Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Yahweh's view of what is "better," or why poverty isn't necessarily evil

Proverbs 17:1 caught my attention this morning: “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it Than a house full of feasting with strife.”

I wondered how many times Proverbs says X is better than Y, so I did a quick search on "better is" and "is better." Here's what I found:

Prov. 3:14 -- wisdom's profit is better than silver or gold
Prov. 8:11 -- wisdom is better than jewels
Prov. 8:19 -- wisdom's fruit is better than pure gold or choicest silver
Prov. 12:9  -- lowly with a servant is better than self-honoring without a servant
Prov. 15:16 -- little + fear of Yahweh is better than wealth with turmoil
Prov. 15:17 -- vegetables + love is better than fatted ox + hatred
Prov. 16:8 -- little + righteousness is better than great income with injustice
Prov. 16:19 -- lowly with the poor is better than dividing spoil with the proud
Prov. 16:32 -- slow to anger is better than the mighty
Prov. 17:1 -- a dry morsel + quiet is better than feasting with strife
Prov. 19:1 -- being poor + integrity is better than perverse in speech and a fool
Prov. 19:22 -- being poor is better than being a liar
Prov. 21:9 -- corner of a roof is better than a big house with quarrelsome wife
Prov. 21:19 -- live in a desert is better than with contentious and angry wife
Prov. 22:1 -- good name/favor is better than great riches/silver and gold
Prov. 25:7 -- humble > elevated is better than proud > demoted
Prov. 25:24 -- corner of a roof is better than house with quarrelsome wife
Prov. 27:5 -- open rebuke is better than secret love
Prov. 27:10 -- neighbor near is better than brother far away (in calamity)
Prov. 28:6 -- poor + integrity is better than rich + crooked

All the “better” sayings in Proverbs reflect a value system, Yahweh’s value system.Yahweh values wisdom and its fruit, fearing him, love, righteousness, humility, self-control, peace and quiet, integrity, honesty, and a good name. Yahweh values reality over appearance.

A key point is that having these things often comes at the cost of material wealth (Prov. 16:8, 19; 19:1, 22; 22:1; 28:6). Further, if one must make a choice between wealth, silver, gold, jewels, spoil, great income, or feasts without what Yahweh’s values and poverty with what Yahweh’s values, the better choice is poverty.

These passages argue that poverty is not an evil. It may be a good. It may be much better than wealth. Poverty is merely a financial circumstance. What truly matters is the character and choices of the one who is in that circumstance.

This is one good reason among others not to be a "war on poverty" advocate.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Morning Reflection on Proverbs 5

This chapter illustrates how wisdom lives in the present with the future in mind. The consequences of a present course of action are always considered before embarking.

When I consider the personal, family, and spiritual destruction that follows those who heed the strange woman’s honeyed and oiled words (Pro. 5:3), I flee like I would flee the plague (cf. 2 Tim. 2:22).

Prov. 5:4 -- "sharp as a two-edged sword" is the strange woman -- to lick her honeyed words is to head down the path of suicide.

Trappers in Alaska's past occasionally discovered their lines raided by wolves. To rid themselves of the thieves, they would dip a sharp, double-edged knife in honey, allowing several layers to freeze onto it. Then they planted the knife, blade up in the snow near a trap the wolves have raided. The smell of the honey attracts the wolves who begin to lick it off the blade. As a wolf licks the frozen honey, the cold  numbs their tongue. By the time they have licked the honey clean, their tongue is numbed to the razor edge that cuts their tongue. Now they taste blood, and lick with greater frenzy, not realizing they are licking their own blood. Eventually they lick themselves to death.

Father, help me and help my sons to acknowledge that we are susceptible to her alluring charms, and so fortify our souls with your wisdom, retain the prudence that comes from you, and remember the folly and doom of accepting her invitation.

Guard us from proud self-confidence that dabbles on the edge of danger for the thrills of risk. Grant me grace daily to model for my sons abhorrence of all sexual infidelity both internal and external.

Father, help us not to linger in considering the her beauty (Prov. 6:25). That she has it is not to be denied. Seeing it cannot be avoided it. But seeing, help us to instantly recognize it for what it is--the honey masking a double-edged knife which the enemy of our soul desires to use to destroy us (Prov. 5:5, 14).