“A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones”
Solomon is contrasting the physical effects of joy and sorrow. He explains that joy is like a medicine to the body, actually providing a healing element, while deep sorrow can negatively effect our health. Solomon is making this observation, not as a medical professional, but from watching others, as well as from his own personal experience. He came to realize that a joyful heart is much healthier and more productive than a broken one. I think we would all agree. If we had to choose, we would rather be merry than broken. The question is, “How do we avoid a broken spirit and gain a merry heart?”
Paul declared, the fruit of the Spirit is love and joy (Galatians 5:22). A merry heart is the bi-product of a life connected to Christ. Jesus said, when we abide in Him, we would bear fruit in our lives that remains (John 15:16). If we want a heart that is filled with joy and merriment, the first step is to receive Christ, and the next is to walk step by step with Him. The more we invest in our relationship with Christ, the more this joy will fill our lives, replacing sorrow and becoming in us, a well spring of life.
In one sense a broken spirit is important, even necessary for the believer.
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
Here, the broken spirit refers to one who has realized his sins, and is coming to God for pardon. That is critical. Without being broken, we can never be saved. Solomon is speaking of another kind of brokenness, though. Not the brokenness caused by realizing we have sinned, but the brokenness caused by being in sin. Sin causes sorrow because it breaks fellowship with God. Jesus said He came to give us abundant life. The devil, on the other hand, came to rob us of that life. Whenever we choose to be involved in the things the Bible forbids, we are actually robbing ourselves of joy, and taking steps toward a broken spirit and dried up bones.
The closer we walk with Jesus, the more our hearts will be filled with the healing medicine of merriment.
Questions for Proverbs 17
1. In order to purify gold and silver you must use intense heat. In our lives, the heat of trials purifies us. Peter tells us that these trials are only to test our faith and to show that it is strong and pure. Verse 3 tells us that what fire does for the metal, God does for the heart. Have you come to the realization that when tough times come your way that God wants to use those times to refine your faith and clean your heart of the dross?
2. Verse 5 talks about speech that mocks the poor. Making fun of the less fortunate is one of the cruelest things we can do. Most people do it to make themselves feel good. There are those who mock others to give themselves a sense of superiority. Anyone who mocks the misfortunes of the poor is really mocking God because He made them. Have you in the past mocked the unfortunate? From this day forward stop and think before you put others down. Stop and think of who created them.
3. Verse 9 talks about disregarding the faults of others. Were you ever in an argument and were tempted to bring something up from that person’s past? Love for that person will keep our mouth shut. Let’s face it that can be difficult at times. If we don’t, the Bible says that it separates close friends. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love doesn’t keep records of wrong doing. If you are having difficulty covering over the offenses of others, pray for God’s ability to forgive and forget the sins that people tell you.
4. Verse 17 deals with loyalty in time of adversity. What kind of friend are you? The love of a true friend is strong and constant. In this verse the “friend and the brother” are equal. Have you experienced the fair weather friend? This is the one that sticks around when the relationship helps them but leaves when they’re not getting anything out of it? It’s one of the disappointments in life when someone professes to be your friend but when the chips are down you realize that their real name was Judas Iscariot or Absalom. Are you growing into the kind of friend the Bible encourages?
5. Verse 22 shows us that our emotions can affect our health and God want us to have a merry heart. When we’re at church our fellowship should be filled with joy and fun. Are you cheerful and ready to welcome others? Are you being encouraging to others regardless of how you feel? According to this verse a merry heart is like pain relieving medicine to the bones.
6. Verses 27-28 talk about keeping your mouth closed. If you have nothing worthwhile to say it’s always the best policy to keep quiet. The benefit of that is it allows you the blessing to learn to listen and then listen to learn. Are you in the habit of pausing and listening before you speak?