Proverbs 17 looks again at common themes: wisdom and folly, living wisely among family, friends and community and justice. It contains some very famous verses:
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Prov 17:17) and “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Prov 17:22), for example. As usual, there is a lot of good common sense in this chapter.

Harmonious relationships count for far more than wealth, we are reminded: “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (Prov 17:1) We are often told that Christmas and holidays are some of the most stressful and dangerous times for relationships, because expectations are high and togetherness can prove too much! Families matter: “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” (Prov 17:6) It’s in the family setting that we are fully known and loved, but it’s also the place where our selfishness is most visible. Timothy Keller, in his book ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ writes, “marriage, by its very nature, has the ‘power of truth’ – the power to show you the truth of who you are.” That can be very daunting, but it’s in the context of relationships that we are sharpened and changed. This chapter has much to say about relationships: “he who covers over an offence promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Prov 17:9) and “starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (Prov 17:14) are good counsel for how to work with relationships!

That doesn’t mean we gloss over sin. “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the LORD detests them both” (Prov 17:15). “If imposing a fine on the innocent is not good, surely to flog honest officials is not right.” (Prov 17:26). Living wisely goes beyond our words, affecting our actions, pulsating through every aspect of our lives. We know, ultimately, that our lives are tested by God: “as silver in a crucible and gold in a pan, so our lives are assayed by God.” (Prov 17:3) Paul continues this theme in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 when he talks about building with the right materials and Peter ultimately reminds us of things more precious even than gold or silver: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Pet 1:17-19)