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Proverbs 17:17

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (KJV).

The Importance of Friendships

I can still remember the best friend I ever had in elementary school. His name was Jamie. His dad was the coach of our little league baseball team, and we did everything together. Friends have always been such an important part of my life, and I think that’s probably true of most people.

Social Networking?

However, in the world today, it seems like people are more isolated from one another than ever before. People may have 500 friends on Facebook, but how many of those connections are real life friends? It seems that in our social networking age, we’ve lost the art of face to face communication. Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here: I enjoy Facebook just as much as the next person, but we can’t allow our online friendships to become a substitute for real world interactions.

So how do those of us living in the 21st century maintain our important face to face friendships? By going back to the Book of Wisdom – Proverbs – and learning God’s keys for healthy relationships. We see three of them in the above Scriptures:

1.         A Friend Loves at All Times:

Did you ever notice that on the bottom left hand corner of your friends profile pages on Facebook that there is an “Unfriend” button? What a sign of the times! If your friend does something you don’t like, you just unfriend them. This is not how to keep and maintain healthy relationships. We must learn to love at all times and be loyal friends who stick closer than a brother. Jesus gave us that example of friendship when He said that He would never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Let’s love at all times…

2.         A Friend Helps His Friends When They’re in Trouble:

Solomon said that a brother is born for adversity. What does that mean? The NLT translation says, “A brother is born to help in a time of need.” A true friend will help their friends when they go through difficult times. Jesus is a great example for us in this: “Jesus didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” (Romans 15:3, Message).

3.         If You Want Friends, Be Friendly:

Another Proverb says this about friendships: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24). I love the common sense wisdom of the Bible: If you want to have friends, then simply start by being friendly! If you want to have a good friend, then be a good friend. Wisdom to live by…


Dam Busters

Proverbs 17:14 

“The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.”
“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” (NIV)

In Proverbs 17:12 Solomon used ‘bear wisdom’ to make a point. While this verse advised that it was better to confront a bear robbed of her cubs than an idiot indulging in foolishness the point is the same. There are things we can say or do that once initiated are unstoppable. Get in the way of an angry bear searching for her cubs and you probably will not live to tell the tale. If you stand in front of a dam as it breaches you will get swept away, never to be seen again.

Dam 2Dam breaches have featured in several movies. The most obvious, and perhaps the most memorable for me, is the wartime story of The Dam Busters in which bouncing bombs were dropped to breach important dams with the aim of interrupting hydroelectric power generation and flooding an important German industrial area. Superman dealt with a dam breach in a movie, and X-Men 2 concluded with a dam breaching threatening lives and taking lives. Poor workmanship lead to a dam breach in the movie Evan Almighty, with a torrent of water flooding a valley and sweeping Evan’s Ark away and through the streets of Washington all the way to the United States Capitol.

The problem in comparing the movies with real life is that either we don’t get the full story, or it never quite happened/happens that way. The German dams that were breached were soon rebuilt as the Allies failed to carry out any follow-up raids. The other three movies mentioned above all involve fantasy rather than reality.

What is reality? Anyone who has ever had a heated argument knows the reality is that there are no winners, only losers. A wise person should understand that arguments do not deliver peace. With two opposing views, one person must always compromise.

Strife is never good. Not at home, not at college, not at work, and not at church. So drop the matter – before a dispute breaks out.


The Bear Facts about Fools

Proverbs 17:12

“Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.”

“Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.” – ESV

Dangerous Bears

There are a lot of people who go hiking in forests where big, furry, and not-so-cuddly bears live. There are also people who swim in the ocean where razor-toothed guppies the size of cars hunt surfboards. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Personally, I prefer to swim in chlorinated kiddie pools rather than in a shark’s kitchen. And when it comes to hiking, well, I prefer forests where the bears ain’t. Otherwise, I’m taking a 12 gauge with slugs in it.

You see, it’s like this: bears are dangerous. They especially don’t like it when people pretend to be Goldilocks and mess with baby bear. Believe me, it’s better to stay away from Little Red Riding Hood’s back yard unless you seriously know what you are doing; otherwise, you may end up Pooh poo.

Dangerous Fools

But no matter how dangerous a she-bear is, Fuzzy Wuzzilina is nothing compared to a fool caught in his foolishness.

The fool is terribly fond of his lustful pursuits and passions, more so than a bear of her cubs. Threaten them, or take them away, and what you have on your hands is an angry, ferocious, indignant enemy determined to destroy.

Many years ago, when I was young, my father worked for a man who was having an affair. When my father and another employee witnessed the business owner having sex with his mistress at work, the man admitted what he was doing was wrong. However, as time went on, the businessman became indignant, hateful, and angry over the thought of giving up his relationships.

I still remember the drive-by shooting, the attempt to gun down my father behind the pulpit, and the phone calls saying, “I know where your wife and kids are, and when you’re not looking…

Eventually, as my father warned, sin’s payday would come. Sure enough, the husband of the mistress found my dad’s boss and the woman and killed them both.

Stay Away

Solomon must have had some experience with fools. Maybe we should heed his warning.

“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!”*

*Duane A. Garrett, vol. 14, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 161.

 


Bribery and Corruption

Proverbs 17:8 

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
A bribe is like a lucky charm; whoever gives one will prosper! (NLT)

Other translations of this verse use the word bribe instead of gift. Strong’s translates the word as a donation, bribe, gift, present or reward. Matthew Henry’s take on this proverb is that: ‘Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts!’ What influence indeed?

There is a further warning about gifts/bribes in the book of Exodus when the law was being given to the nation of Israel:

And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:8 KJV)

My first experience of bribery occurred in the 1970s when there was port congestion in the Persian Gulf, and many ships and their crews waited months at anchor for a pilot and a berth in port to discharge or load cargo. I spent three weeks there at anchor in 1975. Each day a small boat would come out to us (and all the other ships) and a man in uniform would demand to see our Captain. Each day the request was the same, “200 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky, Captain, and you get your pilot tomorrow.” No doubt many captains were tempted to provide such a bribe, uncertain of whether the uniformed official had the power to provide a pilot. Our Captain refused to meet such requests. He had other plans. But similar challenges were often faced in other foreign ports when various officials expected to be paid to make things happen. Like the man in the uniform in the Persian Gulf, their hearts had become focused on what they could get in material terms.

I think Matthew Henry got the meaning of this verse absolutely correct. If money and the like are what warm your heart, then eventually you may do anything for the sake of money or gifts. What influence should the gifts of God have on our lives? How are we investing these gifts, and how are they changing our values? Jesus taught that it was more important to seek the Kingdom of Heaven than anything else:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46 NIV)

What Are You Listening To?

Proverbs 17:4

“A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.” (KJV).

Be Careful What You Hear:

There is an old Sunday school song that says, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear!” It’s a fun song, but it also promotes a very Biblical principle. Jesus Himself said, “Therefore take heed how you hear.” (Luke 8:18a). To take heed means to be careful. We need to be careful what we choose to listen to! Words are powerful, and words can either bring life or death into people’s lives.

In today’s Scripture, Solomon gives us warnings about two different kinds of people: Wicked people, and liars. He tells us that a wicked person will give heed – or listen – to false lips, and a liar will give ear – or listen – to a naughty (malicious, spiteful, destructive) tongue. We know that as Christians, God doesn’t want us to be a wicked person or a liar. Therefore, we would be wise to not listen to false lips or naughty tongues.

False Lips and Naughty Tongues:

There are many false lips and naughty tongues in the world today. Wicked people and liars will use their lips and tongues to tell lies, slander people, gossip about others, and stir up strife and disunity – in families, churches, and indeed all relationships. Therefore, we must be on our guard against such people! It’s sad to say that you can even find those people… in the church. As a pastor, I can tell you that there is nothing more dangerous or harmful in a church than people who will stir up strife and division through their negative words!

So what do we do when we find ourselves surrounded by people with false lips and naughty tongues? We can’t just go and bury our heads in the sand or move into a monastery, can we? Of course not. However, we must still guard our hearts from such negative words. Elsewhere in Proverbs, Solomon gives us this warning: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). (Click HERE to read Jason’s devotional about this Scripture). Our ears and eyes are the windows to the heart, so we must be careful what we put into them.

How to Guard the Heart:

How can we keep our heart from being affected by hearing negative words – lying, strife, gossip, slander and more? First of all, make a decision that you will not allow your heart to be a garbage can for other people’s negative words. The next time someone starts gossiping to you, or talking negatively about someone else, refuse to listen to it. (And remember this – if someone will gossip to you, they will gossip about you! This is not the kind of friend you need…). And secondly, make a decision that you will watch your words, and make sure that no negative speech comes out of your mouth. Use your words to bring life to people!

Here’s a link to a youtube video of the old Sunday school song Oh Be Careful Little Eyes:

 


The Wise Servant

Proverbs 17:2

“A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.” 

The Wise Butler

I wish I could remember the details of it, but years ago I saw a movie that that was like this verse. Of course, the fact that a movie from Hollywood reminds me of a story in Scripture shouldn’t amaze me; many of the plots in movies are stolen from the Bible.

Nevertheless, I remember seeing something about a butler who had to manage a wild, rebellious, reputation-ruining heir. I just can’t remember if the butler wound up with everything, or not.

The Wise Servant

In this proverb we read of a servant who was smart enough to look out for the family’s interests, even if the son only cared about acting the fool. The servant wisely took charge over the unruly son, maybe even saying, “Your daddy put me in charge, so yes, I am the boss of you!

It was not uncommon in those days for a servant to be very close to the members of the family he served. It was not uncommon, even, for a servant to have part in the family’s inheritance  especially if the servant was considered a family member. So, it stands to reason that the wise servant, caring for the family that employed him, might have seen the profit of keeping his master’s son out of trouble.

Sometimes, it was even the case that a servant got everything, but his master got nothing. We read about that happening to Ziba, the former servant of Saul (2 Samuel 16:1-4).

The Shameful Son

There is another way to look at this, however. Even though the son was related by blood to the master, he was still subordinate to the servant. Whether it had to be that way, we don’t know. But the way this verse reads, the son might have been old enough to have been out from under the control of a tutor. He may have been old enough to have been the one to give the orders. Yet, because of his behavior, the servant was placed over him.

Let this be a lesson to us. Even though we may be children of the King, when we act up and begin to bring shame to His name, someone not even in the family may be used to discipline us. And, if it goes far enough, the blessing once due us may even go to someone else.

 


It’s a Trap!

Proverbs 16:28.

“A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.”

The danger of strife:

In an earlier passage in Proverbs, Solomon describes seven things that the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). It’s interesting to note that three of those seven have to deal with sins of the mouth – a lying tongue, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord. As we are working on building healthy relationships, God warns us about one of the deadliest traps to avoid: strife.

Solomon tells us that strife comes from a froward, or a perverse, person. A godly man on the other hand will not stir up strife. Strife is so deadly that it can even separate the best of friends. It is very dangerous to cause strife, by gossiping about and slandering another person. Proverbs 6:15 warns us about the consequences about being a person who sows discord: “But they will be destroyed suddenly, broken beyond all hope of healing.” We must be ever-vigilant to guard against strife. Proverbs also warns us: “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.” (Prov. 17:14). “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” (Prov. 26:20). Want to stop the deadly fire of strife? Stop gossiping!

The importance of unity:

In one of my favourite Psalms, David shows us why strife is so dangerous by talking about its opposite: unity: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious anointing oil… For there the Lord commanded the blessing– Life forevermore.” (Psalm 133). Here, David teaches us that unity is good, and that when we walk in unity with one another, God’s presence is there (symbolized by the anointing oil), His blessing is there, and eternal life – salvation – is found there. Is unity important? Absolutely.

As a pastor, when I work with a team of leaders, one of the most important principles I try to instill in them is an understanding of the importance of unity. If a leadership team (or a church, or a family – the principle works anywhere) walks in unity, they will experience God’s blessing. But once we allow strife to come in, it can destroy any team, church or family. It is one of Satan’s greatest weapons – it’s a trap! If God blesses unity, then the enemy will do whatever he can to stir up strife.

How to guard the unity:

How do we walk in unity? First of all, realize that offenses are going to happen. People are going to do things to hurt you, but you don’t have to pick up that hurt or offense. Choose to forgive. And if you have a problem with someone, go and talk to them about it, instead of talking to someone else about it. Guard the unity, keep out the strife, and you will walk in God’s blessing!