Early or instant wealth lies heavily on the shoulders of those who acquire it.
Something venomous lurks in abundance without labor, status unearned, riches without long-sown tears.
An estate quickly acquired in the beginning will not be blessed in the end. (Proverbs 20:21 NRSV)
It is unclear whether the Proverbialist’s words ‘quickly acquired’ suggest an inheritance too hotly pursued by a young man who should have remained content to wait or, alternatively, fortune that simply falls unexpected upon its recipient. Odds favor the latter, for this interpretation does not require more precision than the words themselves offer up.
We are at our best when we have grown into things, when we have waited with the patience that only years can teach, when the calendar has reminded us that promise and expectation are not the same as a guarantee.
The proverb implicitly addresses two audiences.
First, those who have not yet acquired wealth: take your time.
Second, those who have been blessed by sudden fortune: be careful.
Deep beneath these two fragments of counsel rumbles wisdom’s settled conviction: things are seldom as they appear.