15 Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent– the LORD detests them both. 16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it? 17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. 18 One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbour. 19 Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction. 20 One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble. 21 To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool. (Prov. 17:15-21 NIV)
15 Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—
the LORD detests them both.
This proverb is a good example of what acquit or justify means. To justify the guilty is detestable to God. To justify the guilty here clearly means to declare the guilty innocent. The guilty are not made just, they are declared just. Condemning the innocent does not make them guilty, it is just something that is declared about them. This proverb is a demand for true justice in our society. When we call evil good and good evil it is also detestable to the Lord.
16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom,
when they are not able to understand it?
There is a hint of sarcasm here because wisdom cannot be bought. Wisdom is freely available to those who apply themselves to learn and have had their hearts changed. It is part of the arrogant makeup of the fool that he thinks he can buy in wisdom. Even if he could buy it, there would be no point because he wouldn’t understand it.
17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
The comparison here should not diminish either the friend or the brother. It is good to have friends and they are constant in their love for you. But at times of adversity you appreciate the care of your family.
18 One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge
and puts up security for a neighbour.
The wise use of money is one of the recurring themes in Proverbs. Proverbs does not prohibit becoming a guarantor, but it cautions against the hasty offering of security for someone. The folly of offering to guarantee your neighbour’s loan is that the banks have already decided that the person is too big a risk to lend money to. The banks have plenty of experience of lending and they refuse to offer a loan, perhaps on the grounds that it is too large a risk or that the person cannot really afford the payments. To become guarantor may not be the best thing to do for your neighbour if that means they are going to get themselves into financial difficulty.
19 Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin;
whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.
Some people love a quarrel, and they will go out of their way to start one. A quarrel is never healthy. Hasty things get said that you may later regret. The second line of the proverb is difficult, and commentators vary on whether to take a literal or a figurative meaning. Here the structure of synonymous parallelism (the second line meaning the same as the first) would suggest that a figurative meaning is required. Building a high gate is an ostentatious display of wealth and represents a flamboyant boasting which antagonises people and so bring trouble upon yourself.
20 One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper;
one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.
This proverb links the heart and the tongue. One who has a corrupt heart in the context of Proverbs is someone who does not fear the Lord and who has not sought after wisdom. There is no true life prosperity here. Out of the corrupt heart come perverse words which invite trouble into one’s life.
21 To have a fool for a child brings grief;
there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool.
The greatest joy that a parent can have is to see their child prosper spiritually. This ranks above academic success or career success. When a child pursues a godless and foolish path it takes joy away from the parents.
Lord we pray for our children and ask that You will spiritually bless them. We thank You for our children who are walking with the Lord but Lord we feel the burden for those who are outside of Christ. In mercy come and save them, because we ask this in our Saviour’s name. Amen.