What does Proverbs 11:30 mean?
ESV: The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.
NIV: The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.
NASB: The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And one who is wise gains souls.
CSB: The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but a cunning person takes lives.
NLT: The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends.
KJV: The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
Verse Commentary:
A righteous person seeks God and godly wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 3:32–33). As a result of following the Lord's commands, he touches the lives of others with life and healing (Proverbs 10:21; 11:10). The Lord Jesus is the clearest example of this principle in action. He came to earth to minister and to give abundant life to all who believe in Him. He touched numerous lives with goodness and healing. When Peter proclaimed the gospel to Gentiles in the home of Cornelius, he said Jesus "went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him" (Acts 10:38). Those who witnessed Jesus' healing of a deaf person with a speech impairment observed, "He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak" (Mark 7:37).

Solomon also comments here about someone who "captures souls." The context here of an appealing, life-giving tree is important. The person in question attracts others to see the truth (Matthew 5:16). Similar sentiments are expressed elsewhere in the Old Testament (Daniel 12:3) but are more prominent in New Testament passages such as James 5:20 and 1 Corinthians 9:19–23. Again, Jesus is the best example of this kind of "capturing." He drew His disciples to Himself, and multitudes followed Him. Today, wise Christians share the gospel with others and lead them to Jesus.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 11:23–31 is the closing section of this segment. Solomon discusses the benefits of righteousness and generosity as opposed to stinginess and trust in riches. The righteous person will prosper and live, but the wicked person will experience trouble and punishment.
Chapter Summary:
Many of the proverbs in this section deal with contrasts between those who are righteous and those who are wicked. Righteous people follow God's will, bring honor and blessing on themselves, and have hope. Evil people disobey God, bring trouble on others, are hated, and their lives lead to disaster.
Chapter Context:
This continues a long passage filled with Solomon's general, common-sense observations. As in chapter 10, Solomon presents a variety of contrasts. We see distinctions such as those between integrity and dishonesty, trust in wealth and trust in the Lord, wise and foolish talk, true riches and false riches, the blessing of the righteous and the harm caused by the wicked, and the respective rewards of the godly and those who are evil.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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