For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;
Here are two kinds of men you must not be and that you must avoid for peace and pleasure in life. When men are promoted beyond their ability, training, or birth, they will often be intolerably arrogant and/or incompetent. When fools are fed, protected, or honored, they will give vent to greater folly than what they otherwise would have done.
This proverb begins a list of four kinds of people that trouble humanity and are too much to bear (Pr 30:21). The prophet Agur used sets of four objects to teach wisdom (Pr 30:11-31). Here are two classes of men you will meet in life that disquiet the earth by costing the world its peace and tranquility. It is wisdom to not be like them or to support them.
God made everything very good in the beginning (Gen 1:31). He ordained order in human society for the peace, pleasure, and prosperity of all. When His order for society is altered, these precious objectives will be compromised or lost. Here are two corruptions of God’s order – a servant promoted to rule, and a fool encouraged by a good meal.
Consider a servant when he reigns. This is a man that is given authority above his ability, training, or birth. The undeserved honor will flatter his conceit and provoke him to oppress those around or under him. The purpose or value of the office he wrongly holds will suffer, for he cannot comprehend its responsibility or properly execute its tasks.
God made masters and servants. It is an evil error to reverse this order, no matter how noble it sounds (Pr 19:10; Ec 10:5-7). The responsibilities of the one far exceed the abilities of the other, exposing the folly. It is God’s judgment when this corruption of authority is widespread (Is 3:1-5). It is seen today in labor unions, politicians, employee committees, deacon boards, political polls, spoiled children, HR departments, etc.
Men of low birth may rise to rule by God’s favor on their abilities and diligence, but it is ignorance to think that a promotion will improve the abilities or diligence of any man. Let the cream rise to the top, but do not call skim milk cream! Joseph advanced from servant to ruler, but he was a prince in the sight of God and men before Potiphar bought him.
The business world indirectly recognizes an aspect of this error by the Peter Principle – “every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence.” Frequent promotions for reasons other than performance lead to many upper positions being filled by employees incompetent for their duties. The work in those companies is accomplished by the employees who have not yet been promoted to their level of incompetence.
It is your wisdom to promote God’s order in every way you can, beginning in the home where servants once labored. The authority structure of father, mother, and children should be observed at all times and taught to children from birth. As you look outside the home, the value of any position or assignment must be matched by proven abilities and diligence of those given the office. Oppose the reversal of this order whenever possible.
Consider a fool when he is filled with meat. A fool is a person who does not fear God and stubbornly thinks himself right. Fools are bad enough without a full belly, and wisdom demands that you avoid them (Pr 9:6; 13:20; 14:7), deprive them of any honor (Pr 19:10; 26:1,8), and punish them whenever you can justify it (Pr 10:13; 20:4; 26:3).
Prosperity and pleasure are a curse to the fool, for they flatter his depraved soul and cause him to boast and offend more. When his belly is full of drink or meat, his mouth is that much louder and more profane. Remember rich Nabal’s obnoxious response to David (I Sam 25:2-11,36), when he was enjoying prosperity. This fool destroyed his own family.
Such fools are found today in rebellious youth with pampered lives, profane athletes with excessive salaries, perverse university professors with tenure, and ignorant actors with extravagant contracts. Wild youth, base boys that play games, self-loving philosophers, and corrupt stage-lovers are bad enough without any help. But when they are praised, protected, and fed, their words and deeds grow into an unbearable din.
It is wisdom to promote godliness and crush foolishness in any sphere you can influence. Beginning at home, reward the faithful and punish the slothful. Praise the righteous, and condemn the wicked. Promote the diligent, and deny the sluggard. Your family and the world cannot endure fools, so do not be an accomplice with fools by any encouragement.
Let every man love God’s order in society and maintain the necessary and profitable distinctions between masters and servants, of all kinds and all offices, wherever possible. Let fools find no comfort, friendship, help, or support from you. Expose and deny them where you can. Your peace and tranquility and that of those around you depend on it.