That Which is Not
4Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
5Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.
Our culture may lure us into seeking material riches overmuch. Too many of us strive beyond all reasonable sustenance, and our recompense becomes its own end. (It's all about the money!)
God makes the point here that riches are an illusion, in the way we think of them. Beyond the simple fact that we earn to spend, and everything that comes in goes out, material wealth is as transitory as we ourselves. We are here in this earthly existence but for a moment, and the things we collect are here only somewhat longer. (You can't take it with you.)
How strange that this imagery should be suggested here! In Isaiah 40:31, God says:
31But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Here, an eagle is used to describe how those who trust in God will be uplifted.
Same words, but in Proverbs describing how wealth will be fleeting. Perhaps this is meant as a warning, a way of redirecting our attention. From human experience we know, that as we fall and our expectations are confounded, when we are broken or rebuked, it is at those times of our greatest vulnerability that God can use to reach us. We have to hit our bottom before we will look up to Him.
We may seek after riches, but after riches, we may find ourselves in a sorrier state. But that may be the better blessing, for in looking up from that depth, we may find our Savior.