When I read this proverb, I think of biblical situations of sons and servants. Sons in the Scriptures have acted shamefully. Consider Absalom who rebelled against his father and acted very shamefully. Absalom led a revolt against his father David - took over the kingdom - and subsequently had sex with 10 of David's concubines on the roof of the palace in the sight of all Israel. His shameful acts eventually led to his death on the battlefield among the trees of the forest. The books of Kings and Chronicles show again and again sons of the kings who acted with great shame and disgrace. Their kingdoms amounted to little as God had to become Israel and Judah's enemy due to their sin and rebellion against Him. Eli's sons in 1 Samuel acted disgustingly and shamefully by sleeping with women at the tent of meeting - and disdaining the sacrifices of God. These actions led to their death - and the devastation of Eli's house forever before God.
Just as there are these sons who acted shamefully - there have also been servants who acted with great honor before God. Consider Abraham's servant, Eliezer, who took his son and made sure that he had a wife. This servant trusted in the Lord to provide the right bride for Issac. Elisha was a faithful servant to Elijah, washing his hands and learning from his master until the day that God allowed Elijah's mantle to fall on Elisha. God even gave to the faithful servant of Elijah a double portion of his spirit. There are a multitude of examples of faithful servants - and shameful sons.
The servant who acts wisely and respectfully will eventually rule over the shameful son. A truly wise father will not give all to his son if his son is a fool. It is better to transfer wealth and influence to a godly and wise servant - than to a son who will only waste that wealth and destroy any future for a family business. That faithful servant often will share in the inheritance among all the other brothers - not because of a blood relationship - but due to a lifetime of service to the master.
This proverb is primarily meant to describe the master/servant/son relationship that was prevalent in middle eastern society at that time, but there is also an important principle here for us today. In this situation the son took advantage of his relationship with the father and dishonored him. He acted shamefully and brought disgrace on his father's name and house. The servant acted wisely and respectfully and was honored for it - even to the point of sharing in the wealth of the father - and the inheritance. Thus we can learn two important lessons.
Lesson #1 - Workplace wisdom! We need to learn that when we manifest a servant's heart to our employer - showing both wisdom and respect in the workplace - honor will come our way. How often have you heard of a situation where nepotism placed a son in a position of authority - only to have that son act shamefully and disgracefully on the job. In the end - a wise father will overlook this brat and place a faithful servant in charge in the end. This won't always be the case - especially when the father is negligent and overindulgent of the child. But know this . . . there are men who see the demise of their company when put into the hands of a disgraceful son - and will choose a faithful servant/worker instead. Therefore cultivate a servant's heart toward your master/employer. Honor him and respect him - giving him hard work and wise choices concerning what you do and how you do it. Work hard to make the company and your boss a success. In time you will become invaluable to the company - and possibly may be advanced over a disgraceful son in the end.
Lesson #2 - Life! Cultivate a servant's heart in all that you do. In this proverb the man with the true servant's heart is honored. You will never regret developing and manifesting a servant's heart toward others. Even if you are not honored on earth or at your job, God Himself will honor you for living this way. Embrace the role of servant whenever you can. Oh, one last thing to remember as well . . . when God Himself came to this earth to accomplish His greatest work . . . He did not come as boss or as a spoiled brat who got His own way, He came as a servant. In the end - God highly exalted Him for His sacrifice, obedience, and servant's heart! That pretty much lets me know that we can expect the same from God if we embrace that same role all our days for His glory and honor.