Proverbs 12:9

He that is Despised with a Servant

Introduction:

1. This is one of many verses in Proverbs that use the “better . . . than” formula. (19 others; not consecutive)

2. A contrast is presented by the words better and than instead of “but.”

a. Note the contrast with “but” in vs.1-8.

b. Now Solomon makes contrasts using the “better than.”

9a He that is despised and hath a servant

1. Despised: This term might be a bit overstated in English.

a. The term CAN mean to despise…

b. It can ALSO mean lightly esteemed… not thought of too highly.

c. There is quite a difference between being despised, and not thought highly of…

d. The Hebrew term speaks of one’s “estimate” of something… and so does our English translation. It is the DEGREE that is question…

e. Translating this term as “despised” seems to go overboard a bit—and makes the passage difficult to understand… at least to me.

f. The DEGREE of that personal estimation can range from not esteemed too highly to being despised…

g. It is probably better here to understand the term in the sense of not esteemed… or not thought highly of…

h. Consider its use in Deut. 27:16 – “set lightly by”… not given honor…

i. Consider its use in I Sam. 18:23 – a poor man and “lightly esteemed.”

j. Example: on a basketball team you might have a few players from the bench who are okay. But Michael Jordan is the one who is highly esteemed. You may not despise the other players, but they are not thought of nearly as highly as a Michael Jordan!

2. The person Solomon is describing in the first half of the verse is not one who is hated… but rather, an average man who is not in an especially high position socially.

a. Some might look down upon him because he is in a relatively lowly position…

b. It is not so much that he is despised, but rather he is just not looked up to as a great man… not esteemed to be a hero… not famous… not prestigious…

c. He doesn’t have all those qualities that folks seem attracted to.

d. He is not one of those magnetic personalities that everyone seems to gravitate towards.

e. He is not Mr. Big Shot…He’s not Mr. Personality… He is more like your average Joe. (Like you and me!)

f. Nothing flashy… nothing spectacular… He is not highly esteemed like a celebrity.

g. It doesn’t mean others think LOWLY of him. It’s just that he’s no icon. No big name.

h. He’s no President Bush. He’s no Colin Powell. He’s no Superstar athlete… no Tom Brady. He’s no Bill Gates.

3. Yet he has a servant.

a. In other words, he’s not esteemed as some great one—but he does all right for himself.

b. He is able to provide for his family, and he is well off enough to hire servants too.

c. Perhaps he runs a farm or an orchard. He’s a hard worker and he does well.

d. He does well enough to hire others to work for him.

e. He’s not nobility, but is probably doing just fine in the middle class.

f. His little business is never going to make it in the Fortune 500.

g. Ken Burns will never do a PBS documentary on his life.

h. His name will not go down in history as one who changed the world.

i. But he did ok. He ran his little business… reared his family on it… provided for his wife and children… and was even able to hire a servant.

4. Solomon says that this man is BETTER than the one he describes in the second part of the verse…

a. He may not be some great one—but he’s better than this other man…

b. Nobody is going to write a biography about this man… he doesn’t have his name written in lights…

c. But what he does have is better than what the next man described has…

d. He doesn’t have what the rich, superstar, celebrity CEO has, but what he does have is better than what this next man has…

9b He that honoreth himself and lacketh bread

1. The first man is NOT highly esteemed in the world. He’s just average.

2. But the second man IS highly esteemed.

a. Only he is highly esteemed in his OWN eyes!

b. He honors HIMSELF!

c. In other words, he’s not a big shot, but he thinks he is!

d. He thinks that he’s the rich, handsome, superstar, celebrity CEO!

e. He THINKS he’s Donald Trump or Bill Gates.

f. However, reality is a little different!

3. Honor: to be heavy; be weighty; be grievous; be hard; be rich; be honorable; be glorious; be honored.

a. His problem is self-aggrandizement…

b. This man thinks that he’s a heavy weight…

c. He glorifies himself in his own mind…

d. He thinks he’s important; walks about as if he were some great one…

e. He is dripping with self-importance…

f. He is convinced that he is STAR material…

g. He believes that he deserves to live in the lap of luxury…

h. He believes that he belongs with the upper crust of society…

i. He sees himself as one of the elite… one of the movers and shakers…

j. He is puffed up with self-esteem…

k. This man has delusions of grandeur…

l. He is like:
• Diotrephes who loved to have the preeminence…
• Haman who said, “To whom would like king delight to honor more than myself?”
• Simon the sorcerer who made himself out to be some great one

4. But this man lacks bread!

a. He THINKS he’s important; he heaps praise upon himself and congratulates himself for being so successful, but he goes hungry.

b. In his proud mind and heart he sees himself one of the great ones… but in reality, he can’t even pay his bills!

c. In his mind he is by far superior to the average Joe mentioned in the previous section…

5. But in reality, the average Joe is BETTER off than he is.

a. The average Joe doesn’t lack bread.

b. Joe pays his bills, feeds his family, and even hires a servant.

c. This man doesn’t.

6. Our country is FULL of the kind of people Solomon describes.

a. In fact, our American system seems to BREED this type.

b. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the American way… for the entrepreneurial spirit… for Capitalism… I think it’s the best system, but it’s not perfect.

c. Our system encourages people to shoot for the stars… and many folks do!

d. Immigrants come here and believe that coming here they can make it rich… and many do!

e. We have thousands of people every year who move to Los Angeles hoping to become a movie star… and some do!

f. We have thousands of kids whose dream it is to be an NFL player… or the next Larry Bird… or make it in Major League baseball and become a millionaire…and some will!

g. We have thousands of entrepreneurs starting up new businesses, hoping to be the next success story—the next Walmart or IBM…

h. We have scores of senators and congressman who put their whole being into their work—hoping to become president some day… and some from among their ranks will!

7. Thousands—perhaps millions of Americans are shooting for those stars… but very few will actually make it.

a. Every year thousands of people start up new companies—each one with a dream to strike it rich… and each year thousands of companies go belly up… and their founders go broke… bankrupt.

b. I wonder how many “would be” movie stars can barely scrape up enough money to pay their rent…

c. I wonder how many “wanna-be” pro athletes are spending their most productive years playing on B teams—and will never make to the pros… will never strike it rich.

d. I wonder how many entrepreneurs are throwing every last penny into a business that is eventually going to go belly up…and will never be the next Microsoft…

e. I wonder how many of these folks have convinced themselves that they DESERVE to be the next Bill Gates… or George Bush… or Tom Brady…

8. Solomon is describing the man who thinks highly of himself. He really believes that he:

a. Is so good looking that he is just waiting to be discovered in Hollywood…

b. He is so smart that his company is bound to explode into an international corporation…

c. He is so talented that the baseball scouts are bound to notice him.

d. He sees himself as too important to take an average job…

e. He is constantly waiting for his ship to come in… because he thinks highly of himself and thinks he deserves a big ship.

f. Yet for most of these folks, their ship never comes in… or if it does, they discover that it is less like the Queen Elizabeth—but more like a canoe.

9. Solomon says that the average Joe is better off than he is.

a. His Self-aggrandizement does not change reality one bit.

b. Nor does it pay the bills. Nor feed his family.

c. He has grand ideas in his head… but he lacks bread.

d. Solomon gives this man a little reality check:
• It is better to BE well off than to DREAM of being well off.
• Shooting for the stars is great if you make it—but if you miss a star—you can end up way off base!
• There are times when it is better to have a more moderate estimate of self… of our abilities… of what we can achieve—and shoot for something a little more reasonable.
• Stars are really far away—and very few people reach them!
• Some folks honor themselves and think they can make it… and end up lacking bread.

e. It is BETTER to aim a little lower and to be sure you can hit the target… to have a lower estimate of self—and do ok!
• Aim for a target you can hit…
• Aim for something that matches your ability…
• Don’t flatter yourself into thinking you can achieve things beyond the abilities God has given you…

10. Solomon—a king, who observed human nature carefully, observed this in men often… and he tells us what he learned from his observations: that DOING OK IS NOT BAD!

a. In fact, it’s BETTER than THINKING you’re going to be a star, or a millionaire, or big shot… if you end up lacking bread.

b. It is better to accept a lower social position and to be well off, than to make a great outward show, and lack bread.

c. It’s better to take that average job without much glory—and to be able to feed your family, than to honor yourself by waiting for an offer to be CEO… and go hungry!

d. It is better to be an average Joe worker… than a hungry CEO.