Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 24:17
"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles"
This proverb is a crucial delineation of the wise paradigm for living. It speaks of the ultimate embrace of a wise lifestyle: the triple win. Are you more concerned about God's glory and others winning than you are about your getting your own way.
This the key word in this verse. It is the Hebrew word ayab, which means to be hostile toward, someone who is opposed to your desired path, someone who you are at odds with or who has enmity toward.
Many people make the mistake of thinking of this word as meaning some type of military, formally declared enemy, or competitor. This is not where this word goes in the majority of our lives. It speaks of the person who you are in close contact with whom you believe is blocking you from getting where you want to go. This is parents, spouses, employers, bosses, colleagues, children, etc. This is a person who is close to you who keeps you from doing what you want to do. Many people state it in their heart this way. If only this person wasn't here, I could do this or that. Or if I wasn't married to this person, I would be free. If I didn't have these kids, then I would have such a better life.
Because living life means that you must rub up against other people with other agendas, they will be for their own and often opposed to yours, and in this sense, they become your enemy. It is this group that Jesus says to love your enemies and meet their needs. They don't need you to be planning and strategizing to beat them, but instead they need you to be planning how to meet their needs. Solomon here says that God is watching and if you get too excited about a chastisement that falls on a person that has been opposed to your line of thinking, then He will be aware of it and be displeased by your lack of wisdom. God will also turn away His anger lest you think that you are in the right and they are finally getting their dues.
Often God's chastisements of another person expose a new area of need for them to be ministered to. Do not look to rejoice when your enemy is punished. Instead, look for the opening to insert more love. It may be the pivot around which they will change.
Now this process of living according to wisdom is a volitional choice. I choose to love the person who has been my thorn in the side. I choose to want the best for them. I will inject myself into this situation (as appropriate) so that they become a better person.
Let me add here that sometimes wives have been too quick to rescue their husbands from the problems that the husband creates. Many times a wife is wise to support the husband but allow him to learn the lesson and change. I am also not advising that a wife reinject herself into a domestic violence situation. He deserves justice. She can make sure that her attitude is one of hope that he will grow and learn and become a different person.
Do not let your heart be glad.
This phrase is a repeat of the idea in the first half of the verse. It seems so obvious that inside we would be excited that the person who opposes us is finally getting some pay-back. The life of wisdom is about wanting others to win.
This is a test that God runs on us at times. Have you really embraced the wise lifestyle? Let's see how you act when I allow some difficulty to a person who has been a constant source of irritation. Are we over gloating? Are we past trying to show that we were right and they were wrong? Are we ready to help if it is appropriate? These are tests of wisdom.
God is alive and is watching all the ends of the earth – connecting the dots of relationships and emotions and the inner workings of your soul. I know we will be amazed at the interconnections between the things we think, feel, plan, desire, and dream and the people in our life. We have often allowed ourselves to be fooled into thinking that we live in a strictly materialistic, naturalistic universe where only the hardware matters. But that is not the truth. Our soul matters and interconnects with people in ways that we only barely understand.