Notice what it says here. Once again, here’s an admonition from God that we have to always be truthful in everything that we do, and we have to be very careful that we separate wrong from right and that we draw a line of demarcation, a delineation, between the wicked and the just.
God does not like it when we blur the lines between wrong and right, and wickedness and righteousness. He does not like it when we take everything and turn it into just a kind of a gray area or a melting pot and there’s no right and wrong, rather there’s only situation ethics and it just depends on what the situation is—the old adage, “There are no absolutes”—and when you really think about it, that in itself is an absolute to say there are no absolutes. And notice here in Proverbs 17:15. He makes that clear. He says:
15 He that justifies the wicked, and he that condemns the just, even they both are abomination to the Eternal.
We have to call right, right and wrong, wrong. If we call right wrong, and wrong right, God says that’s an abomination. And yet so often in our society today and so often in our institutions of higher learning and so often in our psychological and philosophical approaches from the “so–called experts”, when it comes down to the bottom line of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good, what’s bad, they just kind of lump it together and say, “Follow your heart.” And they blur the lines and say, “Well, it just depends on how you feel and what you want to do and if you feel like doing it, do it.”
Well, that’s not what God says, and that’s not what God’s word says. But, no, He calls a spade a spade, and He says that we are not to justify the wicked and we are not to condemn the just. But rather we are to justify the just and not condemn to the Lake of Fire, but in a righteous way call the wicked what they are and their ways what it is—wickedness. And that’s justice. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. And we don’t want to mix the two. If we do, then both approaches are an abomination to the Eternal. Calling the wicked just and calling the just wicked, both of those accusations or observations or conclusions or opinions are an abomination to the Lord. What’s accepted with Him is the truth—the truth about the wicked and the truth about the just.
16 Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he has no heart to it?
In other words, it just doesn’t fit. A fool is not interested in getting wisdom and getting true knowledge. A fool is only interested in foolishness. And so you try to get a fool to make something of himself, you try to get a fool to educate himself, you try to get a fool to sacrifice and really accomplish something, his heart’s not in it, and so he just limps along and gives it a half–hearted lick and a promise, a little dab here and a little dab over there, and just really doesn’t lean into the wind, so to speak, and put it all on the line and do it with all of his might, but it’s tinkering and just playing around. He’s not going to get wisdom.
I mean, sometimes families will put out thousands of dollars for tuition to send a foolish son or daughter to college and their heart is not in making something of themselves and so it’s just a wasted effort. But you see a son or daughter whose heart is in education and in accomplishment and success, then the money is well spent. So
16 Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he has no heart to it?
It’s not going to work with a fool.
17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
A true friend. A true friend is priceless. A true friend is there through thick and thin, up and down, stormy weather and beautiful weather because they are a friend—a true friend—and they’ll be there. And it’s like a blood brother or a blood relative being born for when times get tough and the going gets rough, adversity in other words.
So if you have a friend like that, make sure that you appreciate that friend and make sure that you protect that friendship and make sure you value that relationship because it’s very, very rare. You’ll have people who seem like your friend. They’ll tell you they are your friend, but when things get rough and the good times are over and the bad times set in, you might look around and find them gone, nowhere to be found, nowhere to be seen. They were a fair weather friend.
But a true friend will be there at all times through thick and thin, through up and down times, and through happy times and tough times. And it’s like a blood brother who is born and faithful and loyal to you as a blood brother or blood sister and they will stay there even though adversity sets in. Appreciate them and be that kind of relative, be that kind of friend yourself is what God is telling you and me here in verse 17.
18 A man void of understanding––
or devoid of understanding
18 ––strikes hands, and becomes surety in the presence of his friend.
A better translation is: A man devoid of heart or understanding shakes hands in a pledge and becomes a guarantee for his friend.
You know, to help people is one thing but to put everything on the line to make a loan good or to cosign in order for them to purchase a car and you are not really in a position to help them that way, but you go ahead and do that and you shake hands and do it in front of someone else—sometimes a person will do that just to show out. But regardless, you go ahead and do that, you could end up having to pay for that car. You could end up having to pay for that house. You could end up having to payoff that loan. That’s not really a wise thing to do. You better think that one through. You better weigh that out carefully.
There’s maybe another way that individual can get help with that bill, with that loan, with that car, with that house. No point in you losing your house and him losing his house too. No point in you being brought into poverty just so he can have a car. Weigh all of that out because it says here a man void of understanding shakes hands and becomes a guarantee in the presence of his friend. In whatever situation you do that it’s not wise, and to do it in the presence of others and instead of it being a confidential matter, it begins to be wide known, that complicates things as well.
19 He loves transgression that loves strife: and he that exalts his gate seeks destruction.
In other words, you know how there are people who like to fuss and fight and argue. I mean, there are actually people who like to absolutely get into brawls. They just love it. And all that does is lead to transgression. That’s not loving your neighbor. That’s hating your neighbor. There’s going to be injury. There’s going to be pain and suffering. There’s going to be hard feelings, and yet there are people like that. Well, you and I need to make sure we’re not like that. We want to be peacemakers and we want to love peace.
19 ––and he that exalts his gate seeks destruction.
You pump yourself up and puff yourself up and promote yourself and exalt yourself, you’re setting yourself up for a fall and so am I if I do that. Let’s make sure we don’t.
20 He that has a froward heart finds no good:––
a deceitful or a crooked heart
20 ––and he that has a perverse tongue falls into mischief.
Or evil. God wants us to have a clean heart, a pure mind, and He wants us to have a wholesome tongue, and that way then, good fruit will be born. But if we talk dirty and if we have a devious attitude and a deceptive approach, we’re not going to find anything good and we’re going to fall into trouble. That’s the warning in verse 20.
21 He that begets a fool does it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool has no joy.
Now, really, when you get down to it, a baby is born—a baby boy, a baby girl—they don’t know anything and therefore now their mother and father are charged with the responsibility of rearing them and helping them grow up into adulthood and be upstanding citizens. However, there are so few parents nowadays that are fully engaged in child rearing, but rather they’re just kind of leaving their children to grow up by themselves or on their own and just herd them through life and try to keep them out of their way, that more and more young people are turning into adults who are just empty–headed and they have no roots and they have no foundation and they have no reference points, and so they just drift with the wind and float with the current and end up being fools, and when that happens, the sorrow that it brings on them and on their family is incalculable. And that’s what it’s saying here.
21 He that begets a fool does it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool has no joy.
We’ve seen that children who are really successful and try to do things the right way—it’s such a joy to the parents. But children that grow up to be hateful and evil and violent and mean–spirited and scoffers and fools, it brings such sorrow to the family. It doesn’t have to be that way.
If we, from the very time the baby is born, will take care of the responsibility of parenting the way God says we are to do, and if we keep Him in the picture and right in the center of our family, children will grow up and be wonderful children, and it will be a great joy to see them succeed, and the family will be tremendously happy to be a part of all of that. So with God’s help, that’s what we ought to determine to do.
22 A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones.
You see people who are sour, and they’re cynical and negative, and they are critical, and they are abrasive and abusive and unpleasant to be around—it just causes people to be discouraged. It causes people to have the very life sucked right out of them.
But on the other hand, when you’re around someone who is positive and upbeat and kind and gentle and appreciative and polite and courteous and has a good word and has a smile on their face and really is enjoying life, well, I mean, it perks you up like a good, healthy medicine might do. It has healing properties to it.
Of course, laughter is known to have healing components to it, if you will. A warm, happy, positive, upbeat outlook on life is one of the best things we can do for our health. A tranquil mind, a peaceful mind is one of the most important laws of radiant health, and here it is in the Bible written 3,000 years ago.
So, what are we going to do about that? Are we going to go through life miserable and negative and downtrodden and we always see the bad side of everybody and everything? Or are we going to choose to go the other way, and be realistic, and look for the good, and look for the upbeat, and look for the wonder that is available for us to be a part of in this life that God has given us?
A merry heart, a happy individual, a warm, friendly personality—it just spreads good cheer everywhere and it’s like a healing type of medicine. I don’t mean a goofy clown. I don’t mean some kind of idiot person who’s always trying to be a comedian—just a warm, friendly, happy, outgoing, caring individual—one that is happy and spreads it around, a merry heart. It does so much good, instead of someone who is downtrodden and discouraged and sounding hopeless and feeling hopeless and spreading that hopelessness around and therefore engendering a broken spirit in others. It’s like their life and their health just dries up. It dries the bones.
23 A wicked man takes a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.
Now the word gift here actually means bribe. This happens all around the world everyday, millions of times. People in positions of authority take bribes. Judges take bribes. Policemen take bribes. People in positions of awesome power take bribes. Now, not all of these people take bribes. Not all judges, not all policemen and not all presidents and prime ministers take bribes. But all too often it happens. Or it can happen in a low key backwater situation where somebody is “nobody,” and yet they can be bought off to do something that they shouldn’t do or to look the other way, or to pass along a word that’s going to hurt people, or to twist the truth or to change a judgment that should have been made to one that shouldn’t be made. A wicked man or a wicked woman is someone that does that. Someone who does that, God says is wicked.
A wicked man takes a bribe out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment. Under the table, so to speak. In the back room, from the pocket, in a concealed way in order to be bought off and kind of grease the slides to get a decision or a vote or a choice to go a particular way instead of the way it ought to go. The Mafia acts this way all the time. Other criminal organizations do as well.
But other people buy into that criminal organization to get money. So they’re just as bad as the criminal or just as bad as the person who is bribing them to do something. The one who takes the bribe is just as bad as the one who is giving the bribe. In both cases, God wants us to stay clear of that because it’s sin and it’s wrong.
24 Wisdom is before him that has understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.
In other words, one who has understanding is going to be wanting wisdom, looking for wisdom, going to the source of wisdom, which is God and His word and people who follow God’s word.
24 ––but the eyes of a fool––
They’re looking to the wrong sources. They’re looking to this world. They’re looking to find what they want to find and hear what they want to hear, and they go to mankind’s way of doing things for their understanding.
But a wise individual goes to God and goes to God’s word and goes to God’s way of doing things for understanding, and then they get good understanding as a result of that.
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
A successful son is a great, wonderful blessing to his father and mother. A foolish son, one who goes through life a bum, or goes through life creating havoc and collateral damage in everything they do, it just puts a tremendous load of grief on his father and even can bring bitterness to his mother.
He was a sweet, wonderful, beautiful little baby that the parents had such high hopes for and yet on into adulthood and middle age, he turns out to be a complete colossal failure and a lazy, evil person. Can you imagine the grief and pain and heartache and suffering that it brings on the parents? And it can even shorten their life, bring on sickness, destroy their health, and bring an early death. What a terrible thing.
26 Also to punish the just is not good, nor to strike princes for equity.
In other words, we’re talking justice here. You don’t punish the righteous. You reward the righteous and appreciate the righteous, and you don’t attack the one in power especially if that individual in power is trying to do the right thing because they’re upright in their position of authority and power. So you respect them. You don’t inflict harm on them because that’s not a good thing and that will come back on the person who is inflicting the harm.
27 He that has knowledge spares his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.
Have you ever noticed that someone who is really intelligent, someone who is really smart, someone who is really wise, someone who really has the mind of Jesus Christ, someone who really has godly character, he’s not always babbling all the time and she’s not always spouting and talking and rattling on? They know when to be quiet and listen. They know when to speak up and when not to speak up. They practice an economy of words. They’re not just obnoxious and overbearing and rattling on and on because they have true knowledge. And so they choose their words carefully and they practice being courteous. They don’t butt in and interrupt and take over conversations.
27 ––and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.
A calm spirit. Actually in the Hebrew, I like it even better. It says, “is of a cool spirit.” He doesn’t panic. He doesn’t go off the deep end. He doesn’t shoot off his mouth. He’s not quick to rush into something or say something. No, he’s calm, he’s cool. He gets the facts, he delivers, he’s steady, he’s predictable. He’s like a rock, an anchor. What a wonderful attitude and what a wonderful person and what tremendous character a man or woman has if they have that approach, a calm spirit, because they have understanding. They spare their words. They make them count because they have knowledge.
28 Even a fool, when he holds his peace,––
or keeps silent
28 ––is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
You’ve seen people who when they sit there quietly, you can begin thinking, “Well, this person has some depth to them.” But you’ve seen other people who sit there quietly and you think they have some depth, then they start talking and rattling and babbling and talking so much and spewing out what’s really inside them, and the more they talk, the more you realize they have nothing to offer. They don’t bring anything to the table. They are a fool. There’s an old saying that says, “Better to stay quiet and be considered a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Well, this says it even better, but it kind of ties in with this, “Better to stay quiet and be considered a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.” It says right here, even a fool when he keeps silent is counted wise. But you know, if he doesn’t keep silent, he’s not counted wise. He’s simply counted as a fool.
28 ––and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
In other words, even an individual who might not have a great amount of understanding, if he’ll stay quiet and he’ll respect those others around, and if what he says he considers carefully, he may not have a whole lot of understanding, but he’ll be appreciated as a man of understanding because he knows when to speak up and he knows when to be quiet, and at least he has some understanding because of that and so that’s appreciated.
So verse 28 is simply talking about propriety and protocol and being courteous and being respectful of others, and even someone who might be rather shallow, even someone who might not have a whole lot of understanding, if they’ll just try to consider being quieter, if they’ll just try to consider other people, if they’ll just quit babbling and spouting off, they’ll be a lot better off and they’ll even be respected more because of the fact that they can quiet down and back off and listen to others and learn from others.
So we’ll stop there in verse 28. We’ll pick it up next time with Chapter 18 of Proverbs.
This is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.
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.