Proverbs 17:9

How to Make or Break a Relationship


1. In this Proverb, Solomon gives us some words of wisdom with respect to human relationships.

2. The truth he observed is applicable in all kinds of relationships: husband/wife; parent/child; co-workers; and among the members of a church.

3. Two simple statements are found in this proverb.

a. One tells us how to promote love and thus bind parties together in a relationship.

b. The other tells us how to drive a wedge between people and thus break up a relationship.

4. Solomon warns us of the RESULTS of certain kinds of behavior.

a. The results occur so often, they become proverbial.

b. When “A” occurs, “B” can be expected to follow.

5. As a proverb, this covers just one tiny slice of human behavior…

a. Human relationships are much more complicated than this.

b. There are countless other elements involved in making or breaking a relationship.

c. But here’s one element that we should know about.

9a He that covereth a transgression seeketh love

A. Covering a Transgression

1. The first part of the proverb tells us how to MAKE a relationship

2. COVER defined:

a. Strong’s: to cover; conceal; hide.

b. Dict. of Bib. Lang.: keep information from others, though known and understood.

3. Usage of the Term COVER

a. It is used often in a literal sense:
• Covered by clothing…
• Women covering their faces…
• Covered in darkness
• It is also used in the sense of concealing information from others…

b. Psalm 85:2 – when God forgives sin He COVERS it. It is buried from sight…

4. Solomon is not speaking about covering up our OWN sins.

a. Ps. 32:5 – Self needs to be honest and open about our own sins.

b. When we sin, we should confess it to the Lord. He knows anyways… but God wants us to acknowledge it before Him. Confess it—speak of it in the terms that God speaks of it: SIN!

c. We are never to cover up our own sins. We are to DEAL with them.

d. Don’t brush them under the rug and pretend they are not there.

5. This is speaking about covering up the sins of others.

a. We are to cover up the sins of others.

b. Don’t misunderstand. This is NOT speaking about a “cover up”… in the sense of covering up a crime and deceiving or lying in order to cover up the guilty party.

c. If you witness a murder. DON’T cover up that man’s sin. Report it to the police.

d. That’s not what Solomon has in mind here.

e. When a brother sins we may want to quietly confront him. But once confessed and resolved, that sin need not be mentioned ever again. Cover it!

6. The kind of transgression to be covered up.

a. Crime, sin, rebellion, offence, fault, i.e., what is contrary to a standard, human or divine.

b. It can refer to rebellion against God OR an offence or a fault among men.

c. People have faults. We have MANY faults.
• Perhaps a brother is struggling with a particular sin.
• Maybe it’s smoking; pornography.
• Maybe he hasn’t been reading the Word.
• Maybe you caught him in a lie.
• Maybe he was arrested for stealing.
• Maybe he and his spouse have been fighting.
• Maybe a child has been in trouble at school.
• Maybe someone has committed adultery.
• Believers can and do fall into sin… and commit transgressions.
• USUALLY when a believer falls into sin, he is embarrassed and doesn’t want anyone to know.
• Maybe he has made it right with the Lord or maybe he hasn’t.
• But either way, his sin is between him and the Lord.
• Most people like to keep it that way.
• It can be humiliating to have everyone find out.

7. The question arises, what do you do when you find out about it?

a. Solomon says, “Cover it up.”

b. Conceal that information from others. There is no need to blab it all over the place.

c. If you have such information—conceal it.

d. If Fred sinned and you find out, it isn’t going to edify either Fred or the congregation to learn that he got so mad he threw a lamp against the wall.

e. Making it known will only humiliate and probably infuriate Fred.

f. If you find out such information, then PRAY for Fred… in your private prayer closet. That doesn’t need to be brought up at a public prayer meeting.

g. And if you DO find out… don’t assume that God wants you to be his little policeman and FIX the problem.
• You may have the best of intentions in wanting to HELP Fred… but be sure you have earned that right.
• Don’t just barge into the inner sanctuary of someone’s personal life…
• You may have a few very close friends into whose personal problems you can inject yourself and be welcomed… but not just anybody!
• Be careful, be discerning.
• And Solomon’s advice here is also to be quiet.
• There is no need to proclaim another person’s transgressions…
• Divine wisdom says: cover them up.

B. Seeking Love

1. Seeking Defined:

a. Seek; search for; desire; try to obtain; pursue.

2. Love defined: affections in relationships; either a romantic love; or a family love.

3. Love covers sins – I Pet 4:8

a. Prov. 10:12 – Hatred stirs up strife; but love covereth ALL sins.
• Love covers sins. Hatred does not.
• Hatred stirs up the pot. Love puts the lid on the pot.
• And notice that real love covers ALL sins… not just a few.
• There is no limit to love… it knows no boundaries.
• That’s what makes love so difficult to practice… and also so precious to receive.

b. Prov. 11:13 – A faithful spirit conceals a matter.
• Relationships NEED faithful spirits… (faithful – someone you can TRUST with your secrets)
• A faithful, loyal friend or partner will conceal a matter.
• An unfaithful, disloyal friend or partner will not. He reveals secrets… he will blab matters all over town.
• Revealing secrets is a betrayal of trust. That is not a faithful spirit.
• A faithful spirit can be trusted… entrusted with secret matters… and is faithful to KEEP secret matters secret.
• There are things that happen in a home that should be KEPT in the home.
• There are things said in confidence that should be KEPT in confidence. Faithful spirits honor that trust.
• That faithful, trusting spirit aids in BINDING relationships.

4. Like it or not, this is God’s Word on the subject: if you want to promote love and thus BIND relationships… then learn to COVER transgression.

a. Prov. 19:11 – a man (woman, or child!) of discretion will not blow up and get angry every time someone says or does something offensive to them.

b. They will instead “pass over” the transgressions of others against them.

c. It is a virtue to be so close to the Lord that we are able by His strength and grace to pass over a transgression… an insult… an offence against us.

d. To have the strength of the Lord operating in us means that we will be ABLE to turn a deaf ear to gossip against us… and a blind eye to offences against us.

5. God’s wisdom says to COVER the transgressions of others if we should become privy to them.

6. And if they transgress against us personally… cover it up by turning a deaf ear to it… ignore it… pay no attention to it…

7. Fill your mind with things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report… etc.

8. Covering transgression is HOW we seek love and thus MAKE a relationship what it ought to be.

9. It requires the power of God at times to bury transgression (especially if they sinned against us).

10. But that power is available to all who will come and drink of the fountain of life.

9b But he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.

1. The first part of the proverb tells us how to MAKE a relationship. This part tells us how to BREAK a relationship: instead of covering up the sin matter, REPEAT it!

a. It’s easy to do. All you have to do is speak!

b. And the result? Friends are separated.

c. Separated: the term used when Lot separated from Abram. (Gen.13:9)

2. If the transgression was against you, then repeat it to the offending party often… and you will BREAK the relationship.

a. When someone sins against you, they repent, and you forgive them, then BURY it. Cover it up. Don’t bring it up again—ever.

b. That’s what forgive means on our level.

c. We can’t forgive their sins judicially before God.

d. But we can forgive them in that we bury it…

e. That’s how God forgives us… and that’s how we should forgive one another.

f. When God forgives our sin, He never brings it up again. It is gone! Buried. It is covered by the blood never again to return… no condemnation.

g. But when someone sins against you… and you REPEAT it… (you buried it for a short time—but dug it up again)… then you bring about separation… breaking up the relationship.

h. Covering it promotes love and BINDS relationships.

i. Digging it up and repeating it BREAKS relationships… it is very destructive behavior spiritually.

3. If the transgression was not against you, then repeat it to the general public… and you will BREAK relationships of OTHERS.

a. Prov. 16:28 – whispering separates chief friends.

b. If you are privy to a matter (say you also heard about Fred throwing the lamp)—and repeat it publicly, you might end up turning a lot of people against Fred.

c. Or say you heard some gossip and repeat it. By doing so you can turn a husband against his wife… a child against their parent… a brother in Christ against a brother in Christ… a boss against an employee… congregation against a pastor… a class against a teacher… friend against friend.

d. You can by merely saying a sentence or two DESTROY a relationship… separate chief friends.

e. That is a very painful process…

f. The tongue is powerful… like a little flame of fire. It takes a long time to build a house. It can be burned down in no time at all!

g. It takes a long time to build relationships… but they too can be destroyed in no time… by repeating a matter.

4. Conclusion: Covering transgressions is an expression of love. Revealing transgressions and repeating them is the opposite.

a. Keep in mind: God covers our sins; and Satan is the accuser of the brethren.

b. Be godly… not satanic… in our approach.