“Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.” Proverbs 19:1 AV
In so many potential situations, there might be something to be gained financially through some type of deception. It might be hiring workers and then paying them less, or selling a car for more than it is worth, or selling pharmaceutical medication that injures people while telling them that it will heal them. Lies.
“Perverse lips” means speech that is twisted rather than straight. When a person wants to know the truth, he may say to his friend, “Give it to me straight, bro,” meaning, stop with the excuses and the stories and tell the truth plainly, if you can. This is why the Scriptures which scribes had written in the Aramaic language is called “Peshitta” (puh-Sheet-ah) because that means “the Straight” in Aramaic; it means that these particular scribes placed a high value on straight writing, and they avoided twisted writing, perverse writing which is designed to re-interpret and bend the meanings.
In books as well as in speech, “bending the truth” can bring much profit. But this Proverb states that it is better to be poor while speaking straight, and writing straight, than any riches or fame that may be gained by bending the truth or hiding the truth. At the end, the Proverb teaches that bending the truth is a foolish thing to do. Why? The truth-bender would say, “Hey, I can make a lot more money to feed my family if I bend the truth.” Sure, in the short term. But in the long term, since YAH sees and knows everything, and nothing to be hidden from Him, therefore in the long term it is foolish to conceal the truth, or bend the truth, or any such thing.
Notice how this verse does not pose a contrast between a truth-speaker who is poor, versus a truth-bender who is rich. No – the contrast is between a truth-speaker who is poor versus a truth-bender who is, by virtue of his perverse speech, “a fool” rather than “rich.” Very interesting. The fool is thus “poor” by virtue of his lack – of wisdom.