What does Proverbs 21:17 mean?
ESV: Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
NIV: Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.
NASB: One who loves pleasure will become a poor person; One who loves wine and oil will not become rich.
CSB: The one who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will not get rich.
NLT: Those who love pleasure become poor; those who love wine and luxury will never be rich.
KJV: He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
NKJV: He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
Verse Commentary:
Solomon (Proverbs 10:1) warns that living for pleasure causes a person to become destitute. The modern world, in many ways, has made it easier for people to be lost in mindless entertainment. Many individuals live for pleasure, instead of better investing time and finances. Obsession with pleasure—with pleasing oneself in the moment—is also a sign of spiritual weakness. Second Timothy 3:2–4 warns about this as a symptom of a world moving away from God: "…people will be lovers of self…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."

Similarly, 1 Timothy 5:6 notes, "she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives." In Ecclesiastes 2:1 Solomon testifies: "I said in my heart, 'Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.' But behold this also was vanity [emptiness]."

Wine and oil were used at feasts (Psalm 104:15; Proverbs 27:9; Amos 6:6). The host and guests drank wine, and the oil meant here was a perfume poured over the head of an honored person. Hoarding such things, instead of investing them, would not be an effective use of resources. In another way, those who love luxuries ("wine and oil") such that they prioritize them will be more likely to waste their resources and become poor.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 21:17–31 continues the recorded wisdom of Solomon (Proverbs 10:1). He contrasts the wise person with the foolish person, the righteous with the wicked, the lazy person with the diligent, and human wisdom with the Lord's sovereignty.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter begins and ends with a declaration of God's sovereignty. He alone judges the heart; the Lord considers intentions just as important as physical actions. Other comments include statements about unpleasant spouses, proper perspectives on wealth, work ethic, and the essential nature of godly wisdom. Human wisdom is no match for the sovereign Lord, who alone is ultimately responsible for victory in battle.
Chapter Context:
This is part of the second major section of the book (Proverbs 10—22) featuring nearly four hundred statements. Most of these are two-line comments presenting common sense and general wisdom. The vague theme of chapter 21 is God's control. Man may believe he is in control of his circumstances, but God superintends everything. The chapter begins and ends by assuring the readers that God holds ultimate sway over all things.
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.
Accessed 6/13/2024 1:57:45 PM
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