Proverbs 15:16 is

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.

What does this mean? Is it some Biblical equivalent of minimalism? The word turmoil puzzles me as in the Russian Orthodox Bible the word is тревога — anxiety. Does Proverbs 15:16 really say that you should value quality over quantity and that great wealth brings with it anxiety (and possibly other negative consequences)?

  • 1
    Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith. [Young's Literal Translation]
    – Nigel J
    Dec 24, 2020 at 17:04

3 Answers 3


Better to be:

  • monetarily poor and have the peace of mind which comes from fearing the Lord

than to:

  • have great monetary wealth but be in emotional turmoil trying to manage life on your own because you don't think you need the Lord.

IOW, better to be poor in money, but rich in spirit than to be rich in money but poor in spirit.

This foreshadows Matt. 19:24 "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

  • 2
    This is answer acceptance is scary, because I'm an "atheist" (let's not get into the difference between atheist and technically agnostic, effectively an atheist) who hasn't read my Bible is almost 40 years...
    – RonJohn
    Dec 25, 2020 at 15:36
  • 2
    Wisdom is not scary. The ability to understand metaphors & parables is a skill worth celebrating. Thank you again for your answer! Dec 26, 2020 at 1:41
  • *This answer acceptance
    – RonJohn
    Dec 26, 2020 at 3:11
  • Being an atheist doesn't deem whatever you say wrong AND in fact, your answer is entirely based on scripture (drawing as well from personal experience in Personal Finance & Money?). It also doesn't mean Christians know all answers to all questions... there's lots of us comming on a daily basis to this community to learn more about the Word and there's different ways one can go about contributing (as you ofc know). Be that your "atheist" or not, you're welcome here and we appreciate such valuable contributions. (+1) Jan 17, 2021 at 9:40
  • «"Reasoning in moral matters is always reasoning with somebody. You have an interlocutor, you start from where that person is, or with the actual difference between you; you don’t reason from the ground up, as though you were talking to someone who recognized no moral demands whatever."», Taylor, C. (1992). The Ethics of Authenticity. Jan 17, 2021 at 9:45

Does Proverbs 15:16 really say that great wealth brings with it the anxiety of possibly losing it?

No. It is possible to have great wealth with the fear of the Lord as Abraham had.

Genesis 13:2

Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.

Genesis 22:12

"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

Is it some Biblical equivalent of minimalism?


Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.

Proverbs 15:16 prioritizes the fear of the Lord over wealth.


What does Proverbs 15:16 really mean?

Proverbs 15:16 (NIRV)

16 It is better to have respect for the Lord and have little than to be rich and have trouble.

Proverbs 15:16 (NABRE)

16 [a]Better a little with fear of the Lord than a great fortune with anxiety. Does Proverbs 15:16 really say that great wealth brings with it the anxiety of possibly losing it?

The answer is Yes:

“Confusion,” that is, anxiety and restless striving and struggling, results when the Creator is ignored and the pursuit of material possessions becomes the prime goal in life. Then, once a person’s energies are used up in such “confusion” and his life is slipping away, his course is shown up to be empty, meaningless. He has no idea as to what will come of the things that he has piled up through his restless toiling.

The most valuable possession in a persons' life, should be his fine relationship with his creator, "Better is a little (wealth) with fear of [that is, a wholesome regard/respect for] Lord," says the Bible, "than a great fortune with anxiety "​(Prov. 15:16.NABRE)

Jesus said, "Happy are the poor in spirit".(Mat 5:3) To ignore God and to pursue material wealth and possessions as a chief goal in life is foolish, it is tiresome and the root of a great deal of anxiety.

  • Cory Haffly ; Your indeed right, in fact, Jesus gave a parable to illustrate this point, in the parable of, "the rich man" Luke 12:16-21 .“ The land of a rich man produced well. So he began reasoning within himself, ‘What should I do now that I have nowhere to gather my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my storehouses and build bigger ones, and there I will gather all my grain and all my goods, and I will say to myself: “You have many good things stored up for many years;............ Dec 26, 2020 at 8:14
  • Hi Ozzie, I recently changed my username to controlvoice, for web privacy reasons, and I deleted my comment that you replied to above. Could you please delete your answer, as it is addressed to my former username? Thanks.
    – moron
    Mar 6, 2022 at 20:51

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