Those who think too highly of their economic achievements likely have few empathic skills and harbor contempt toward the poor (Prov 17:5). Empathy is uniquely human and is quite possibly part of the imago Dei (image of God within). Due to our sinful nature, which constantly seeks to diminish or destroy God’s image within, empathy requires nurturing. If we fail to listen to our compassionate side, then over time we’ll likely lose the ability to feel on behalf of others. In reading Prov 17:5 I cannot help but recall a time my son and I were leaving early from a Denver Broncos game (the San Diego Chargers did not stand a chance). As we jogged back to our car about 1 mile away from the stadium through the back alleys and streets of Denver, we passed a homeless person. When I looked off to the side and did not see my son near me, I stopped, looked back, and saw him reaching into his pocket to give the homeless person the remainder of his concession money I had given him for the game. After doing so he caught up to me and we continued our jog. No words were exchanged, yet I was deeply moved by my son’s compassion. A movement in the opposite direction occurred as I realized my passive neglect of the same opportunity.
Regarding Prov 17:7 I’ve only one thought: Bill Clinton, August 17, 1998, during his testimony before of the federal grand jury that was investigating his alleged “alliance” with Monica Lewinsky.
Speaking of the imago Dei, our sense of justice is uniquely human. Prov 17:15 is categorically true not only for the Lord but for all people everywhere all of the time. “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent–the LORD detests them both.” No one has ever applauded what is unfair or unjust. When a postmodernist cries “It’s all relative” only to learn later that their home has been burglarized, their tune will quickly change. Not only do we desire justice, we demand it, at least when it matters to us (see also 17:23, 26). Because of the imago Dei every human spirit, knowingly or unknowingly, resonates with and has the capacity for God’s sense of justice.
Many years ago two students in a youth group I taught were moving and gave me a parting gift of appreciation. It was a coffee mug with “Proverbs 17:17” stamped on it. Not familiar with that reference at the time, I looked it up and was encouraged by the 1st line (assuming, of course, this is what they intended [wink]), which says “A friend loves at all times.” We never talked about the passage, but I did show my gratefulness for the gift and the time we had each Sunday. Since then, that proverb has always stuck in my mind and heart. Enduring faithfulness in and to relationships endears us to one another (see also Proverbial Pensées, Part 11 of 31).
Whether on the offensive or the defensive, a war of words is not worth winning (Prov 17:14; 17:19). Better to keep silent and feign wisdom, than engage in battle and put our foolishness on display (Prov 17:28).