What does Proverbs 13:11 mean?
ESV: Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
NIV: Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.
NASB: Wealth obtained from nothing dwindles, But one who gathers by labor increases it.
CSB: Wealth obtained by fraud will dwindle, but whoever earns it through labor will multiply it.
NLT: Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time.
KJV: Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.
NKJV: Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, But he who gathers by labor will increase.
Verse Commentary:
In this verse Solomon observes the difference between wealth acquired suddenly and wealth gained slowly but honestly. The implications of this proverb involve both money that is brought in greedily, or through questionable means, and that which is simply gained instantly. Those who dishonestly seek wealth, by taking advantage of others or by engaging in schemes, can expect their wealth to disappear just as quickly as it arrived.

One modern parallel to this is known as the "lottery curse." Participating in a small gamble with the hope of winning a huge prize is a common vice in many modern nations. Sadly, many who receive the "big prize" find themselves worse off financially, after many years, than they were before they won the money. Since they didn't earn that money, they often have no experience with how to use it, protect it, or manage it.

The other kind of wealth implied here is that seized suddenly and dishonestly. This is money which may have been taken by robbery, stealing, swindling, cheating, or in some other dishonest way. Achan grabbed wealth dishonestly. The Lord had commanded the people of Israel not to take from Jericho what was devoted to him (Joshua 6:17–19), but Achan took a beautiful cloak, 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels and hid them in the ground inside his tent (Joshua 7:21). However, what he gained hastily dwindled quickly. His sin was found out, and the people of Israel put him to death by stoning (Joshua 7:24–25). It is far better to acquire wealth gradually but honestly as Solomon points out here.

Eternity provides another contrast in how we accumulate wealth. Material resources can be gained quickly, but as soon as we leave this life, they are entirely left behind (Proverbs 11:7; Luke 12:16–21; 1 Corinthians 3:15). Spiritual rewards, earned over time by service to God, will last forever (Matthew 6:19–20; 10:42).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 13:4–11 observes key differences between the rich and poor, the testimony of the righteous and the dismal end of the wicked, the insolence of the wicked and the willingness of the wise to accept advice. This continues the pattern of contrast and comparison used in this section of the book.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter of Proverbs continues Solomon's wise sayings. He counsels his readers to be sensible and hardworking, as well as honest. This allows a person to be content with what they have, to enjoy life, and to bless their descendants. Laziness leads to trouble and ruin, as does a lack of discipline.
Chapter Context:
Starting in chapter 10, the book of Proverbs records a long series of wise sayings from Solomon. These continue for several chapters. Through chapter 15, a major focus is on issues such as godly living, mostly given in contrast with examples of ungodliness. This chapter emphasizes themes such as work ethic, honesty, and discipline.
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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