Proverbs 17:2

A Servant and a Son

The Position of a Servant and a Son

1. Solomon seems to be speaking of a family of means here.

a. He mentions an inheritance to be left behind…

b. The man has servants…

c. At some point, all wealthy men must leave their wealth behind to somebody…

d. Normally that somebody is the son—the firstborn son usually received a double portion of the inheritance.

e. Along WITH the inheritance of property came an inheritance of position and power.

f. That too was usually given to the firstborn… that was the son in line to receive more of the property and more of the power to rule… as a patriarch… head of the tribe or clan.

2. Under normal circumstances, it is better to be the SON of a wealthy man than his servant.

a. A servant might have a pretty good job or position.

b. A wealthy man might treat his servants well and even leave them a pittance from the inheritance if the servant was well pleasing to his master.

c. But the wealthy man’s sons are in a special position.

d. The father wants to make sure that his sons receive a good education… good upbringing… proper training in the life… A father wants the best for his sons.

e. The sons receive virtually ALL of his inheritance.

f. Naturally a father is going to want to take care of his sons when he dies… and leave his wealth to them. That is pretty normal and natural behavior.

g. All things being equal, it is better to be a son than a servant… in every way!

h. We don’t get to choose in life whose son we will be… but if we COULD choose… almost everyone would rather be the SON of a wealthy man than one of his servants.

3. One might picture this proverb coming alive in a quiet room of the family mansion… filled with family members after the patriarch has died.

a. The family lawyer is there to read the will before them all…

b. The perspective beneficiaries are all hushed as the will is read… wondering how much money dear old dad actually had… how much his stocks were worth… to find out what he was leaving and to whom…

c. All the sons are sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to hear how rich they will be… what portion of the estate would be theirs… who gets the chalet in the Swiss Alps… who gets the waterfront property on Cape Cod… who gets the family mansion… who gets all the artwork…

d. And perhaps the faithful family servant is there too… filling up their glasses with ice water… and running to get fresh supplies of Kleenex…

e. In such a setting, under normal circumstances it is much better to be the son than a servant.

When the Son Causes Shame

1. But Solomon is speaking about an ABNORMAL situation here.

a. Normally a father is happy to be able to leave behind an inheritance to his son.

b. However, not all sons are the same.

c. Some sons cause shame! Some sons disgrace the family name. Some sons are a perpetual headache and heartache to their parents.

2. Shame defined:

a. Means: ashamed; disappointed; cause disgrace; humiliation; painful feeling and emotional distress (sometimes to the point of despair), by having done something wrong.

b. This speaks of a son who has evidently many times over caused his father embarrassment… shame… disgrace… hurt… humiliation…

c. Every son embarrasses his parents at one point or another along the way. But most sons eventually grow up and apologize to their parents… and make up.

d. But Solomon seems to be speaking of a repeat offender… a son whose whole life was characterized by shameful behavior…

e. Perhaps a son who never grew up… a son who took advantage of his parent’s kindness… a son who was completely selfish… did whatever he felt like doing… and could not have cared less about how it affected his parents.

f. Prov. 10:5 – a lazy son who refuses to work causes shame.

g. Prov. 19:26 – he robs from his parents… perhaps to support an immoral lifestyle… (drug addicts do that all the time!)

h. There are many other ways a son might bring shame to his family.
• A son who robs a bank, gets arrested, and has his picture splashed on the front page of the newspaper.
• A son who wastes the talents and brains God gave him… and who chooses to hang out with trouble makers instead of going to college…
• A son who chooses an immoral lifestyle…
• A son who chooses a life of crime…
• There are LOTS of sons who bring shame to their families.
• The next time you watch the six o’clock news… and see all the mug shots of criminals—remember that every one of those young men have parents… parents who are heartbroken over the way their son turned out.

3. The son that causes shame (for whatever foolish reason) might find that the family servant fares better after dear old dad is gone.

a. Some sons are foolish. Some servants are wise.

b. Even though the wording is a little different here, this is really one of those “better than” proverbs.

c. It is better to be a wise servant than a foolish son.”

d. In spite of all the advantages the son has over the servant… educational… physical… training… social… sometimes the servant does better in life.

e. Sometimes the servant… the one NOT born with the silver spoon in his mouth rises above his circumstances… and the underprivileged servant rises above the privileged son…

f. Sometimes a child born in a ghetto with seemingly everything working AGAINST him… do better in life than a son of privilege: a Kennedy… a Rockefeller…

4. The son that causes shame (because he is an alcoholic; drug addict; a gambler; lazy slug who does nothing but leech off his father)… may find himself surprised and disappointed when the family lawyer reads the will of dear old dad.

a. A father knows if his son is a fool… druggy… boozer… lazy…

b. A wise father doesn’t want to leave his hard earned money to a fool. (Ecc. 2:17-19)

c. If his son is a fool… a real loser… the father knows that within a year or so all his hard earned money will have been blown to the wind if his lazy good for nothing son gets it.

d. Some wealthy men have chosen instead to leave their fortunes to some surprising beneficiaries… the butler… the auto mechanic… even total strangers!

e. The wealthy father may take his foolish son OUT of the inheritance and divide up his wealth among his other sons… and include his wise servant in the place of his foolish son… to receive a portion of the inheritance. (“to have part of the inheritance among the sons.”)

f. That servant finds himself in the place of a son… ruling OVER the foolish son who lost out…

g. Prov. 11:29 – the foolish son troubles his own family… and inherits nothing. That foolish son will find himself SERVANT to one who has a wise heart… even if that wise man used to be his household servant!

h. God has a funny way of turning the tables in life!

5. This occurs in many walks of life.

a. Prov. 14:35 – kings do this… they show favor to a wise servant… and give nothing but anger to those who cause shame… even if they are much superior to the servant.

b. Some servants (stewards) were given important positions of responsibility.

c. Consider the position of Joseph as the steward of Potiphar’s house. (Gen. 39:1-6)
• Joseph was put in authority over ALL that Potiphar possessed… everything!
• One has to wonder what kind of authority Potiphar’s sons had… and if Joseph in fact ruled over them!
• A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame.

6. We might glean from this some principles that apply in many other areas:

a. Wisdom exalts; folly and shameful behavior degrades and brings low… regardless of one’s privileged position.

b. In the local church, one’s position or gift is no guarantee of rewards in glory. A wise and faithful floor sweeper will in many cases receive MORE rewards than a pastor or missionary… if their behavior brought shame to the name of Christ.

c. Just as that hushed room where the family lawyer reads the will of dear old dad… there could be some surprises… too at the Bema seat… there could be some surprises.

d. God exalts wisdom and faithfulness… He exalts the lowly and humbles the proud.