The proverbs in Proverbs 28 are still part of the collection of those transmitted during the reign of King Hezekiah well over 200 years after Solomon’s death. They are filled with warnings and instructions, many of them similes. In this chapter, Solomon speaks of various types of men both good and bad.
“A poor man” (3, 6, 11,15). The poor man is not always painted sympathetically, nor is he always approved by God. Solomon mentions the audacious poor man who oppresses other poor people as being a destructive rainstorm (3). But the poor man who walks in integrity is said to be better than the crooked-acting rich man (6). Solomon praises the one who looks after the poor (8). A poor man with understanding is wiser than a rich man wise in his own eyes (11). God condemns wicked rulers who trample over the poor (15). A stingy miser bequeaths poverty to his descendants (22). Giving to the poor does not impoverish a person, but the one who turns his eyes away from the poor is cursed (27).
“An evil man” (5). This man is also referred to as “wicked” (1,4,12,15, 28), a synonym of evil meaning one who is guilty of a crime and deserving punishment. This evil one is unpleasant and malignant in God’s eyes. In Proverbs 28:5, they are depicted as being as far from God as possible such that they do not understand justice. Keeping with that contrast, law-abiding people fight against the wicked (4). People avoid wicked rulers (12,28), and with good reason (15). Yet, the wicked are full of instability and insecurity (1). Even their prayer is an abomination to God (9).
“A rich man” (6,11). While the book of Proverbs makes clear, as does the rest of Scripture, that being rich is not inherently evil or wrong, that state of being often comes with caveats and warnings. Paul says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9). Jesus taught, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mat. 19:24). He says it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mat. 19:23). In keeping with biblical teaching in other places, Solomon, one of the wealthiest men who ever lived, speaks from experience. Wealth can easily be abused or misused. He can easily trust in himself (11). Several statements about the poor in this chapter show the danger to those who trust in their riches. As Solomon writes, “A stingy man hastens after wealth” (22) and “a greedy man stirs up strife” (25).
“A faithful man” (20). This man is literally one who is full of faith, steady, trustworthy, honest, and dependable. He is a blessed in his ways. He walks in integrity (18). They fear the Lord always (14). “The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding” (7). They are among the righteous (28). He is not exempt from wrongdoing, but he is faithful to confess and forsake it (13). If he is rebuked (23), he will respond wisely and appropriately.
Character is built thought by thought, decision by decision. It is not dramatic. While there may be defining moments that stand out, it is mostly subtle and gradual. Each one of us is becoming some kind of man or woman, moving in one direction or another. Jesus says it most dramatically, that we are traveling on one of two roads leading to one of two eternal destinies (Mat. 7:13-14). We are not what we wish, hope, or intend to be. We are the product of our choices. God wants us to consider carefully and be faithful (Rev. 2:10).