Proverbs 22:16

ESV Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
NIV One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich--both come to poverty.
NASB One who oppresses the poor to make more for himself, Or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
CSB Oppressing the poor to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich--both lead only to poverty.
NLT A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.
KJV He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.

What does Proverbs 22:16 mean?

Solomon was extremely wealthy (2 Chronicles 9:22), but he championed the cause of the poor. In this verse he speaks out against those who oppress disadvantaged people, for the benefit of those who are already well off. He assures his readers that taking advantage of the poor and trying to buy the favor of those who are wealthier than themselves results in poverty. While it's true that greed can lead to temporary success (Proverbs 15:27; 20:21; 21:6), God's justice cannot be avoided forever (Proverbs 24:12). Those who reject the Lord's wisdom, to seek money, will eventually lose both their wealth and their souls (Luke 12:19–21).

The "poor" of this proverb are feeble, weak, helpless people. The apostle James also advocates for the poor and condemns the rich who oppress them. He writes: "Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts" (James 5:4). In the same passage, James points out what happens to those who have money yet lack integrity. He writes: "Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and the corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire" (James 5:2–3).

This marks the end of a long string of proverbs attributed to Solomon, which began in chapter 10 (Proverbs 10:1).
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