Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Money?)

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to money and wealth:

“One is the road that leads to wealth, another the road that leads to Nirvana;” if the Bhikshu, the disciple of Buddha, has learnt this, he will not yearn for honour [sic], he will strive after separation from the world. (Dhammapada 75)

Whatever place a faithful, virtuous, celebrated, and wealthy man chooses, there he is respected. (Dhammapada 303)

Clearly, these sayings of the Buddha reflect a somewhat conflicting point of view of regarding wealth. The first says you can either take the path to wealth, or the path to nirvana, appearing to make them mutually exclusive, but then in the second one the Buddha states that wherever a wealthy man resides (who is also faithful, virtuous and celebrated), he is respected.

Solomon was an extremely wealthy King, so what did Solomon have to say about wealth? Consider these proverbs:

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4, NIV)

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor. (Proverbs 10:15, NIV)

The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it. (Proverbs 10:22, NIV)

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 11:4, NIV)

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (Proverbs 13:11, NIV)

Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it? (Proverbs 17:16, NIV)

And these passages from Ecclesiastes:

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 5:10, NIV)

Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. (Ecclesiastes 7:12, NIV)

A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. (Ecclesiastes 10:19, NIV)

Solomon makes the distinction between laziness and diligence: laziness bringing about poverty, and diligence bringing about wealth. He notes that wealth can fortify a city, whereas poverty causes ruin to cities and people, and that God can give the blessing of wealth without difficult and painful efforts to earn it (perhaps he experienced that himself). In a somber comment, he states that at the end of life, wealth is worthless in the face of death. He espouses working diligently, and making money slowly with perseverance. In Ecclesiastes, he states that wealth in itself does not bring satisfaction, but that it can be a shelter. In comparison to wealth, wisdom is ultimately that which preserves us, and in the final quote, he most surprisingly calls money the answer to everything.

The Buddha expressed that wealth needed to be renounced in order to achieve nirvana. Solomon said that there were blessings in working diligently and acquiring wealth along with wisdom, and that while it couldn’t really satisfy (if wealth was the individual’s sole purpose), it could provide protection for individuals and cities.