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Bible: What Does Proverbs 17-18 Teach Us About True Spirituality and Good Communication?
The Wisdom of Solomon
A Valuable Quality
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Proverbs 17-18: True Spirituality and Good Communication
Solomon advises his audience on a variety of topics, leaping from thought to thought with no apparent connections between the verses.
However, several familiar themes and forms are evident. The author discusses
(1) good and bad speech (vv. 1, 4-5, 7, 9-10, 14, 27-28),
(2) folly vs. wisdom (or the foolish and the wise) [vv. 2, 7, 10, 12, 16, 21, 24, 28],
(3) the heart (vv. 3, 20, 22),
(4) the "better. . . than" formula (v. 1) and
(5) several contrasts (vv. 3, 9, 22, 24).
The Importance of True Spirituality
The king emphasizes the importance of true spirituality, especially within the family and among friends.
He values quietness, a quality of the spirit, far more than he does material plenty (v. 1).
A servant's wise actions gain him inheritance privileges above those of a shameful son (v. 2).
Keeping under wraps a potentially destructive detail about a friend (for love’s sake) can save him from losing friends (v. 9).
Love comforts sufferers (v. 17).
Exhibiting self-control and calmness in heated situations is always deemed wise, regardless of one's normal character (vv. 27-28).
It would help relationships if one could become a skillful diplomat and channel a flood of anger into more peaceful streams (v. 14).
Solomon also strongly admonishes his audience on a number of fronts:
(1) Do not believe people who tell lies or speak hatefully, for then you would be like a liar or an evildoer (v. 4);
(2) Do not rejoice when people you do not like (in this context, the man who suddenly becomes poor) suffer loss. If you do, the LORD will chasten you (v. 5);
(3) Do not do evil to one who has treated you well, nor call evil good and good evil; they are abominable practices (vv. 13, 15; cf. v. 26);
(4) Do not become surety for a friend (v. 18).
Solomon points out various sins and their results:
(1) A sinner fights against authority and loves to do so; his boasting about his possessions (“exalts his gate”) will lead to his destruction (vv. 11, 19);
(2) Deceit and perversity get you in trouble (v. 20);
(3) A scoffing, foolish son makes a sad father and a bitter mother (vv. 21, 25);
(4) Accepting bribes on the sly perverts justice (v. 23).
Some verses do not fall into any ready category, but are very worthy of comment:
(1) God tests your mind/heart with difficult circumstances in order to show you your character (v. 3);
(2) Grandchildren are God’s reward to old men; likewise, children will ideally take great pride in their father (v. 6);
(3) Laughter helps you maintain your health, but depression sometimes leads to mental breakdown (v. 22).
[Solomon wants to spare people from interpersonal conflicts, so he instructs them about what pitfalls to avoid, what traits to exhibit and cultivate, and what kinds of people to be wary of].
Profundity of Speech
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The Proud Rich Man
Again, the author broaches the subject of communication, and gives counsel on several fronts.
One metaphor (deep waters) suggests the profundity (or obscurity) of a (wise?) man's words (v. 4; cf. 20:5), and another figure (bubbling or flowing brook, wellspring) shows the "aliveness of wisdom's constant source" (v. 4b).
The quality of your speech (e.g., telling the truth, keeping your word, etc.) largely determines your success and survival in life (v. 20), but your worldly status often dictates how you respond to others (v. 23).
Your words have tremendous power, especially in deciding life and death issues (v. 21).
Solomon observes that listeners (a jury?) need to get all the facts before deciding which party is right; in other words, communication from all angles must be as complete as possible (v. 17).
Partiality to the wicked is wrong (v. 5).
In a different vein, answering someone before listening to the whole story is the way of a fool (v. 13; cf. vv. 1-2).
Being totally independent (“isolates himself”) in decision-making and opinion-giving, according to Solomon, is selfish, proud, and foolish.
One must be willing to consider the wise views/judgments of others before taking action (vv. 1-2).
A fool's words cause trouble, violence, and even personal destruction (vv. 6-7). As gossip, his words produce deep wounds (v. 8).
Poor communication can cause an almost irreconcilable offense (v. 19), but a good mediator can separate violent contenders (v. 18).
In a few verses Solomon discusses character deficiencies and what results from them.
A lazy worker is closely akin to one who destroys (v. 9), while the proud rich think their wealth will protect them from all harm.
"Not so," replies the king; “pride precedes destruction" (vv. 11-12).
He also examines certain possessions and their benefits:
(1) If a man has the LORD, he is safe and secure in His friendship (vv. 10, 24);
(2) If he is humble, he will receive honor (v. 12b);
(3) His gift will provide a place of service for him (v. 16);
(4) If he finds a wife, it is proof of God's favor (v. 22).
[Solomon understood how vital good communication is to wise living].
© 2013 glynch1