1 ¶ Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
Integrity is defined in the Bible as without guilt. Someone has integrity who is complete and upright, who shuns evil, has righteousness, and is trusting in the Lord. (Genesis 20:5,6; I Kings 9:4; Job 2:3; Psalms 7:8; 26:10). A poor man that walks in these character traits is better than one who is perverse, defined as disobedient to the Lord in Numbers 22:32, crooked in Deuteronomy 32:5, rebellious in 1 Samuel 20:30, self righteous in Job 9:20, froward in Proverbs 4:24 and 8:8, and someone who doesn’t walk uprightly in 28:18.
Not only is the poor man with integrity better off than one who is perverse in his lips, in his speech, but the poor man with integrity is better off than a fool. We’ve defined the fool before but an atheist is a fool as per Psalms 14:1 and 53:1. The fool is brutish in Psalm 49:10. In Proverbs 10:18 he hides his hatred with lies and yet slanders people and God. It’s fun to the fool to do wrong to others as per 10:23. In 12:15 the fool is self righteous, linking him once again with the perverse man.
Of course, we all know there is no shame in being poor, but as one of my bosses used to say, it’s just terribly inconveniencing. But, if you’re poor and perverse in speech and a fool, well, you’ve got a whole new pile of manure to deal with. I think King Solomon is clear on this point.