Proverbs on Contentment

vegetables 2Unless you had shares in Zoom you are probably facing some sort of reduction in income during the Coronavirus pandemic. That may have happened already if you lost your job or your customers, or it may happen over the coming months as your industry slows. We’ll all need to learn how to get by with less.

The book of Proverbs has some helpful wisdom at this time (as it does for all times).

Proverbs is a collection of short, pithy sayings, mostly written by King Solomon, that teach us how to live wisely on God’s earth. Foundational for wisdom is “fear of the Lord”:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (1:7)

One of the blessings of this wisdom is that it equips us for trouble in life, such as COVID-19:

The fear of the Lord leads to life;
then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (19:23)

The person who can take on board the lessons of Proverbs will have a healthy fear of the Lord and a perspective on life that can handle the challenges of things like COVID-19. In fact, these challenges may be part of God’s plan for growing us in wisdom. It might be a form of God’s fatherly discipline:

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in. (3:11-12)

It’s more than likely that God lovingly intends to teach us things and grow us through our current hardships.

So how can Proverbs help us deal with the loss of income? The book has a lot to say about money, poverty and generosity which I’d like to cover in future posts. But two observations from Proverbs are particularly insightful at this time. The first is that wealth is transient, and the second is that there are better things in this life than money and luxury.

THE TRANSIENCE OF WEALTH

Proverbs observes that not only can wealth disappear quickly but that it loses its value completely when we eventually face God. Here are three proverbs along these lines:

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death. (11:4)

Those who trust in their riches will fall,
but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. (11:28)

Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
do not trust your own cleverness.
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle. (23:4-5)

Wealth disappears suddenly. COVID-19 has demonstrated that forcefully. Proverbs would encourage us not to put our hope in riches or wear ourselves out for wealth. Righteousness (a right relationship with God expressed in faith and obedience) is the greatest asset you can have for both now and eternity.

THE BETTER THINGS

Proverbs also points out what is better than riches in a number of sayings:

Better a little with the fear of the Lord
than great wealth with turmoil. (15:16)

Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred. (15:17)

Better a little with righteousness
than much gain with injustice. (16:8)

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife. (17:1)

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse. (28:6)

The message comes through loud and clear: we’re better off with less possessions, simpler food and a life dependent on God than a fancy house with wealth and feasting. Although a raucous family can make peace and quiet hard to come by, Proverbs shows us a vision of loving, righteous and contented homes.

Another proverb-teller in the book, Agur, expresses similar ideas in a prayer:

Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God. (30:7-9)

Agur can see the danger of wealth so he asks God to keep it from him. He can see that it would be better to have less and be reliant on God than be wealthy and overconfident. If we have been praying this prayer then perhaps the pandemic is an answer.

CONTENTMENT DURING COVID-19

COVID-19 has been a challenge. The challenges will continue; we may find ourselves with even less income than we have now. Proverbs can help us with this. It reminds us of the value of wisdom and how it begins: with the fear of the LORD. It also points out the inadequacies and dangers of wealth and the better alternative of a life with less; a life that is dependent on Him, treasuring righteousness, love and peace. We need to read and reflect on Proverbs now more than ever.

 

Photo by Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash