All the days of the afflicted are bad,
but one with a cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Better is little with the fear of the Lord
than great wealth and turmoil with it.
Better a meal of vegetables where there is love
than a fattened ox where there is hatred.
Since “The Office” just ended last night, I thought I’d remind you of one of the most awkward episodes in television history. It’s the dinner party episode. Michael and Jan are dating and are finally able to ensnare Pam and Jim into coming over for dinner. Andy and Angela come over, as well as Dwight and his childhood babysitter.
The tension is thick from the beginning of the episode, especially when the guests find out the main course is going to take 4 more hours to cook. By the time they sit down to their big dinner, the tension is palpable. No body is enjoying the meal. It may be one of the most delicious dishes set before their palate, but that doesn’t matter. Nobody’s having a good time because Michael & Jan are at each others throats. You can guess how it would have felt to be one of their guests.
It’s better to sit down to a simple meal and enjoy eating it, than it is to have the best food known to man and be at a table full of stress and chaos. It would be better to eat a plate of raw veggies in the presence of love than to eat tri-tip in the presence of hatred.
The same is true for the rest of life. It is better to have little, but live in a house that fears the Lord – a house who’s priorities are in the right order – than to have a lot amidst messed up house. If your house is full of hatred and turmoil, then maybe you should start selling some of your stuff and get the priorities of your house in the right order.
When you have a lot of stuff you have a lot to worry about. And when you have a lot to worry about you have a hard time being cheerful. It would be better to have less and be cheerful than to have a lot and be stressed out and burdened. When your focus is on amassing wealth and not on fearing the Lord, you will never have enough stuff and always be increasing in worry. But, when your focus is on fearing the Lord, you will at least be on the path toward having a cheerful heart.
The scorner does not love one who corrects him;
he will not go to the wise.
A joyful heart makes the face cheerful,
but by a painful heart the spirit is broken.
The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of fools feeds on folly.
Life can be hard. There is no question about it. And while I would argue that in most ways, we have life pretty good as those who are able to afford the technology to be able to read blogs posts such as these, there are ways in which we are all on the same playing field. Regardless of any kind of status and classification we might use to label us.
The great commonality is that we all experience heartache. Especially when it comes to the loss of a loved one. But, even apart from that, we all experience things in life that break our hearts.
I know there have been times in my life when I have gone through something and the condition of my heart made the rest of my life very difficult to enjoy. When we were going through the uncertainty of finding a new job and all the stress that arises when your financial security is gone, It was very difficult to arouse a sincere smile on my face.
I remember some encounters with trusted friends, that when asked how I was doing, I responded that I was doing alright. But they could tell by the lack of cheer in my face that I wasn’t doing as well as an alright.
When you have pain in your heart, it can crush your spirit. And when your spirit is crushed it can be hard to hide your sadness.
Wherever you find yourself today, I hope you take comfort in the fact that when your heart is broken, you are experiencing a feeling that every human being has and will experience. Not that we want to draw comfort from others’ grief, but sometimes knowing that others hurt is comforting. I have hurt and will hurt again.
But rest assured, there will be a day when your face will be cheerful again. And not by force, but because your heart is happy and you just can’t help but smile. When your heart is broken, that seems impossible and like a million miles away. But, the day will come when your sadness will be replaced with joy. And when you do, be thankful. Draw strength from those times, because you will experience pain again. But, as sure as you experience pain, you will experience joy.
Remember that song you sang when you were a kid?
“If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it then your face will surely show it, if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.”
The Lord abhors the sacrifices of the wicked,
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
The Lord abhors the way of the wicked,
but he loves those who pursue righteousness.
Severe discipline is for the one who abandons the way;
the one who hates reproof will die.
You know that kid who always has the biggest, newest whatsoever whosy whatsy? Do you want to know something about that kid? He almost always would rather have more time with the parent. Instead the parent spends the time earning money with which to buy the whatever and the kid sits at home playing with a toy instead of spending time with a person who can actually make a difference.
God doesn’t want us to bring a sacrifice just to appease Him when we aren’t living for him too. Yes, he wants our sacrifice. But, if we just bring the sacrifice and don’t turn our lives over to Him completely, well, he hates that. For example, if you’re only bringing a sacrifice on Sunday morning but the rest of the week is yours and you don’t give any of it to God – you’re bringing a sacrifice alone.
The Lord loves those who pursue righteousness – which is a pursuit of Him. But, when we’re not pursing Him, we’re pursuing ourselves. And if we’re not pursuing Him, we’re pursuing a way that ends in death.
So, the next time you’re buying a present for a birthday party, I hope it will serve as a reminder for how you’re spending your time. Who has the most control in your life? Is it you? Or is it God?
Don’t treat God like a kid who’s heart you’re trying to buy with a gift. Spend the real, quality time with Him that He deserves.
A fool rejects his father’s discipline,
but whoever heeds reproof shows good sense.
In the house of the righteous is abundant wealth,
but the income of the wicked brings trouble.
The lips of the wise spread knowledge,
but not so the heart of fools.
We all have things to learn. I hope we understand that. However, the sad truth is – far too many of us have stopped learning. We graduated from high school or college and the learning stopped. Maybe we learned too much, or we tried to learn so much that when we finished it took us years to recover.
While it is important to learn when it comes to formal education, I don’t think this verse is only talking about formal education. In fact, it’s probably speaking of learning the things of life that aren’t covered in the classroom. Values and virtues. Disciplines and work ethic and what not. These are the things that give feet to any other idea we may have. If we don’t continue to grow in virtue and discipline, we will not be able to put any of the other knowledge into practice. And if we do, our motives will likely be out of balance.
So, we must be able to learn. We must be able to be corrected and challenged. None of us have arrived. The fact that you’re reading this tells me one thing – you’re still on this planet and you still have room for improvement. I do. I certainly do. I have lots of room for improvement. We must never fool ourselves into thinking we don’t need to learn or know anymore.
It is only through this constant process of reproof and growth that we gain true knowledge and wisdom. It is in the process that our hearts change and not just our actions. It is during times of reproof that we are able to be humble and accept that we need to work on this or that.
But if we never accept or heed the reproof in our lives, we become quite the opposite. Our hearts grow cold and hard. Our hearts get full of ourselves and the only thing we spread around is the dumbness of ourselves.
If you think you’ve arrived, let me be the one to break it to you – You haven’t. Stop being full of yourself and start allowing those around you to speak into your life!
Speech that heals is like a life-giving tree,
but a perverse tongue breaks the spirit.
That’s exactly what I needed to hear!
Have you ever been trying to figure out a situation or problem and just found yourself at a loss? I have. I have tried and tried to come to a conclusion, but for some reason I just couldn’t get there. I’d thought about every possible scenario, but I just didn’t “have peace” about it.
Then, someone I trust offers some great advice. And often times, that advice gets confirmed by another person I trust. It’s amazing the kind of life and peace that can bring to a struggle.
But, I’ve also been on the flip-side. I’ve been down and out, only to have someone come along with a new knife and give me another flesh wound. It can be crushing. Especially, when you’re already in a position of suffering. To have someone come along and pour salt in the old wound and create a new one can really break your spirit. (If someone does this to you, I give you permission to never listen to another word they say.)
But, the point of proverbs is not to point out the flaws in other people. Instead, it is a book of observations. And if we live according to them, than we can expect life to turn out as the book speaks.
So, what is your speech like? Are you looking for ways to speak truth and affirmation into the lives of those around you? Are you observing what they’re going through and praying for God to guide in ways that will help them gain the perspective they need?
Or, are you crushing spirits? Are you saying things that cause additional pain on top of the pain that the person already feels? Let me give you a way to find out:
Do people stick around you and find ways to want to be with you? Or, do you have a hard time keeping friends? If you find yourself with and abundance of relationships, you are probably speaking life-giving words. If you don’t, you may need to think of ways you can speak life into those around you instead of crushing their spirits.
A gentle response turns away anger,
but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
The tongue of the wise treats knowledge correctly,
but the mouth of the fool spouts out folly.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on those who are evil and those who are good.
Have you ever been in a situation and seen it escalate more and more as time goes by? I have. I’ve been in meetings. In churches. Plural. One person gets upset about something, then someone responds with a little more angst. Another responds with even more, before you know it – Mabel and Mildred are in an all out verbal assault against each other’s poor choice of quilting fabric. Watch out folks, some blue hair is likely to fly.
Tension is always difficult to navigate. And we aren’t advised to navigate away from it. We are advised with how to deal with it correctly. The way we respond is important, but it is also important that we respond. We can be gentle without being doormats. We can be gentle and be firm at the same time.
But, if we respond harshly, all we will do is turn up thermostat up the a pre-hades sauna setting. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge correctly, while the mouth of the fool spouts it out in ways that cause and escalate tension. The tongue of the wise is backed up by the wisdom and knowledge and understanding. The tongue of the wise has made a lifelong pursuit of learning about wisdom and her ways. That way, when the wise person speaks, it ought to be saturated with wisdom and understanding.
When a fool speaks, he spouts off folly. Fools don’t think before they speak, they just react. Sometimes they realize mid-sentence that are about to rip the scab off of Mrs. Vesuvius. Sometimes, the don’t even realize they’ve said anything wrong.
So, at your next church business meeting when Beatrice stands up to fight against the pastor, the sunday school teacher or that your church is holier because you have pews and not heathenistic chairs, find a way to respond to her gently – using the knowledge you have been given. Don’t respond gently but without thinking. Think carefully about your response, and the respond.