Proverbs 20:17

Bread of Deceit


Bread of deceit is sweet to a man…

A. Bread of Deceit

1. Deceit:

a. Deceit, lies, falsehood, misleading, or fraud.

b. This is the same word Moses uses in the commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” (False witness = a deceptive or misleading witness.)

2. “Bread of deceit” refers to bread (food) that was either sold or obtained through deceit, lies, falsehood, misleading, or fraud.

a. It could refer to bread that was stolen…

b. It could refer to bread that was sold… with deceit (either as to its weight; its content; etc.) False advertising… deceptive business practices.

c. Merchants have always come with clever ways to deceive their customers so as to increase their own bottom line.

d. This was an ancient art—but that art is alive and well today too.

e. As long as there are greedy liars and dishonest merchants on the earth, the issue Solomon discusses here will always be relevant.

f. It doesn’t really matter whether he had in mind one who stole bread or one who sold it through deceit.

g. And of course this has application to all kinds of other issues beyond just bread.

3. Solomon previously warned us about dishonest business practices.

a. Prov. 20:10 – Deceptive sellers using diverse weights.
• The dishonest merchant would have a bag full of weights used on his scale to measure goods that he was buying, selling, or trading.
• He would have two “five pound” weights. One weighed 5.2 pounds, and one weighed 4.8 pounds.
• When he bought from you, he would weigh your goods with his 5.2 weight. When he sold to you, he used the 4.8 weight.
• He skimmed a little each time to his own favor.
• He would call that a sweet deal.

b. Prov. 20:14 – This is a deceptive consumer haggling for a cheap price.
• After convincing the merchant that his product is virtually worthless, the buyer walks away and boasts about what a “steal” he got at the market that day!
• He’s quite proud of himself for having talked the merchant down so much… proud of his haggling skills. Sweet!

c. In those passages he warns us to be honest whether we are buying or selling.

d. Buyer beware… and seller beware! There are crooks on both sides!

B. Is Sweet to a Man

1. Sweet:

a. Pleasant, i.e., pertaining to an enjoyable pleasant event or sensation.

b. Sweet to the taste: i.e.,—pleasant—not sour, bitter.

2. Solomon’s point is that there is something instantly gratifying about getting something the quick and easy way… without working… by fraud… cheating… misrepresenting…

a. There is something that SEEMS pretty satisfying initially when a merchant cuts corners by substituting expensive wheat for some other cheaper filler grain, and by selling the same loaf of bread he can make more money…

b. Prov. 9:17 – “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

c. It’s a “sweet deal!” Can’t you just picture a dishonest merchant saying those very words when he hoodwinks a customer into buying his product: “Sweet!”

d. Instead of serving his customers, he is actually preying on the ignorance of his customers.

e. The customer may think he is buying the more expensive whole grain wheat bread when he is actually getting a little bit of wheat mixed in with white flour and food coloring.

f. On a wholesale level, the merchant that sells his bread of deceit might make a fortune. It is sweet to him.

3. Very often the dishonest merchant will justify his actions.

a. He might say, “It was really a win-win situation. We all went away happy! He thought he got a good deal.”

b. The merchant might think to himself, “What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him… so what’s the harm?”

c. Or he might be so cold hearted as to gloat, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

d. Thieves and crooks rejoice when their plans seem to work, and their dishonesty seems to pay.

e. Initially, when you don’t get caught, crime does pay.

But afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel…

A. Afterwards

1. Afterwards speaks of the long term effects.

a. There are immediate consequences: it is sweet! It is pleasant… something to be desired.

b. But sooner or later that sweetness wears off and is replaced by something markedly different: gravel in the mouth.

c. Transient actions carry with them permanent consequences. That’s the warning here.

d. If a man steals a loaf of bread, it tastes sweet to him at first.
• His hunger doesn’t care how the bread was obtained.
• When the hunger is satisfied, it is “sweet.”
• However, after the body experiences the pleasure, the inner man may experience guilt and shame…
• The hunger of the body is instantly gratified—but the shame and guilt of the inner man is long lasting.

2. The point that Solomon makes about “bread of deceit” is true of ALL kinds of sin.

a. Sin is always SWEET up front… initially.

b. But over time, the sweetness wears off… the initial excitement evaporates… and the thrill is gone…

c. But afterwards, we are left with the unpleasant side of sin.

d. Heb. 11:25 – Moses chose “to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.”
• Note that sin IS pleasurable. It is sweet.
• Thieves are initially jubilant when they get away with stealing $50,000. They usually celebrate with a big night out on the town.
• Adultery is pleasurable for the moment.
• It is really fun to get high on drugs. There is an initial rush that people live for. It is exhilarating… exciting…
• Note also in this verse that the pleasure of sin is “for a season.”
• Season – does not mean time chronologically that often expresses enduring through time. This word means: transient, temporary, enduring just for a while… an opportunity that comes and then goes…
• In other words, sin is pleasurable, but its pleasure is transient… brief… fleeting… momentary… like a vapor.

B. A mouth full of gravel

1. This was chosen as an illustration of something that would be the exact opposite of something sweet.

a. Have you ever had a mouth full of gravel?

b. It is not a pleasant experience. It doesn’t taste good. It doesn’t feel good. It isn’t good for you. There really isn’t anything good about a mouth full of gravel.

c. While bread obtained deceitfully might be sweet at first, before too long, the sweetness is gone and it is replaced by something most unpleasant.

2. Here Solomon uses the illustration of gravel in the mouth to warn us about the unforeseen consequences of using dishonest business practices…

a. The warning is: don’t be fooled by instant gratification.

b. Because it is sweet up front, the dishonest merchant assumes that the sweetness will last forever.

c. He is rudely awakened when he discovers just how short lived that sweetness really is…

d. Prov. 9:17-18 – However, unpleasant consequences will eventually arise.

3. The illustration of “bread of deceit” is typical of any kind of sin.

a. Initially, there is a pleasure to sin. It seems sweet.

b. But eventually, it comes back to BITE you.

c. Gen. 3:6 – Consider the original temptation to sin in Garden.
• Initially, the fruit was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and desired to make one wise.
• It was beautiful, pleasant, and desirable—sweet!
• But we know the rest of the story. It resulted in untold tragedy, pain, suffering, sickness, and eventually death.
• If Eve had thought about the REAL consequences of sin, perhaps she would not have taken that fruit.
• But the devil didn’t highlight the unpleasant consequences. He highlights the immediate pleasure.
• Our adversary wants us to think about the immediate gratification of sin… not the long lasting consequences.

d. The devil and his world system use the same tactics today.
• Every advertisement for alcohol shows young, beautiful people enjoying themselves while drinking. They highlight the immediate pleasure.
• Never will you see a beer company use as their backdrop Skid Row—with alcoholics sleeping in the gutter in their own vomit… with his face in the dirt… with gravel in his mouth.
• They show young people at parties having a great time… not middle aged couples fighting and getting a divorce because one is addicted to alcohol and the other spouse just can’t take it anymore.

e. Sin makes all kinds of promises. It promises pleasure, excitement, thrills, power, popularity, friends, liberty, and peace.
• However, it provides none of that permanently.
• What it offers and what it delivers are two different things.
• It delivers loss, shame, guilt, slavery, and destruction.

f. In Solomon’s illustration of the dishonest merchant whose shady business practices result in an immediate profit, sees it as sweet.
• But in the end, the sweet morsels are replaced by a mouth full of gravel.
• Solomon warns this merchant:
» In time your conscience may kick in and the sweetness is replaced with guilt and shame…
» Your dishonest practices could be exposed…
» Lose your reputation… your customers…
» Business goes downhill…
» You get arrested for fraud… end up in jail…
» There are LOTS of possible unpleasant consequences of such practices.

4. The opposite of this principle is equally true.

a. Here Solomon reminds us that when we do WRONG there is an immediate but short lived gratification, (sweetness) followed by long lasting bitterness (gravel).

b. But on the other hand, when we do RIGHT (good deeds which manifest the indwelling life of Christ) there is an immediate but short lived pain involved in the sacrifice, followed by long lasting joy and sweetness.

c. The world’s bread is sweet at first but bitter at last. God’s bread is bitter and painful at first, but sweet at last. (Well done, thou good and faithful servant!)

d. Thus, our overall world view will affect the way we live.

e. Do we want immediate gratification like Esau? (Sweet now, bitter later)… or do we want to follow the example of Christ (suffering now, and glory later)?

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