The Causes of Wealth and Poverty


 
Why are some people wealthy while other people are poor?
 
There are several possible answers to that question, but the Book of Proverbs emphasizes this insight: Hard work leads to wealth, but laziness leads to poverty. Consider in this matter the following proverbs:
 
Lazy hands make a man poor,
but diligent hands bring wealth.
He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son (10:4-5).
 
He who works his land will have abundant food,
but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment (12:11).
 
Diligent hands will rule,
but laziness ends in slave labor (12:24).
 
The lazy man does not roast his game,
but the diligent man prizes his possessions (12:27).
 
The sluggard craves and gets nothing,
but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied (13:4).
 
All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty (14:23).
 
Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
stay awake and you will have food to spare (20:13).
 
He who works his land will have abundant food,
but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty (28:19).
 
Each of these proverbs contrasts the effects of hard work and laziness. Hard work produces wealth, proceeds from wisdom, promotes self-reliance, and provides satisfaction. Laziness produces poverty, proceeds from folly, promotes dependence on others, and provides no satisfaction. If you want to be wealthy, then, you must work hard.
 
Of course, we all know hard-working people who are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. Cross California’s southern border and you’ll meet people who put in 50-to-60-hour work weeks in backbreaking labor and still don’t make enough to support their families. You can find Americans in similar situations too.
 
And, of course, we all also know lazy people who are rolling in dough. These people often come from wealthy families whose wealth has given them entry into celebrity circles.
 
A third category of people we might mention are hard-working people who wealth results from plain, dumb luck. The man who wins the lottery jackpot, the woman who picks the right suitcase on Deal or No Deal, the dual-income family who inherits a house from a long-lost uncle – these are people whose hard work has not produced the wealth they have.
 
These three categories of people are exceptions to Proverbs’ linkage of hard work and wealth. But they are the exceptions that make, rather than break, the rule. The fact of the matter is, in our own lives and in the lives of others, we routinely see that hard work leads to wealth. If the rule isn’t true, you should ask yourself why you’re working so hard.
 
Of course, wealth is a relative concept. Some people think of it as being able to buy what you want. Of course, our wants always outstrip our resources, so the want-standard is a just a formula for unhappiness. I think wealth is being able to buy what you need. And by that standard, I’m a wealthy man.

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