1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. 2 A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the family. 3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart. 4 A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue. 5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished. 6 Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. 7 Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool– how much worse lying lips to a ruler! (Prov. 17:1-7 NIV)
1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife.
Poverty with peace and quiet is better than wealth and a banquet where there is strife. The main point is the contrast between quietness and strife and the analogy of a dry crust and a banquet reinforces the point. In anticipation of the next proverb the context here is conflict over the family fortune. History is replete with examples of in family quarrels over the distribution of wealth. These types of quarrels have resulted in court cases and families split and not talking to one another for decades. These types of quarrels are ugly and it is better to settle for a dry crust and have peace and quiet rather than introducing strife because of the pursuit of a share or a larger share of the wealth.
2 A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son
and will share the inheritance as one of the family.
Someone who has no birth right to inheritance may gain inheritance over a lazy and disgraceful son. The parents may decide that it is better for the son to put the wise and prudent servant in charge of the business, the farm or the company because the disgraceful son might squander the wealth or ruin the business upon which so many livelihoods depend. The servant or employee may find himself in control because of his demonstration of prudence and wisdom. This is a further example of foolishness being punished in this lifetime.
3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but the LORD tests the heart.
The idea in this proverb is that the crucible is for testing and purifying silver and the furnace for testing and purifying gold, but the Lord tests and purifies the heart. God tests and weighs the heart. Our hearts can be very deceitful and we can be unsure of our own motives for performing an action. The fire that refines the heart can often be the trials that God sends:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jas. 1:2-4 NIV)
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith– of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire– may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Pet. 1:7 NIV)
4 A wicked person listens to deceitful lips;
a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.
The type of conversation that we listen to tells something about the kind of people that we are. My inner character is revealed not just by what I say, but by what I willingly listen to others say. It is damaging to constantly expose ourselves to the wrong type of conversation. We have to choose to deliberately walk away from some conversations. This also has something to say about the kind of newspapers that we read, or the gossip columns that we peruse. We also need to beware of the websites that we explore. The web has thousands of pages that purport to reveal all kinds of conspiracies. We also need to be cautious with celebrity preachers. A good rule of thumb is to ask if the stories and messages make the preacher look good or do they exalt Christ. If a preacher is drawing attention to himself then perhaps this is a series of messages you would be better to walk away from.
5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.
How we respond to others is an indication of how we truly respond to the Lord. It is wrong to ridicule or despise any person, simply because they are made in the image of God. No matter how wicked a person may have been we should not gloat at any disaster that might overcome them. God says that such a reaction will not go unpunished. It may be true that some people bring calamity upon themselves, but we are in no position to gloat. If God gave us what we deserve how many disasters might we experience?
6 Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children.
Last Saturday we went to see our son, daughter in law and three grandchildren. The grandchildren told us that there was a secret that they had and we would be told after lunch. After lunch our son took us away from the house into the park and we had to sit on a seat to wait. Round the corner came our four-year-old granddaughter riding her bicycle, coming towards us grinning with joy at what she was able to show her grandparents. This was the secret. I know every other child learns to ride a bicycle, but when you see your own grandchild accomplish something and wanting to share it with you then you understand what the Teacher means that grandchildren are a crown to the grandparents. This crown is made up of a lifetime of achievements. A picture drawn, a note, exam results, and of course to crown it all spiritual prosperity. The point is that all these things, even the small things matter. This morning Liz’s phone rang at 7am, it was from our youngest daughter and the first thought was what can be wrong? It was our 3-year-old grandson on a video call, ‘saying ‘granny I love you.’ Our daughter said he was saying this into his toy phone, and she just had to let his granny hear this. This is a small thing, but priceless. Let us be careful to treasure these little things in life. The second relationship speaks of the joy that the children have in their parents. All the time that you spend investing in the lives of your children when they are small will pay dividends when they are older. The relationship changes over the years and you have to allow your children to have their independence but always be there for them to help them when they need it.
7 Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—
how much worse lying lips to a ruler!
Some people can say things well but when you examine what is said you soon realise that it is empty of content. Eloquence is out of place on the lips of a godless fool, because though he can say what he has to say well, there is nothing wholesome in his content. However, a greater calamity is the lying lips of a ruler. The ruler is in a position to wield great authority, but when this is done on the basis of lies it has wide ranging repercussions.
Lord help us to respect every person we meet and to value the sanctity of every life because all have been made in Your image. This is the greatest standard to judge how we feel about every other person. Lord as You test our hearts help us to see if we fall short of this in any area or relationship and lead us to repentance that we might be forgiven because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.