Summary: Solomon gives us a choice: We can walk in wisdom and exhibit an uncommon forgiveness when we are hurt or we can live as we know how to live by harboring resentment and bitterness.
In Proverbs 17 there are some shady characters who exhibit shady characteristics in the way they live their life. Some of these folks, who evidently were alive and well in Solomon’s day, are still with us. We read about them in Newsweek, People, and in our local newspapers. We see their lives portrayed in movies at the local movie theatre. We know these folks; they live on our block, work in our offices, and roam the hall at our schools. As a matter of fact, some of the destructive behaviors that I read about in Proverbs 17 are present in some of our own lives. They are, without question, a constant threat to each of our lives.
In Proverbs 17 we run into those who are arrogant. They look down their nose at others as they amble through life minding their own business. They are willing to use and abuse others because they think that they are superior to others. There are other folks found in this chapter who are looking to use their financial resources to bribe others, to get what they want. There are also those who are more than willing to lend an open hand to those who want to gain a favor under the table. The James-Dean-rebel-without-a-cause is roaming the lines of Proverbs 17 with a scowl on his face and a defiant air about him. These folks are still with us today and they are bent on rebelling against anything and everything in society. Lurking in the shadows of this chapter are the deceitful and deceptive. They are living a lie and they must deceive to try and continue their scam. Their entire lives are a ruse, a mirage, and you never know if what you get is what you bargained for with these folks.
Proverbs 17 is dotted with the underside of life, those who will smile and put their arm around you while doing you in without giving it a thought. Beware my friends. Live life with your eyes wide open and know that their traps are set and you are their potential prey.
I want to warn you not to stereotype those who will try to get over on you. They aren’t just crack heads, scam artists, and those you would picture as “low lifes.” Those who choose to walk in deception and defiance, those who plot and plan how to get over on others and take advantage of the unsuspecting are dressed in expensive business suits, sitting on corporate Boards and serving in political office as well sitting in homeless shelters and serving time in prison cells. They are cheerleaders, star athletes, and class officers dressed in Abercrombie & Fitch and Phat Farm attire as well as scraggly looking kids whom society suspects as malcontents and deviants.
You can’t identify a certain segment of society that populates the masses of the immoral because these kinds of folks are found in every race, every socio-economic bracket, every profession, and every neighborhood. They are found among the educated and uneducated. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Most people look at an Ivy League education as a sure sign of success, the epitome of accomplishment for the young, and yet Dan Wakefield writes in an article he has written about Harvey Cox’s book, When Jesus Came To Harvard.
Cox explains in “When Jesus Came to Harvard” that the faculty realized in the early ‘80s that students were being well educated in the humanities and sciences, but “we began to see that we were giving them virtually no preparation for how to apply their educations in a morally responsible manner.” (Dan Wakefield, Jesus at Harvard, http://www.beliefnet.com)
You can earn a Ph.D. in Humanities or the Sciences and be the most devious person who has ever walked the planet. You can have the IQ of a genius and yet live immorally. Let me give you an example.
Ted Kaczynski was born on May 22, 1942, and grew up in Evergreen Park, a working-class suburb of Chicago. He has the IQ of a genius. He attended Harvard University and then the University of Michigan, where he received a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1967. The same year, Dr. Kaczynski worked as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he was widely recognized as a teacher who would gain tenure. He abruptly resigned in 1969. Dr. Kaczynski was a mathematics whiz, but he took his genius and spent his time and abundant gray matter on devising ways to terrorize people with homemade bombs. Now he is spending his time doing time…for the rest of his time on earth. Maybe you’ve heard of the Unabomber.
Ted Kaczynski is living proof that you can have a high IQ, gain a great education, come from a promising or prominent family background, and yet absolutely ruin your life and the lives of those around you.