What does Proverbs 25:17 mean? The book of Proverbs contains extraordinary wisdom for those who take time to search its treasures. One of the passages we often hear so little about, however, is Proverbs 25:17. It goes along with Proverbs 25:16, for both talk about taking something good, and then ruining it with excessive consumption:
Proverbs 25:16 Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.
Proverbs 25:17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.
Proverbs 25:16-17 Commentary
Do you like the taste of honey? I do. I love anything sweet. However, even though honey tastes so deliciously sweet, if you eat enough of it, you will vomit it all up. It will sour your stomach, and you’ll come to hate that sweet treat that you used to love. My wife’s grandfather was that way about garlic. He used to love garlic as a young man, but he ate so much of it that he would literally get sick at the mere smell of it.
No matter how tempting it may be to gorge yourself on something delicious, you had better exercise some restraint, or you’ll be sorry.
The same thought is given with Proverbs 25:17: “Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbor’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.” Did you have a new neighbor move in across the street? Have you met a new a love interest or a potential friend? Do you have family that lives nearby?
If so, God’s word has some wonderful advice for you: Leave them alone! Don’t wear out your welcome. In other words, familiarity breeds contempt, and absence makes the heart grow fonder! Use it to your advantage. God commands it in the Proverbs, and you’ll do well to heed His advice.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be friendly and introduce ourselves to a new neighbor (once); nor does it mean we should ignore our friends, extended family, or new love interests. But I just wonder: How many relationships in the world have been spoiled by neglecting the wisdom contained within this short proverb?
We all have quirks, and most of us can tolerate minor quirks in others, especially with short bouts of interaction. However, with too much interaction, those tiny quirks can become so annoyingly large that they can make us feel a sense of dread every time we get around a particular person.
“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
Many relationships start out great. But before you know it, one person wants to absorb more time than the other is willing to give. They call too much, they text too much, they social media too much, they randomly stop by unannounced, they always want to borrow things, etc. That can become very irritating–so much so, that the average person will actually come to loathe a person that they might otherwise like just fine.
I can still remember the first apartment my wife and I rented. The man beside us knocked on our door one day and asked to use our phone. We didn’t mind at all, of course. Unfortunately, he started assuming we were his free phone service. He would knock at least once a day, sometimes more. It didn’t take long for us to begin to cringe at the mere knock on our door.
The same thing happened again when we befriended a couple at a church we used to attend. The couple started texting us non-stop, invited us somewhere weekly (usually many times per week), dominated the conversation, and so forth. My wife and I tried everything to gently back away, but they became even more aggressive. It got so bad that the friendship eventually dissolved.
Of course, we all have different personality traits, and this passage may be more challenging for some than others. Some of us are introverted, whereas others are extroverted. The introvert has a very low need for social interaction, whereas the extrovert rarely gets their fill of it. That’s fine, so long as the introvert makes some effort to be social, and the extrovert gives others their much desired space.
As an introvert, I can attest to the fact that it doesn’t take a lot of interaction to make me exhausted. I can write all day long, read books, work, etc. I’d probably be fine living on a deserted island, so long as I had my wife, son, Bible, and internet connection. But if I have to go to a party, talk on the phone often, or respond to a barrage of messages, it can get quite exhausting. Sometimes I have to block out days so that I can do nothing but recharge my batteries.
The bottom line with this scripture is this: Don’t assume that another person wants you to stop by unannounced. Don’t text if you don’t have to. Learn to take a hint when someone says that they are too busy, or when they are a bit dry on the phone.
If they are constantly turning your down to go out for a social “thing,” back off and stop inviting them. And most importantly, resist the temptation to become even more aggressive if you feel someone distancing themselves, for that strategy almost always backfires. Give them space, and don’t call, invite, or come over until they make the first move.
Try to remember that people work hard, have other friends, family, obligations, hobbies, chores, and so forth. Don’t intrude on someone else’s time too much.
If you exercise some restraint, give people space, rarely bug your neighbor, and keep the conversations pleasant and balanced (you talk and then they talk)–you may just find yourself having a wonderful, long-lasting relationship with that person.