Proverbs 17:9, 22
Posted June 30, 2014
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
In the book of Proverbs, we are called to a life of wisdom as opposed to a life of folly. This wisdom is less about the accumulation of information and data, and rather a godly life lived out before God and man. They are written as Hebrew poetry, and as such, can be challenging for us to understand. One of the most common elements found in Hebrew poetry is parallelism. One of the forms of parallelism used in Proverbs is “antithetical parallelism”, where the writer states the same truth through two contrasting phrases; the second line states the same truth as the first, but in an opposite way or different perspective. Our two proverbs for this week utilize this form of parallelism.
Cover vs. Repeat
Relationships are complex things. When two people with unique sets of backgrounds, emotions, and weaknesses interact, by default they will hurt each other intentionally and unintentionally. The question is not if conflict will happen, but rather when it will and how we work through it. This proverbs calls out to the one offended, directing them to cover the offense as a demonstration of love and desire to maintain that relationship. The opposite of this covering is described in its parallel line as a repeating of the offense (“repeats” indicates either tale-telling or harping on a matter).
Those who want to remain in long lasting relationships of love must by default be good “coverers” and bad “repeaters”. In theory this sounds nice, but this is especially difficult in the midst of heated conflict! For the Christian, this horizontal covering & choosing to not bring up the past with our friends/spouses embodies on a micro level the very love we have been given in our vertical relationship with Christ, who chose to not only cover our offenses but die on the cross for them and not repeat them when we hurt Him. The only one who repeats the offenses is the “accuser of the brothers”, Satan himself (Revelation 12:10). Would we learn, in the words of Paul, to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).” By God’s grace and Spirit’s empowering we will make our way toward that desired end.
Joyful vs. Crushed
Surely conflict and pain will come in life and in relationships. With what posture do we approach conflict, and what posture do we walk away from conflict with? Here, the proverb explores two potential postures: One is joyful, while the other is crushed. The joyful hearted one holds in their hand good medicine both for their own ailments as well as the ailments of those around them. The one who is crushed in spirit, on the other hand, dries up the bones. This is the opposite of life-giving, but rather life-taking.
What crushes the spirit? Proverbs 15:13 teaches us that “by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” While to experience sorrow is human, and Christ Himself is described as a “man of sorrows” in Isaiah 53:3, this sorrow is excessive to the point of bearing no hope within it. If all your hope is found in a human relationship, and that relationship is lost, then by default you will be crushed. If your greatest hope is in money, or relationships, or power, or someone liking you, or (fill-in-the-blank) and that thing is somehow taken away, then your purpose is stripped away from you. However, if your greatest hope is in God and a love for Him, that can never be taken from you. If our hope is in God, we know that even conflict in relationships and sorrow in life are designed to point us back to Him and fashion us to be like Him. This undergirding truth can allow us to joyfully enter times of sorrow knowing we have hope. In Philippians 4:4, Paul exhorts us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Always, you ask? This exhortation is grounded in the Lord and not circumstances. We serve a Lord who is always worthy of rejoicing in. He is our treasure, not situation or green pastures. May we be those of joyful hearts who find our ultimate hope in God and His work for us in Christ, not our circumstances! Christ was crushed for us that we might not be crushed in spirit, but rather be those who bear an eternal hope and joy within us.
Song written and performed by Joel Limpic.
Recording, backing vocals, bass, and percussion by Aaron Strumpel.
Artwork by Kayla Sanders.