Proverbs 17:1-14: Read, Reflect, and Learn
August 24, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Esther 7-8, Proverbs 17:1-14, Luke 20:9-19, Philemon 1-11
Take these proverbs, read them, reflect on them, and learn from them! We begin with some wisdom about home life and the household:
“Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife” (17:1).
“A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers” (17:2).
It is better to have less and not have stress than to have massive amounts of money and to have massive amounts of arguing (17:1). Choose wisely, then, when it comes to marriage or career. Don’t choose money at the expense of peace with God and with people! Somewhat similarly, verse 2, you may feel as if your role at work or in the home or family business is more minor or insignificant than you would wish. But whatever the official title you hold, the truth is that acting and working wisely will lead to greater rewards than a person who occupies the C-suite and behaves shamefully.
Now a proverb about the heart:
“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts” (17:3).
In the same way that silver and gold is refined, so God refines and tests our hearts. His goal is that we would come out as increasingly “pure gold” as we are refined. Remember his purpose when you are being tested is for your good that you might shine more brightly as you hold out the word of life!
Now a proverb about evil:
“An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue” (17:4).
There is a call-and-answer reflectiveness to evil. You would think that someone who was evil would not be taken in by another person speaking evil, or that a liar would not be fooled by a mischievous tongue. But it is not so. Those who give themselves to lies often end up believing lies.
Now a proverb about the poor:
“Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished” (17:5).
If someone sneers at those who are poor, that person is really sneering at God—for God made the poor as much as he made anyone else. We are all made in the image of God. And a wise person treats all people with the dignity and respect and (as Jesus taught) love that each person made in the image of God deserves.
A proverb about children:
“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers” (17:6).
Grandparents love grandchildren. Why? Grandchildren are their “crown.” They give their grandparents the honor of having established a life that has led towards not just children but grandchildren. But for children, their glory is their fathers. A child with a good father is proud, in a good sense, of his dad.
A proverb about speech:
“Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a prince” (17:7).
If someone is foolish, then polishing that by presenting themselves with fine words will not cover up the reality. There is an essence to a person that communicates while the words are being spoken, and fine speech does not fit with a fool and is not becoming to a fool. But then that does not mean that it does not matter what you say or how you say it. A prince or a leader should not speak poorly, much less falsely, but should express him or herself with clarity and truthfulness.
A proverb about bribery:
“A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers” (17:8).
This is one of those proverbs that describes life as it is, not as it should be. The reality is that, in this fallen world, bribery does help to open doors for the one who bribes people. That does not make bribery the right thing to do. But if you see someone making their way through life or up life’s ladder with great rapidity, it may well be that in some shape or form they are utilizing this “magic stone” of bribery.
Now a proverb about friendship:
“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends” (17:9).
Friendship is a precious thing and needs to be carefully maintained. Offenses will come into even the healthiest of relationships and friendships. What to do? Cover them up. This is the way of love, using your love for the person as a cover over the difficulty or offense. This same principle is applied by Peter in 1 Peter 4:8 to the Christian community. We are to love each other and cover over offenses. By contrast, when an offense occurs, if you speak about it or bring it up again or repeat it over and over, you are at risk of separating even close friends. Even good friendships have a breaking point. Cover over offenses therefore and walk in the way of love in Christ.
Then a proverb about rebukes:
“A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (17:10).
To receive a rebuke, an admonition, or a word of correction is not a pleasant thing. No one likes to have their faults pointed out. But to a man of understanding, a well-thought-through, carefully expressed, kind, and accurate word of correction is a great boon. If someone has spinach on their teeth, metaphorically speaking, then they are wise if they are glad when someone points it out. However embarrassing it is to have the fault mentioned, it would be worse to go around with everyone noticing but no one saying anything! But this is the characteristic of a person of understanding.
There are people, however, who will not receive a word of correction; in fact, a hundred blows would not correct them. As Jesus taught, therefore, do not cast your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). A man of understanding will listen; but there are those for whom however carefully or well you express your correction, no good end will result.
Now a proverb about evil people:
“An evil man seeks only rebellion, and a cruel messenger will be sent against him” (17:11).
What is the end goal of someone who seems to be evil? Again, we are reminded that in the biblical worldview, evil does exist. We are all sinful, we are all totally depraved though also made in the image of God, and outside of Christ are under God’s wrath. And there are some people who give themselves more and more towards an evil course. But what is it that someone who is like that is really aiming at? This proverb tells us: rebellion. They are looking to overturn things. Ultimately, they are rebelling against God, as we all are natural rebels against God. But what will happen to that person if they do not repent? In the end a cruel messenger will come against them. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword, and a person who gives themselves to evil will find that evil comes to them in the end.
A proverb about folly:
“Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly” (17:12).
In some ways I suppose it is tempting to think of foolishness as something just silly, even funny in its own way. But really that is not the case. A person who is really foolish is actually dangerous: more dangerous than a she-bear who has been just robbed of her cubs! It is hard to reason with a fool; they tend to take a line on things that is inflexible and cannot be corrected, and they tend to drive circumstances towards some disastrous end. What to do? Avoid such a person!
Now a proverb about the quid pro quo, or what goes around comes around, normal pattern of life:
“If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house” (17:13).
When someone has been kind to you or good to you, do not repay that goodness with evil. There is a pattern in life that means that that response to good being done to you will cause others to notice. Who would ever do you good again when they see how you repaid good? Consider then the goodness of God to you in Christ and seek to serve with wholehearted love!
Finally, a proverb about arguments:
“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out” (17:14).
This is a very dramatic picture of what an argument is like. Once it has started, it is hard to put an end to it. You have a bag of some kind, and it is full of water, but then a hole appears in the bottom of the bag, and out pours the water. That’s what an argument is like. You think it’s just a little hole in the bottom of the bag. But if that bag is full of water, then the water will rush out through that hole, and it will be very hard, perhaps impossible, to fix. So “quit before the quarrel breaks out.” As Paul put it, the Lord’s servant should not quarrel. Avoid arguing about mere terminology or nuances of words.
Take these proverbs, read them, reflect on them, and learn from them!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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