Proverbs 18:23

ESV The poor use entreaties, but the rich answer roughly.
NIV The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly.
NASB A poor person utters pleadings, But a rich person answers defiantly.
CSB The poor person pleads, but the rich one answers roughly.
NLT The poor plead for mercy; the rich answer with insults.
KJV The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.
NKJV The poor man uses entreaties, But the rich answers roughly.

What does Proverbs 18:23 mean?

Here, again, the book of Proverbs notes an aspect of the real world that needs to be kept in mind. This is neither a command, nor an endorsement. Rather, it's a truth about how human nature tends to indulge the wealthy while being impatient with the poor. Those perceived as "poor" often feel they must ask—or literally "beg"—when speaking with others, while those who are rich might be tempted towards arrogance and derision.

Often, when the poor beg for help, people who are well able to respond with help answer the poor with harsh words. Money can make some people rude, coarse, and cruel in their treatment of less fortunate people. It seems the rich man who lived high off the hog mistreated the poor man Lazarus. Although the rich man ate luxuriously every day, Lazarus was allowed only a few scraps from the rich man's table (Luke 16:19–21).

That unfortunate reality is also a reminder. Many proverbs recorded by Solomon warn about the financial risks brought on by foolishness (Proverbs 6:10–11; 10:4; 11:24; 13:18; 28:19). A person who acts against wisdom and common sense puts themselves at greater risk of relying on "entreaties," translated from a word literally meaning "pleadings."

From a spiritual perspective, this verse can also be interpreted as a contrast between those who are "poor in spirit" versus those who are arrogant (Matthew 5:3; Proverbs 16:19). Being poor in spirit is a reference to humility: someone who depends on the Lord to meet their needs. Such a person will naturally gravitate towards a gentler, calmer, and less entitled attitude.
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