Proverbs 3:31

ESV Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,
NIV Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways.
NASB Do not envy a violent person, And do not choose any of his ways.
CSB Don't envy a violent man or choose any of his ways;
NLT Don’t envy violent people or copy their ways.
KJV Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.

What does Proverbs 3:31 mean?

Prior verses followed a progression. The reader is commanded not to delay in doing good to others, not to withhold help from a neighbor, not to plan evil against a neighbor, and then to avoid unnecessary conflict (Proverbs 3:27–30). The command given here follows that chain by warning against looking to "a man of violence" either as a role model or with jealousy. In context, this means something more than a person who engages in fistfights or mayhem. It also refers to something more than simply being jealous of what such a person has gained.

As used here, the "man of violence" would be someone who does the opposite of the commands just given. Those who are selfish, cruel, plotting, or greedy towards others might seem to gain material wealth. The instruction Solomon gives here is that such actions should not be echoed. In Psalm 37:1, David, Solomon's father, gives similar advice. He writes: "Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers." Instead of envying wrongdoers, believers should trust in the Lord. In verse 16 David reasons, "Better is a little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked."

The other meaning of this verse is that godly people should not become bitter or jealous when evildoers appear to prosper. Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, almost made shipwreck of the faith because he envied the arrogant wicked because they were prosperous (Psalm 73:1–3). He saw them as trouble free, fat, malicious, blasphemous, and growing richer and richer (Psalm 73:3–12). However, he stopped envying the wicked when the Lord revealed their disastrous fate to him (Psalm 73:17–20, 27).

The way of the wicked may look easy and prosperous, but disaster waits at the end of the road. It is far better to follow the road that leads to endless blessings.
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