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Little Shop of Wisdom

Wisdom of having integrity in work

Proverbs 28:19-24

19 He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!

20 A faithful man will abound with blessings,
But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.

21 To show partiality is not good,
Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.

22 A man with an evil eye hastens after riches,
And does not consider that poverty will come upon him.

23 He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward
Than he who flatters with the tongue.

24 Whoever robs his father or his mother,
And says, “It is no transgression,”
The same is companion to a destroyer.


Thomas Jefferson once said, “The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” This seems to have been somewhat of a presidential prognostication when one considers the success of the 1986 film “Little Shop of Horrors.” 

This musical masterpiece first hit theaters in December of that year with a soundtrack that was an homage to 50’s “doo-wop” music, a clever cast of comedic actors—and one very vicious man-eating carnivorous plant. 

An adaptation of the successful 1981 off-Broadway musical—itself an adaptation of an obscure 1960 Harvey Korman B-movie comedy film. (It is possible Korman’s drive-in movie flick was in-turn inspired by the 1951 novel Day of the Triffids by English author John Wyndham.) In each of these presentations, a plant does indeed become useful as it steals the show and forever fixes itself in western culture. 

Downtown, in some American city, humble florist Seymour Krelborn witnesses a sudden solar eclipse. In its wake, he discovers an unusual plant and takes it back to the shop of his employer, Mr. Mushnik. Seymour names the mysterious plant "Audrey II” after his co-worker Audrey, on whom he has a secret crush.

Mushnik’s Florist does almost no business, as it is located down on “skid row,” but the presence of “Audrey II” has flocks of new customers coming in to view the curiosity. Sales increase, and plans are made to use the plant as a marketing tool for success.

This is a boost for Seymour who is poor and sees no way out of his dead-end job. The prospect of success gives him hope that he can get Audrey to like him and perhaps together they can flee their squalid life. This is captured brilliantly in the song, “Skid Row (Downtown).”

Just when it seems that life is about to turn around for them all, Seymour discovers the terrible reality behind the plant: it is carnivorous, and it craves human blood! Thus begins the comedic journey as Seymour seeks to feed it first with drops of his own blood, and it watches it grow unnaturally quick. Soon “Audrey II” reveals that it can speak—and it demands human victims! 

Seymour realizes all too late that there are no real get-rich-quick schemes and that dishonest business practices can have a human toll. 

Solomon may have scratched his head at the thought of killer plants from outer space, but he knew a thing or two about the importance of maintaining one’s integrity in work and the pursuits of life. In Proverbs chapter 28, he lays out several passages on the wisdom of wealth gained by hard work instead of haste. 

He instructs the young of Israel in a song of six passages, beginning with two proverbs that stress the difference between the wise pursuit of lasting wealth and the foolish pursuit of easy money:

19 He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!–Proverbs 28:19

In a world lit only by fire, agricultural images speak to the heart. Even a young Jewish man or woman can see the result of local farmers who keep a steady hand on the plow. They see the fields white for harvest and enjoy the bounty of fall in the ceremonial feasts like the Shavuot, and know the value that hard work brings to a nation.

On the other hand, one with a mind filled with fantasy, or “frivolity,” will never get ahead. Do you know someone like this? His or her mind is always filled with some vague idea that success will somehow find them someday. They complain about their job, always calling in sick or skipping out early, and never seem to possess any ambition to store up for tomorrow. 

This person is usually at a loss to explain why he is never promoted, or she never seems to have money for a rainy day. What’s more, this type of life of living beyond your means or in a world of self-focus is not conducive to putting down the roots of family and legacy. Poverty of savings and poverty of purpose usually go hand-in-hand. Solomon continues with another comparison:

20 A faithful man will abound with blessings,
But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.–Proverbs 28:20

Here, he lays out a stark dichotomy of hard, steady work versus seeing life like a lottery ticket. More than games of chance, Solomon warns here about the a type of heart disease that affects those who seek wealth as fast as they can obtain it—no matter the cost. In much the same way the Apostle Paul instructed his young Galatian friend, Timothy:

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.–I Timothy 16:9

“Blessings” here in verse 20 implies that hard work brings wealth, but it also includes such intangibles as relational happiness and long life. The pursuit of wealth and success is not evil or foolish in the least, but many who find them look back on a life of dubious actions, compromised morals, and suspended ethics and are filled with regret. 

Failed marriages, missed dance recitals and tee-ball games, and superficial relationships can make gold seem like ashes and dust. 

With these two proverbs to find the range of your heart, Solomon begins to fire for effect with a series of wise saying that rain down a hail of wisdom around you:

21 To show partiality is not good,
Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.–Proverbs 28:21

Showing “partiality” can be taken a number of ways. In one sense, this can be a caution for you to not “play favorites.” To show preference only to those who are kind to you or support your agenda can cause disruption in the workplace, as well as in the church. 

However, “partiality” here is more of a warning against bribery. You have read of Solomon’s wisdom against bribery in Proverbs 17:23 and later in 29:4, so this is nothing new. However, it is good to be reminded that for even the possibility of gaining quick wealth or favor, people have committed the most heinous of atrocities.  As the prophet Ezekiel condemns the lying prophets of Israel with the blood of innocents on their hands:

19 And will you profane Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, killing people who should not die, and keeping people alive who should not live, by your lying to My people who listen to lies?”–Ezekiel 13:19

Have you ever found yourself compromising little by little until you have reached the point where the lives of real people around you are being impacted? This could mean going along with unethical business practices that result in the hardships of others, or going against God’s moral law to affirm sinful policies or engage in heart-hardening actions. You tell yourself, “it’s just business,” or “everybody does it,” and in your complicity—or silence—you lose your soul.

A similar thing happens to the soldiers who served as guards for Jesus’s tomb. They had been rendered unconscious by the angels, and thus unable to respond to the resurrection. The religious leaders, eager to create “fake news,” bribed them to promote a false story:

12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.–Matthew 28:12-14

The soldiers took the money, but lost their souls.

Solomon continues his cavalcade of crookedness with another symptom of the pursuit of east wealth: the miser:

22 A man with an evil eye hastens after riches,
And does not consider that poverty will come upon him.–Proverbs 28:22

For some reason this passage strikes me as funny. For those of us in the west, “to give someone the evil eye” means to glare at someone in anger or disgust. I confess that over the years I have caused many people, including my wife, my mom, college professors, and elementary school teachers to give me this look—and each one well-deserved. 

However, “the evil eye” here is not a curse or a glare but miserliness. Being stingy with one’s money, compensation, or even praise, can result in a “cheap” route to wealth that is tantamount to stealing. 

Company presidents and business owners may keep wages low to increase margins, but often this is at the expense of hard-working employees. Likewise, churches can be tempted to pay their minister a pittance because “he only works on Sunday” (I Timothy 5:18). This kind of stealing can rob the families of those who labor for you, and rob your heart of compassion. Solomon continues:

23 He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward
Than he who flatters with the tongue.–Proverbs 28:23

Here you find a gem of a proverb that you may find useful in all areas of life: telling the truth as opposed to flattering with lies is not only righteous, it is wisdom that can lead to success. 

I once had a manager who was a real “firecracker.” She was so consistently honest that at times my meetings with her were quite uncomfortable. On the other hand, her praise was like a refreshing breeze that would make me feel great about my performance—because I knew that she meant what she said. 

This integrity not only made me a better worker, it got her noticed in the company. Senior executives would call on her for her honest opinion, and did so often enough that they invited her to join them at the main office, where she eventually retired well. 

This does not always happen, but it is wonderful to see righteousness rewarded—and know that the Father is pleased. Speaking of fathers, Solomon completes his list in the final passage:

24 Whoever robs his father or his mother,
And says, “It is no transgression,”
The same is companion to a destroyer.–Proverbs 28:24

One of the most insidious means of seeking easy wealth is to take advantage of one’s parents. How many children (or grandchildren) see their parents only as a living ATM? They consistently make poor decisions and expect their parents to bail them out. 

What’s more, as parents age and grow inform, grown children will often assume their inheritance early, abusing or at least oppressing their parents in their golden years. Your parents love you and would never refuse your call for help, but as you both get older, the Fifth Commandment remains unchanged: honor thy father and mother.

As we close, we see Jesus, who honored His Father even up to the point that nails were driven into His hands and feet. As Christ boldly proclaimed during His ministry:

30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.–John 5:30

Do you see your life of success in the light of honoring your Heavenly Father, even unto death? This is a call to righteousness and integrity, no matter the cost. Pursue wealth. Pursue success. But seek the will of your Heavenly Father in all that you do, so that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.



The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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