(17:1) Better to have less with peace than more with constant strife. Those with apparently less may be more blessed in the long run. This is part of the message of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:3–12).
(17:2) Ability and character can overcome many disadvantages. At the same time, those born to advantage can forfeit their inheritance through immorality and incompetence.
(17:3) It takes intense heat to purify gold and silver. Similarly, it often takes the heat of trials for the believers to be purified. Through trials, God shows us what is in us and clears out anything that gets in the way of complete trust in him. Peter says, “These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). So when tough times come your way, realize that God wants to use them to refine your faith and purify your heart.
(17:4) Taking gossip seriously is itself a form of spite practiced by those who have no respect for the truth.
(17:5) To make light of those who are suffering misfortune is to invite God’s punishment. * Few acts are as cruel as making fun of the less fortunate, but many people do this because it makes them feel good to be better off or more successful than someone else. Mocking the poor is mocking the God who made them. We also ridicule God when we mock the weak, those who are different, or anyone else. When you catch yourself putting down others just for fun, stop and think about who created them.
(17:6) Behind this proverb is a true statement about the interdependence of the generations. Elders derive a sense of pride from their descendants, and children get their self-worth from parents. On the other hand, one generation can cause shame and a sense of worthlessness in another.
(17:7) People of honor and responsibility should make no space for lying in their lives.
(17:8) Solomon is not condoning bribery (see Prov 17:15,23), but he is making an observation about the way the world operates. Bribes may get people what they want, but the Bible clearly condemns using them (Exodus 23:8; Proverbs 17:23; Matthew 28:11-15).
(17:9, 13) The ability to practice forgiveness is essential for the survival of an atmosphere of friendship. Probably a whole community and not just a single friendship is in view in v. 9. The covering of an offense would include forgiveness but would go beyond it. The “offense” may be against you or against a third party. Either way, if a tactful silence is not practiced where appropriate; the atmosphere of trust and mutual love quickly breaks down. The opposite extreme of a forgiving spirit is to take offense and retaliate against those who are trying to do good (v. 13). Such a person will not only be friendless but will bring many troubles on his or her head.
* This proverb is saying that we should be willing to forgive others’ sins against us. Covering over offenses is necessary to any relationship. It is tempting, especially in an argument, to bring up all the mistakes the other person has ever made. Love, however, keeps its mouth shut — difficult though that may be. Try never to bring anything into an argument that is unrelated to the topic being discussed. As we grow to be like Christ, we will acquire God’s ability to forget the confessed sins of the past.
(17:10, 12) These verses focus on the stubbornness of a fool who is willfully wrong-headed, no matter how much it hurts (v. 10). This stubborn spirit makes the fool dangerous to be near (v. 12). Foolishness does not make for socially acceptable behavior. A person who can accept criticism has an approachable personality and can function well in social interaction. People who cannot accept a rebuke, however, cause chaos in the public arena. It would be better to try to deal with an angry bear in search of her cubs!
(17:11) This verse is about relations with the community at large. Those who cannot submit themselves to governmental authority will soon come to regret it. They are more than socially outcast by the community; they receive judicial punishment from the community.
(17:14, 19) A small breach in a dam soon grows until the dam is destroyed and the area is flooded. So, a conflict can take on a life of its own and devastate a long friendship and lead to litigation. Those who love to quarrel and bring suits, however, build a “high gate”; that is, they become isolated. Such persons are alone in the world and bring disaster upon themselves.
(17:15) To acquit the guilty and punish the innocent is the judicial equivalent of individuals retaliating against those who seek to do good to them. Such a society undermines its own structure and invites God’s judgement as well. The context (vv. 14, 19) implies that the injustice here may involve showing favor to those who are quick to bring lawsuits.
(17:16, 18) Verse 16 would seem to be out of place in this context, but its clarified by v. 18. A common source of conflict among friends is tension over money, as is brought about when one friend loans money to or cosigns for another (v. 18). A fool does not understand the use of money, including how to avoid complicating a relationship with financial entanglements.
(17:17) This verse is the other side of vv. 14, 19 and vv. 16, 18. Far from being quarrelsome, the true friend is supportive. Also, while the wise man knows that lending money can ruin friendships, he does not close his heart to his friend in time of crisis. Caution is balanced by a generous and caring spirit.
(17:20–22). Verses 20 and 22 describe various mental states (heart, spirit) and how they affect one’s life. These verses assert first that the twisted, scheming man will have a life of trouble (v. 20). Second, they teach that a bad son (perhaps one who embodies the description in v. 20) is an affliction for his parents (v. 21). Third, a happy heart is the key to a full, healthy life (v. 22). Following v. 21, the implication is that the greatest source of a crushed spirit is trouble in the family.
* To be cheerful is to be ready to greet others with a welcome, a word of encouragement, an enthusiasm for the task at hand, and a positive outlook on the future. Such people are as welcome as pain-relieving medicine.
(17:23–26). Verses 23 and 26 describe the perversion of justice through bribery and its results, that the innocent are wrongly punished. The interpretation of v. 24 may be provided by v. 23: the wise man heads straight on in the path of wisdom while the fool is attracted by temptations of every kind and wanders off the right path. The bribe of v. 23 would be such a temptation. The wandering eyes of the fool represent his greed, like Lot’s longing stare at the prosperity of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 13:10). Verse 25 would appear to have nothing to do with bribery and the miscarriage of justice, but with v. 21 it provides a link to the previous text. The “foolish son grieves his father” verses in the contexts of vv. 20–22 and vv. 23–26 serve an instructive purpose; they urge the reader (the implied “son”) not to become the evil man described in these verses and not to grieve his father.
(17:27) & (17:28) These Proverbs highlight several benefits of keeping quiet: (1) it is the best policy if you have nothing worthwhile to say; (2) it allows you the opportunity to listen and learn; (3) it gives you something in common with those who are wiser. Make sure to pause to think and to listen so that when you do speak, you will have something important to say.
Until tomorrow, Darrell