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.