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Last week we looked at the theme song for the fatalist. He sings, “Que Sera, Sera. Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours, to see. Que Sera, Sera.” We discounted that sentiment with proof from the Bible. Jer. 29:11 reminded us, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” God does have plans for you. Things don’t always make sense and God wants us to trust Him. During Paul’s second missionary journey, the Spirit of Jesus prevented him from preaching in Asia and from going to Bithynia. That doesn’t make sense to us, but trusting God should be an easy enough thing to do. We concluded with a question everyone must answer: what’s keeping me from totally trusting God? This morning, we check back in with some principles to follow in the home.
Proverbs 17:1-3 says, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife. A servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully, and will share in the inheritance among brothers. The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts.”
This seems a strange way to start a new chapter, but remember there were no chapter divisions in the original writings. Solomon says, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife.” One of my favorite sandwiches is a French dip which you may be surprised to know was not developed in France. This wonderful sandwich is made up of thinly sliced roast beef piled on a French roll or baguette and served with a side of au jus. The sandwich is dipped in the au jus to soften the very crusty bread. That’s the picture Solomon is painting. In Ruth 2:14, “At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, that you may eat of the bread and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” In Jo. 13:26, Jesus dipped a morsel and gave it to Judas. This was common practice then and we still do it today. It’s better to eat that crusty bread without any dipping sauce and have peace and tranquility around the house than it is to have all the food you want with strife. Remember in Pro. 15:17 Solomon said, “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred.” These comparisons go to show you how much better things can be if people would just get along. The word feasting here is also translated sacrifice. Meat was not often served in the typical family and when it was, it was generally in conjunction with the sacrificial systems in place at the time. Think about the most stressful times you’ve had in the home. Would you rather have peace and tranquility or a full belly? That’s exactly the comparison Solomon is making.
So who’s in charge? No one would argue that there is a special place for sons in the home, particularly first born sons. So when Solomon says, “A servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully, and will share in the inheritance among brothers,” is a somewhat confusing verse. I can’t help but think of Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey that served the Crowley family so faithfully. He was well loved and well respected. There have been lots of other well-loved servants, maids, and butlers. There was Hop Sing from Bonanza. Florence took care of the Jefferson’s. Geoffrey kept things lively for the fresh Prince. Mrs. Garrett kept tabs on Arnold and Willis on Diff’rent Strokes. Max was often there to save the day for Jonathan and Jennifer Hart. Of course without Alice, the Brady Bunch would not have been able to function. Being in the service of another doesn’t mean you have no value.
No one would argue that a son is more worthy than a servant. John 8:35 says, “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.” But sometimes, a servant is wise and loving and is more of a blessing to the family than just doing work around the house. Often a life of service was looked down upon as if one couldn’t do anything else. A good servant, a wise servant was vital to the family structure back in the day. If you think service isn’t important anymore, remember how you feel if it takes a while to get your meal at a restaurant. Remember how you feel when you take your car back to the mechanic for the same issue. Solomon’s talking worth here. Just because someone is more worthy than another doesn’t negate the value of that person. In sports you have the most valuable player. They’re all valuable, but one was selected that stands out above the rest. Without all the players on a team, the MVP couldn’t get it done. Sometimes we have this idea that the longer you’ve been in a position, the more secure you are. People that cannot be held accountable sometimes show that in their performance and passion in the job. Solomon is presenting the idea that wisdom can and often trumps other qualities. Here the example is somewhat easy because he’s talking about a wise servant and a shameful son. That should be an easy comparison. That servant acts wisely; he manages the affairs of the house wisely. As a result, trust is developed and grows. Joseph reminds me of what Solomon is saying. If you remember the story of Joseph, I think he illustrates this principle pretty vividly. The servant that serves wisely is going to have a share in the inheritance.
Solomon now moves into testing. One of the most common forms of evaluation is a written or practical test. Tests help teachers or supervisors evaluate what a person knows or demonstrates the proficiency of a particular skill or skill set. We began this testing early in our scholastic careers and it continued on and on. It’s not just tests in school. To get a driving permit, you have to take a test. To get into college, you have to take a test. To get into the military, you have to take a test. To get into law enforcement or get hired at TRF, you have to take a test. It used to be that you had to take a blood test to get married. There are medical tests to diagnose health issues. For most testing, it’s not enough just to take the test, you have to pass it. Some tests have no passing grade, but you’re evaluated against a standard. Solomon says, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold.” Silver and gold are mined. You generally don’t look down and see a chunk of either one laying on the ground. The mining process is very labor intensive. In order to get silver or gold that has value, you need remove impurities. This process is called refinement. For us, removing impurities from our lives is still called refinement, but we’re not put into a furnace, we’re allowed to walk into the fires of life. The fires can come from a variety of sources. Work, school, friends, family: our own bad choices. Is. 48:10 says, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Nothing tests your faith more than adversity. No one ever said, “Golly, the Lord is so good to me, everything is going so awesome in my life, I doubt God loves me.” No one ever questions God when everything seems to be going their way.
Somewhere along the way, we got bad information. For some reason, many people think that when adversity comes, or when a tragedy occurs, or some crisis arises that somehow God is punishing them or has abandoned them. It probably won’t surprise you when I say I think this is because we don’t know what the Bible says. I mentioned Joseph earlier. The Bible records no sin in Joseph’s life although we know he did sin based on Rom. 3:23. Horrible things happened to him. There are a number of people in Scripture that refute the idea that only good things happen to God’s people. Cain killed Abel because his sacrifice was acceptable to God. John the Baptizer was put in prison in Matt. 14 because he spoke out against Herod’s relationship with Herodias. John was later beheaded at her request. Zechariah was murdered between the temple and the altar. (Matt. 23:35) Stephen was stoned to death in Acts 7. As we so often mention, there are people undergoing intense persecution and trials because of their faith. The trials of our faith are allowed by God to refine and purify us. 1 Pet. 1:7 says, “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Faith that isn’t tested cannot found to be firm, cannot be established, cannot be proven. You say you have faith and you haven’t had to rely on faith and faith alone? “The Lord tests hearts.” The seat of emotion. The essence of who you are. The center of your being. This is what God tests. He’s not as concerned with your SAT score as He is with your heart score.
How is your home life? Is God the center and there’s peace or is there weeping and gnashing of teeth? It’s much better to be at peace and be hungry than to have all you want with stress. There’s no shame in serving others, in fact one of Jesus’ purposes was to give us examples of serving others. A wise servant has more worth than a shameful son, but that doesn’t mean the son is worthless. How do you fare in God’s heart tests? Are you hoping to get a participation trophy or to be graded on the curve? Or are you allowing the trials of life to refine and purify as you trust in God’s glorious plans for you?