman who cries out and offers counsel to the simple and foolish. This personification of wisdom is described as one who holds vital aspects of life in her hands, including economics.
- Lady Wisdom in Proverbs oversees the economics of the household and the nation.
- She values diligence, integrity, generosity, and prudent planning.
- Wisdom seeks to build up households and communities through ethical economic practices.
- Foolishness leads to economic disaster through laziness, greed, and injustice.
- God calls His people to find wisdom for finances, business, and work.
- Economic wisdom starts with fearing the Lord and trusting in Him rather than riches.
Lady Wisdom’s Economic Oversight
In Proverbs 3:13-18, we find a beautiful poetic description of Wisdom personified as a woman:
Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Length of days is in her right hand,
In her left hand riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.
The passage describes Wisdom as a righteous woman who offers eternal blessings that vastly surpass material wealth. Specifically, length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honor. This declares that Wisdom oversees vital aspects of human economics – our finances, business dealings, possessions, and material wealth. She holds these things in her hands, implying her administrative oversight and governance.
As we’ll see, Lady Wisdom offers prudent counsel on how to rightly handle these economic matters in everyday life. Those who follow her ways will be blessed, while those who reject her end up in ruin. She personifies the wisdom of God in the practical affairs of household economics.
In the ancient world, the Woman of Wisdom in Proverbs had parallels to Egyptian depictions of the goddesses Maat and Isis governing society. However, the biblical wisdom literature makes clear that true wisdom comes from trusting the one true God. Proverbs 9:10 declares, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” Biblical wisdom starts with reverence for the Lord.
Wisdom Values Diligence and Integrity
Lady Wisdom highly values diligence, integrity, and prudent planning in economic matters. Throughout Proverbs, she continually warns against the folly of laziness, hastiness, dishonest scheming, and pleasure-seeking at the expense of hard work.
For example, she warns:
- “He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.” (Proverbs 18:9)
- “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenty, but the lazy become destitute.” (Proverbs 21:5)
Conversely, Wisdom blesses those who work diligently and conduct business matters with integrity:
- “The righteous considers the cause of the poor, but the wicked does not understand such knowledge.” (Proverbs 29:7)
- “Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice.” (Proverbs 16:8)
Throughout Proverbs, Lady Wisdom condemns unjust business practices, bribery, and dishonesty in the pursuit of money. Instead, she upholds ethical conduct that cares for the poor and needy.
Wisdom Promotes Generosity and Prudent Saving
Lady Wisdom values both generous giving and prudent saving. She warns against both miserliness and reckless excess. For example:
- “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.” (Proverbs 3:9)
- “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.” (Proverbs 11:24-25)
At the same time, Wisdom commends saving, wise investment, and prudent planning:
- “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” (Proverbs 21:20)
- “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5)
Wisdom promotes finding the right balance between industry and charity, spending and saving. Economic stability happens when households and communities follow wisdom in these areas.
Wisdom Builds Up Households and Communities
At the household level, Lady Wisdom oversees the economics of marriage, child-rearing, and managing the home. She calls the simple and youth to devotion to God, hard work, prudence and integrity in handling finances. In so doing, she builds up strong families:
- “House and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:14)
- “She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27)
Likewise, at the societal level, Wisdom governs economics through just leadership that cares for the poor and needy.
- “By justice a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.” (Proverbs 29:4)
- “If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.” (Proverbs 29:14)
Wisdom promotes economic practices that build up households, communities, and nations, rather than tearing them down through oppression of the poor.
The Way of Foolishness Leads to Ruin
Whereas Wisdom builds up, Foolishness leads to economic ruin. The book of Proverbs frequently warns how laziness, greed, oppression, deceit, wastefulness, and other vices lead to poverty and calamity, while virtues like diligence, integrity, thriftiness, and generosity lead to stability and prosperity.
- “He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!” (Proverbs 28:19)
- “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.” (Proverbs 13:11)
The way of foolishness is warned against:
- “The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:3)
- “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15)
In many cases, the outcomes of wisdom or foolishness extend into the social and economic outcomes of families and communities. Hence why wisdom must be sought.
Seeking the Wisdom of God for Economics
Scripture makes clear that true wisdom comes from revering God and obeying His word. Human wisdom apart from God often leads to foolish choices with painful consequences. But God promises wisdom to those who seek Him:
- “The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)
- “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
In matters of money, business, and economics, we must start with fearing the Lord rather than trusting in riches:
- “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil.” (Proverbs 19:23)
- “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)
Seeking God’s wisdom leads to finding the prudent path of diligence, integrity, generosity, and care for the poor. This brings blessings to households, communities, and nations.
Lady Wisdom in Proverbs illustrates how following God’s ways leads to economic stability and prosperity, while rejecting Wisdom leads to ruin. As the household manager and city overseer, Wisdom values hard work, integrity, generosity, and care for the poor in financial matters. Though riches are temporary, Wisdom offers eternal riches and blessings for those who walk in the fear of the Lord.
God calls every believer to seek His wisdom and walk in it. Starting with fearing Him rather than money, we gain prudent perspective on our work, investments, giving, and daily economic decisions. By God’s grace, the Wise Woman guides us to build up our households, churches, communities, cities, and nations for blessing rather than destruction. May we heed Wisdom’s call!