Proverbs Chapter 17 – Part 1

by Charles E. Bryce

Greetings everyone. We will begin the continuing Bible Study through the book of Proverbs today with Chapter 17. So let’s turn to Proverbs 17:1. God inspired Solomon to write:

1 Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.

In other words, what he’s saying here is, that if we have just a bare essential meal—something that doesn’t even have butter and honey to put on a piece of bread, but rather a dry morsel—it’s better to have just that dry morsel, that piece of bread, just a very fundamental, elemental and limited meal and quietness and peace therewith, than to have a tremendous meal—one that has a tremendous feast on the table—and there’s strife.

Strife ruins a tremendous feast. So you can have a wonderful meal with the best there is to eat—and says sacrifices here, meaning a sacrificial meal or feasting—you can have the very best there is to eat, and where there’s strife and bickering and anger, it totally cancels out the enjoyment of the meal and it totally cancels out the nourishment of the meal. Everyone gets stressed and uptight. Who likes that kind of meal? If that’s the choice, have that kind of meal or have just a very small meal, even a dry morsel with nothing to put on the piece of bread and there’s quietness and there’s peace, that’s the choice that would be better.

So really think that through, and make sure that in your home, meal time is not a battleground. So often people wait to settle their arguments and settle their differences and get into all kinds of tense debate around the meal and around the dinner table or breakfast table. That’s the place that it should never be done. If there’s going to be some really animated discussions and even discussions that might get a little bit on the tense side, save that for another place, but certainly not at dinnertime around the dinner table. If that’s the case, it’d be better to have a dry morsel and quietness therewith than a fantastic meal and fussing and arguing and bickering and going back and forth at one another.

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

Now, we’ve seen this I’m sure, several cases where someone is an employee, or someone is a butler, or someone is a gardener, or someone is a nanny, or someone is a very fine employee and the company might be owned by a family and the children of the owners are a problem. They are spendthrifts. They don’t work. They’re on the gravy train. They think everything is owed to them. They waste the resources of the company. In a case like that, quite often, what happens is, a wise servant will have rule over a child or a son that causes shame like that. And this wise servant shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.

You can read this in history, and even today you can see where there are people who are such outstanding employees that the people who own the company or own the estate end up promoting them and putting them in charge of certain sections of the company where the offspring of the owner works for them, and even makes them a part of the inheritance because they were such outstanding employees, making such tremendous contributions to the company or to the business or to the estate.

In other words, the lesson here is to be wise. Whether you are in charge or not, whether you are an employee or a child of the people who own the company or the people who are in charge of the operation, wisdom makes all the difference.

3 The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord tries the hearts.

You can’t just dig ore out of the ground and then pass it off for silver, or ore out of the ground and then sell it as the finished product of gold. The ore that contains silver and the ore that contains gold has to be put through a refining process, and the sludge and the chunks of waste and ore have to be removed to where it gets down to the actual silver and the actual gold, and then it has to be refined until now it can be worked into coins or jewelry or gold bars.

Well, the same thing has to happen to our minds and character and hearts. We have to be put through a refining process. We have to get the rough edges knocked off so that as we grow and overcome and change as Christians and become more and more like Jesus Christ in our daily walk with Him, we are becoming more and more tools in the great God’s hands.

In other words, we start off kind of rough–hewn and through God’s holy spirit and through the leadership of Jesus Christ and through walking according to this word and through the trials and tests that life brings, we start emerging as Christians. We start emerging as people who have holy righteous godly character. And the end product is so much more valuable than gold or silver that’s been put through the refining process. Because as we are put through the tumbling barrel of life, as it were, and the refining process that all of us must go through, if we really yield and submit to God and do what He says and endure these trials and tests, we can come out on the other side being tremendous disciples of Jesus Christ and servants of God headed toward His kingdom and inheriting the whole universe.

But it takes a process and God is the one who tries and tests and refines human beings, our attitudes, our character, and as it says here, our hearts. The Lord tries the hearts. We’re not put through a blast furnace. We’re not put through a tumbling barrel literally. We’re put through a life that is full of blessings and joy and happiness and trials and tests, and strenuous spiritual requirements all for the purpose of refining us so that one day we can be born in the family of God and be given eternal life. What a tremendous purpose in life and what a tremendous goal to be pushing toward with God’s help.

4 A wicked doer gives heed to false lips; and a liar gives ear to a naughty tongue.

Now they have a lot in common. Someone who enjoys wickedness, someone who likes lying and deception and violence, someone who likes to deceive others and get the best of them and take advantage of them and mistreat them—they love to hear lies, they love to hear false lips. And a liar loves to hear filthy, vile, destructive talk. So it’s just a warning in verse 4 that there are people around like that and we want to make sure we are not like that or that we don’t hang around people like that.

5 Whoso mocks the poor reproaches his Maker:—

Can you imagine making fun of poor people? Can you imagine putting poor people down? Can you imagine mocking people who are in poverty? And I mean, it could be a street person, it could be a homeless individual, it could be a family that’s barely able to put food on the table, it could be people who have fallen on hardship and bad times. They should be helped especially if they’re trying to help themselves. They should be treated with mercy and kindness and gentleness, and yet there are those who make fun of them. There are those who mistreat them. There are those who mock them and those who take advantage of them, and God lays a very serious principle down here in verse 5. He says whoever does that, reproaches God Himself, reproaches his very maker, the great God in heaven. That’s very, very serious and that’s not something to take lightly, mocking the poor.

5 —and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

God does not like to see us be happy or snicker or laugh or make fun of or make snide remarks or walk around with a superior attitude over those who have trouble, those who fall, those who get into dire straits. I mean, it might even be someone who’s mistreated you. It might even be someone who could be classified as an enemy of yours. It might be a country where there are despots in charge of the government of that country. But God is not pleased when someone is glad over calamities.

Rather, we should have mercy for those people who are going through that disaster, and we should have empathy for anyone who falls sick or who is injured, or any family, if there’s a member of the family that dies.

It doesn’t mean you approve of the bad conduct or approve of the wrong attitude when you feel that way. But it is a matter of having the mind of Jesus Christ and the attitude of God, and that is, you’re never glad when you see calamities strike someone else. You’re never happy when you see people in dire straits, even though they might be “bad people.” You’re not approving of their bad conduct, but you don’t want to see them fall into calamity. So, you, in some cases, stay out of it and let God deal with them, and in other cases where you can help a bit, you do. But most of all, you don’t rejoice over the fact that they’ve fallen into calamities.

I mean, sometimes on the news you will see certain people in certain countries go out in the streets and start rejoicing and yelling and screaming and firing guns off in the air and celebrating if another country has had a terrible calamity hit them or their leader has been assassinated, or whatever. This is absolutely repulsive and repugnant to God, and He says it better be repulsive and repugnant to us because

5 —he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

That’s a good warning to take heed to.

6 Children's children are the crown of old men;—

Children and grandchildren. You’ve seen grandparents, they just light up, they glow. They love their children and grandchildren. Here are these little grandchildren that are coming along, and now grandfather and grandmother or—whatever pet and precious name that the children and grandchildren call their parents—they just are so happy. They light up. They beam to see their grandchildren. What an experience that is, and that’s what verse 6 is talking about, and notice the last part of verse 6.

6 —and the glory of children are their fathers.

When a father and mother are trying to really be good parents and their children are trying to be good children, then their children have a tremendous respect for their parents. They look to their parents. They heed their parents. They pay attention to their parents. They will obey their parents. And they’re happy to talk to other children about how much they love their father or love their mother. That is, when their parents are setting the right example, when their parents really love them, when their parents are really leading them. But no one is perfect and so parents do make mistakes like everyone else.

But verse 6 is talking about a family that is trying to live life the right way. We know that in our western society and other parts of the world, there’s a tremendous breakdown in families and therefore there’s a growing breakdown in society because the foundation of every successful society are families, the family unit. And so when the family unit is close and tight and going forward and living life the way God wants, children’s children are the crown of old men. There is the extended family. Instructions and knowledge and wisdom and even wealth or substance can be passed on to those children and grandchildren by the older parents and grandparents, and when a family unit is the way it should be, the glory of the children, the heroes of those children will be their fathers and their mothers. What a wonderful thing.

7 Excellent speech becomes not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.

There’s a contradiction there. This doesn’t fit. You won’t see a fool that talks in a wise, excellent way. You’ll just see silliness and stupidity, and even hate and venom, spew from a fool’s mouth. And a prince that ought to be stepping up and fulfilling his responsibilities and duties and serving and leading and providing for and taking care and protecting those that he is in charge of, yet has a lying attitude and practices lying and lying lips—it just doesn’t fit. It’s a contradiction. It is not appropriate. And yet we see it in so many places in the world today, princes and leaders who have lying lips. And fools who claim to have excellent speech and yet it doesn’t stand up, and turns out, no, it’s just babbling idiocy. They just don’t go together, excellent speech and fools, and a prince and lying lips.

8 A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that has it: whithersoever it turns, it prospers.

In other words, when we are given a good gift and we’re blessed with a good gift if we use it properly, it can produce good things. It can actually lead to prosperity. I’ve seen people who are going along at an even keel and then they receive a good gift from a family member or an inheritance, and if they use it properly, that can give them a breakthrough in their lives.

If they use it improperly, it can be the kiss of death and actually end up being very destructive. So, once again, any gift we receive, I’m not talking about a bribe here, but any gift we receive, we can use it properly as a precious stone and therefore turn it into something worthwhile, or we can use it improperly and it ends up being a trap and brings no end of trouble. It’s a question of how we’re going to use it.

9 He that covers a transgression seeks love; but he that repeats a matter separates very friends.

Or the best of friends. Now, once again, gossip sometimes can be true. A lot of people think, well, gossip not only is bad but it is always a lie. Well, gossip can also be passing along something that is true and yet still be gossip. Any kind of gossip is wrong. It’s worthless. It’s useless and it is not pleasing to God. And even if we know that someone has committed a sin or someone has made a mistake or someone has really blown it, so to speak, we shouldn’t be telegraphing that all over and telling everyone about that and broadcasting that everywhere.

Even though they actually did commit that sin or even though they actually did make that mistake, we still shouldn’t be telling everybody about that, any more than we would tell a lie about that individual. That’s between them and God. We ought to be praying for that individual and helping that individual where we can, and those who have the responsibility of correcting that individual and helping them get things straightened out will do that.

But if we really do have the attitude that we ought to have and then we really do love others, we’re not going to spread about mistakes of others. We’re going to leave that alone and we’re going to not expose that, and that’s what that’s talking about here in verse 9.

9 He that covers a transgression seeks love—

Now, of course, the transgression should be dealt with in the proper way through the proper channels by the proper authorities, but not spread all over, and

9 —he that repeats a matter—

He that covers transgression seeks love, but he that repeats a matter: “Hey, did you hear about this? Did you hear about that? Did you hear about the other thing? He really did get drunk. He really did commit adultery. He really did steal. He really did make such and such a mistake.”

9 —separates very friends.

What is the goal? What is the profit? What is the benefit of doing that? Like I said, it has to go through the right channels in a confidential way, to the right authorities who can deal with it, but no more than that. And yet if we spread that around, if we gossip about that, if we tell this, that, and the other one about that, it’s going to hurt a whole bunch of people and could end up actually even separating the best of friends, even family members. And God is not pleased with that and we need to take the admonition we find in verse 9 and make sure that we never do that at all. Otherwise, we will cause trouble and we will have trouble ourselves.

10 A reproof enters more into a wise man than a hundred stripes into a fool.

You’ve seen people that are easily entreated. They’re eager. They’re teachable. They’re responsive, and when something is pointed out to them that they need to change, something is pointed out to them they’re doing wrong and they need to change and do the right thing, they immediately say, “Yes, I understand that. I see that, you’re right. I’m going to work on that. I’m going to overcome that. With God’s help, I’m going to get rid of that habit.” That is a wise man or a wise woman.

But someone who is rebellious and hardhearted and stubborn and a fool, they don’t ever get the point. Just a simple explanation to someone who is wise, they get the point right away. But a hundred stripes or blows to a fool, and when you’re done, he still doesn’t get it. You know why? Because he’s a fool. He doesn’t want to get it. He wants to go his way and do his thing, and therefore even after all of that tough treatment, nothing changes in the life of a fool. But just very simple, straightforward, direct reproof—a wise man will get it right away and change. We want to be wise. We don’t want to be a fool.

11 An evil man seeks only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.

“I don’t want to be told what to do,” the evil man will say. “I don’t want a boss. I’ll do what I want to do when I want to do it the way I want to do it. Nobody tells me what to do. I walk to the beat of my own drummer. I’m my own man.” And there are people like that. And all that is, is rebellion and they love rebellion and they seek after rebellion.

Now, they don’t want to be rebelled against by those that they’re in charge of, but they sure like to rebel against those that are in charge of them. Why? Because they’re evil. That’s the attitude Satan the devil had when as Lucifer he rebelled against the great God in heaven, and look at the results that we have around us today. Because this is Satan’s world, this is Satan’s society, and you see around you the fruits of that rebellion, which we all are trying to work our way through and not become a part of in this world today.

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

Or a better translation, let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly. Now think about that. Think about how powerful that is. You know what he’s saying here in verse 12? You’d be better off to be walking down a trail, turn a corner and meet a she bear who can’t find her cubs than to walk down the street and turn a corner and meet a fool in his folly. Think about how potent and powerful that is. That would be a terrifying thing to come face to face with a she bear who’s lost her cubs on a wilderness trail in the middle of a forest. And yet it’s even worse to meet a fool in his folly. Because a fool in his folly, out of control and just gone crazy and amok is even more destructive, wreaks more widespread havoc and is more deadly, a fool in his folly, than a she bear who’s lost her cubs.

Look how often we read about the destructiveness of a fool in this book of Proverbs. I hope we’re getting the point. I hope we’re learning what God wants us to learn about wisdom as opposed to foolishness and having the attitude and actions of a fool. Because He’s telling this a lot as we go through this Bible Study in the book of Proverbs.

13 Whoso rewards evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.

God wants justice. He says, “Woe unto them that call good evil and evil good,” in the book of Isaiah. And here he says in verse 13, if you reward evil for good, evil shall not depart from your house. You will suffer evil to one degree or the other for the rest of your life.

When someone is doing a good thing, when someone has a good attitude, when someone is taking the right approach, we better not punish them for that. We better appreciate that, respect that, and reward them for that because if we punish them for that, then we’re going to be punished and that evil will not depart from our house.

14 The beginning of strife is as when one lets out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

You know, if you have a dam where a river is dammed up, or you have a dike, if a little crack appears in that dam or that dike and it’s not plugged up right away, the beginning of that crack will begin to open up into a bigger crack and then finally it’ll open up into a big opening and the water will start running through that dam and then it’ll be gushing through that dam. It’ll turn into a torrent and then there’s no stopping it. And that’s the way it is with contention.

When you get started with contention, you better stop it right away because if you don’t, it’s like kicking a pebble off of a mountain that turns into an avalanche. When you have a little leak in a dam, you better get it stopped right then because if you don’t, that leak will turn into running water and that running water will turn into a gushing stream and that gushing stream will turn into a torrent that will wipe out that dam. And that’s the way it is with contention.

Leave it off, don’t stir it up, don’t generate it up, don’t heat it up. If you see contention starting, back off, leave it alone. Let it cool down and then come back again, and with cool heads see if you can get it settled because if you heat up and the other person heats up, first thing you know, you’re engaged and there’s no getting out of it, and now it’s certainly going to be a horrendous situation.

It’s easier to engage in trouble than it is to get disengaged from trouble. It doesn’t mean we don’t have to address problems, but when it turns into contention, it’s best to back off, leave it alone, let it cool down and then come back again when things can be accomplished. And so that’s what it’s talking about here, strife.

14 The beginning of strife is as when one lets out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

Once it gets underway, it turns into a horrendous thing. So don’t let it get underway. See that that’s what’s happening and put a stop to it and then come back again and address it when it can be done in a proper Christian way with calmness. And then things can be accomplished rather than destruction taking place for all concerned.

We’ll stop there and begin in verse 15 next time.

This is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.

Related Content


Free Subscription

You can subscribe absolutely FREE to the print edition of Straightforward Magazine—no strings attached! Fill out the form below to receive your free subscription to this unique and vitally important magazine.


First Name

Last Name


Street & Apartment



ZIP/Postal Code



Confirm E-mail