Most of the wise sayings in Proverbs are about men, but this one uniquely contrasts a “woman” with “men.” The focus is on her character quality of being “kindhearted” and how it earns (“gains”) her “respect,” love and appreciation from others.
The second half of the verse speaks of “ruthless men” who also “gain” something from others. But it is “only wealth.”
The contrast, then, is between this “kindhearted woman” and these “ruthless men.” Her character and choices bring her the respect of others, while the character and choices of the ruthless men gain the wealth of others for themselves.
Admittedly, many might look at the wealth and think it’s the best way to go. Yet Proverbs is full of verses which point out what a dead end that is (see 11:4).
Over the past 14 years here at Helping Up Mission I have met so many guys who used to have lots of stuff, but were not happy. Now they have virtually nothing, but are appreciative of every little thing they’ve got.
As a pastor in my community over the years, I have found that people with the most stuff are typically not the happiest people I’ve known. Instead, those who have developed meaningful relationships with others – based on kindness – are the ones appreciating life the most.
But there isn’t anything wrong with having wealth. Kindness and wealth do not have to be mutually exclusive. We can have it all!