Proverbs 13:11 is worth a look today. We read here that Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it.
Let’s take a few translation issues to start with:
1. “Wealth” means just that: material prosperity. Nothing inherently odd or any hidden meanings on this word.
2. “Obtained by fraud” is a little troublesome from a translation perspective. The word “obtained” is added for clarity in English. To be picky, the underlying Hebrew here is just “by fraud,” so you’ve got “Wealth by fraud.” See how “obtained” helps in the English?
3. “Fraud” is an interesting word, however. It is the word that is translated “vanity” or “meaningless” in Ecclesiastes. The other senses of this word include the idea of passing or fleeting, like a vapor. Some translators take this as “hasty” or “quickly” because of this. They give something akin to “hasty wealth” or even “get-rich quick schemes.”
4. The phrase “by labor” could also be taken as “by hand” but the overall idea remains the same: we’re talking about gradual increase by effort rather than an instant income.
The contrast in the verse is, essentially, between wealth that is earned through continual effort and wealth gathered in some other manner intended to minimize the effort.
The Proverb highlights that there is no substitute for what is attained through sustained effort. You can gather an instant result, but it will not last.
The extended wisdom here? Your diet pill? Your lottery ticket? Your overnight education?
Skip it. Shave 500 calories a day and exercise, 6 days a week. Increase your education or skills and enhance your career options—oh, and show up for work, too! Take the time to read, learn, grow.
Because that which you acquire by sustained effort lasts.
A further thought: it also shows us what we think is important: would you spend sustained effort on something that is truly useless? Not likely.