The following is a guest post by my friend Virgil Fry. In it, Virgil addresses two proverbs rarely commented on, and he does so with deep insight. Thank you, Virgil!
If a man pampers his servant from youth, he will bring grief in the end. (Proverbs 29:21)
Do not slander a servant to his master, or he will curse you, and you will pay for it. (Proverbs 30:10)
This 21st Century reader lays no claim to understanding fully the context and content of these two proverbs. A lot of commentators throughout the centuries are equally unclear on the concise meanings.
Both verses refer to a servant/master relationship that is not as readily practiced in our current American setting. That said, there are certainly class distinctions and practices that do permeate our society (for example, being a Caucasian male can open doors of opportunity that others may have to fight for).
Two issues that do permeate these verses are: overprotecting another from responsible living, and the high cost of character slander. In human relationships, one person in power can over-shelter another (whether it’s one’s child or some other relationship). In parenting, the current vernacular coins the term “helicopter parenting.” That phenomenon is seen when a parent refuses to allow any part of a child go unsupervised, smothering the child with hyper-vigilance. In addiction recovery, families often learn that covering up destructive addictive behaviors actually enables, rather than assists, the one dealing with addiction. When we take on all responsibility for another’s foibles, in the name of trying to avoid conflict, all pay a heavy price for the lack of responsible behavior. That is part of the “grief in the end” I read in this proverb. Entitlement living, of which we are all capable, is not healthy living. We are at our best when we take responsibility for our own actions, and allow others to do the same.
Then to consider the high cost of slandering another: we all know the destructive carnage that character assassination reeks. There is a fine line with truth-telling about another’s weaknesses or taking great pleasure in bolstering my own ego by vilifying another’s faults. Jesus spoke clearly to this issue: Judge not, that you be not judged. Tearing down another person without taking it up with that person directly is a human relationship disaster. We are called by God to be more than character assassins: we are to be bridge builders, those who encourage one another.
So let us be mindful of overprotecting those we blindly idolize. And rather than indulging in relational sabotage, let us be those who help build healthy relationships.