Proverbs 11:17

ESV A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.
NIV Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.
NASB A merciful person does himself good, But the cruel person does himself harm.
CSB A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel person brings ruin on himself.
NLT Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.
KJV The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.

What does Proverbs 11:17 mean?

Solomon observes here the typical pattern of life: that kindness tends to benefit those who are kind, while cruelty often results in cruel responses.

The kind man honors the Lord by sharing his resources with others. In return, God blesses him. The recipients of his kindness honor him and show him kindness. Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matthew 5:7). He also said, "Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you" (Matthew 5:42). In Luke 6:35, Jesus promised, "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great." Even when other men don't reward kindness, God notices and responds accordingly (Matthew 10:42).

A cruel man is unkind. This gains him no admirers—only those who fear or hate him, even if they take advantage of his resources when they can. Such a person has nothing to look forward to but people's disdain and ill wishes. He lacks genuine friends and leads a lonely life. By being cruel, he hurts himself. His death is more likely to be celebrated (Proverbs 11:10) than mourned.
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