Summary: Sometimes what we need to do is not try to create something better, but appreciate what already is best, as these proverbs lead us to do reflect on what is better in life.
As Americans of ingenuity, we are always looking for something better – a better way to travel, to produce energy, to clean stains. That zeal to improve our lot pushes us to make the many improvements in technology that we have. But sometimes what we need to do is not try to create something better, but appreciate what already is best. Our proverbs this morning cause us to pause and reflect on what is better in life.
16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.
17 Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.
To keep us on the right track for what these proverbs are saying, let’s be clear about what is being contrasted. Solomon (the wealthiest king of Israel) is not saying better a little than a lot. He is not saying, in this case, it is better to be poor than rich or to have little food than much food. Discussing those things would be insightful, but they do not form the real issue. The matter before us is what has real value.
What has real value seems clear. At least for Christians, we would all agree that living a holy life before the Lord is better than a wealthy but troubled life. And anyone would prefer being in a house or community where, though there is no money to spend on expensive cuts of meat, yet there are real loving relationships than living where the relationships have soured. As you know, I like to draw from literature in my sermons. So, as I was reading the comic pages, I came to one of my favorite strips, “Zits.” The teenager Jeremy observed several scenes of his parents showing affection and enjoying the simple pleasures of home life. The final panel shows him bemoaning, “And the winner of the ‘Person Whose Life Least Resembles Anything on MTV’ award is Jeremy Duncan!” Jeremy aside most of us would choose a happy, loving home life than a cool, messed up situation.
Having said that, too many people end up with the life and home of turmoil and animosity. Too many Christian people and families end up that way. How does it happen? The lure of our materialistic world. Our consumer society is too smart for us.
The marketing agencies understand how the system works. Principle number one: successful ads do not sell products; they sell happiness. People buy products to get happiness. Thus, we buy cell phones because we can have happy conversations with our friends; we buy computers because we can have the happy experience of, well…all the fun things a computer can do. Ads tell us that if we buy _____ product we will have happier relationships and more contented lives. The product itself may enhance happy relations, such as a TV providing entertainment for a family sitting together. It may prevent relational problems, such as having TV monitors in family vans that keep the children happy. They may free up time for people to be together, such as computers, fax machines, cell phones in cars, and frozen dinners. They may give peace of mind. One of my favorite commercials shows a man walking along the beach, looking over the peaceful ocean, apparently in deep reflection. He pulls out some gadget that allows him to scribble an idea and then fax it to his company somewhere in the world. Then he smiles and walks on. Isn’t it great that when a good idea hits us, we can act immediately on it? It was good the man was walking alone. I think if his wife was with him, she would have taken the gadget and tossed it into the ocean!
You see, these time-saving, happiness inducing devices, if not used wisely can turn against our valuable relationships. How many dinners at home take place in front of the TV? Do families or couples even spend evenings in which they actually interact? Are they capable of holding a conversation that keeps them at the dinner table because the discussion is interesting? Which is a family more likely to do on any given evening: play a game together or watch TV? Do a project together or watch a video or DVD? Music is very important in our lives, I am told, especially for teenagers and young adults. They buy sophisticated sound systems, build up large collections of CDs, keep portable music players with headphones near them at all times. As important as music is, can anyone imagine a family getting together or friends getting together to sing songs without depending on electrical equipment?
Computers are wonderful tools for information, saving time, and communicating. But how many of us have lost precious time doing something valuable because, well…“I just need to check my email real quick.” How many of us, because of all these wonderful devices, are day by day, gradually losing our ability to personally communicate and relate to our families and friends? How many of us, too late, discover that our wealth of material items have seduced us away from healthy relationships?