What does Proverbs 16:8 mean?
ESV: Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.
NIV: Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.
NASB: Better is a little with righteousness Than great income with injustice.
CSB: Better a little with righteousness than great income with injustice.
NLT: Better to have little, with godliness, than to be rich and dishonest.
KJV: Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.
Verse Commentary:
A believer has no guarantee of great wealth (John 16:33; Matthew 6:19; 8:20). Yet all believers have access to great spiritual wealth (Matthew 5:3, 5). Second Corinthians 8:9 declares, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." Spiritual riches include salvation, peace with God, assurance of heaven, fellowship with God, assurance of His abiding presence, joy, and purposeful living (1 Timothy 6:6). A person may be financially affluent, but if he does not belong to God, he is spiritually impoverished, even bankrupt.

Solomon reasons here that it is better to be poor and yet be in good standing with God, rather than to live an unjust life with material wealth (Mark 8:36). All who become rich by immoral means will be punished by the Lord. Money, luxury homes, fame, cars, and overflowing possessions can only last so long as this life. They offer wealthy unbelievers no defense in the day of judgment (Proverbs 15:16).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 16:1–9 reflects on the heart's intention to make plans and the Lord's rule over that planning. Committing one's ways to God, with reverence, is the wise way to make plans. The Lord has a purpose for everything He created (1 Timothy 4:4). This continues the main section of the book of Proverbs: a compilation of short, general-case statements of wisdom.
Chapter Summary:
This part of Solomon's proverbs emphasizes human motives, self-control, and common sense. Many of these proverbs are arranged in a two-part style. The first and second half of these statements make the same basic point, but from opposite perspectives. Notable verses are verses 9 and 33, speaking of God's sovereignty, and verse 18, a famous warning about arrogance. Also often cited is verse 25, which repeats Proverbs 14:12 and encourages self-reflection.
Chapter Context:
A lengthy list of Solomon's wise sayings began in chapter 10. Chapter 16 begins a section mostly composed of comparisons and completions. It extends to Proverbs 22:16. Man's thoughts, speech, motives, and conduct are examined in this chapter. The chapter also addresses pride, evil, and injustice.
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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