The Holy Spirit has this radically shocking idea that it is better to acquire wisdom than gold. Solomon is not saying that it is wrong to have precious metals. He is simply saying that without wisdom, gold and silver will lead to evil and a destructive life! Here is how Solomon talks about the value of wisdom over gold in Proverbs 16:16-17:
How much better to get wisdom than gold,
to choose understanding rather than silver!
The highway of the upright avoids evil;
he who guards his way guards his life.
These two verses are designed to be taken together. Verse 16 openly states the value of wisdom over gold and silver. Then verse 17 shows the true value of wisdom. Gold and silver can never guard your heart. By themselves the precious things of this world offer no protection from evil.
The use of the Hebrew word for highway here is instructive. It describes a road which leads directly from one destination to another. This highway by-passed other cities or places until the final destination was achieved. The idea fits with imagery of the Proverbs of not turning aside to the right or to the left.
These two verses speak of the highway of life as a personal journey led by the righteous pursuit of wisdom. It is this pursuit of wisdom that guards the heart. What the second half of verse 17 teaches is that if you carefully guard the way you are traveling you will also guard your life. Proverbs 4:25-27 makes the same point:
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
It is wisdom, not gold or silver or market portfolios that provide protection from evil. This passage shows the urgency of being guided by wisdom. Being on the highway of wisdom means staying within the moral boundaries that God has put in place for your good. Only in the wisdom of God’s Spirit is found safety.
You can choose to pursue the blessings of gold, but Solomon warns you that is a poor choice. Invest in wisdom. Pursue the straight path of the upright. Evil is a clear and present danger. Guard your life by choosing the highway of wisdom and truth. The highway of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday.