Proverbs 11: 16 (NKJV)
16 A gracious woman retains honor,
But ruthless men retain riches.
The word, “gracious” has the root word of “grace” which is defined as: 1. A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill; To show mercy or clemency. 2. A favor rendered by one who need not do so 3. (Christian theology) a state of sanctification by God; the state of one who is under God’s divine influence.
The word “gracious,” itself, means: 1. To be characterized by: kindness, warm courtesy, tact, propriety, charm or beauty; gracefulness, elegance and good taste 2. To be of a merciful or compassionate nature. 3. (Archaic meaning) Enjoying favor or grace; acceptable or pleasing. These characteristics fit the example, at the end of Proverbs, of the “perfect” woman in God’s sight where it also says that this woman will be honored.
The word “retains” means: 1. To maintain possession of 2. To keep or hold 3. To keep in mind; remember.
The word, “honor” is defined as: 1. High respect, as that shown for special merit; esteem: 2. Good name; reputation. 3. Glory or recognition; distinction.
Our last main word in this verse is “ruthless” which means: Having no compassion or pity; merciless: without mercy or pity; "a monster of remorseless cruelty"
The first part of our verse says that a woman (or person) that shows compassion, mercy, gentleness, courtesy, and tact, even when they don’t HAVE TO, will enjoy favor and be acceptable or pleasing to God. Someone with these traits will keep in mind, or hold onto, their good name and reputation. People will recognize them them by giving them a LOT of respect. An excellant example of a person like this was Mother Theresa.
Think of those people who have shown these qualities that you know, and how you feel about that person. This would be something I would want to strive for in MY life because I want people to see God’s work in my life.
The second part of this verse is what caused me to be confused because, through a cursory reading, it seemed to say that you need to be “ruthless,” or "a monster of remorseless cruelty," that has NO compassion, pity or mercy toward people if you want to be rich. If you look further, though, at the verse, it says these types of people will RETAIN their riches. They will NOT share them or use them to help others, no matter how badly it is needed.
I came to see that God was “reporting” on what happens in this world. By remembering so many of the rest of the verses that we have been studying in Proverbs, I know that those “riches” are doing NOTHING for the soul of that person. He would have NO peace, love or joy in his heart, for you only get those by giving them away to others. An example of this was Hitler who ended up going mad and killing himself.
I also remembered that several of the verses that we have studied essentially were “boiled down” by Christ into these words in Mark 8:36 -- For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”