It Doesn't Get Any Better!
Welcome to the Real World!
A word study of Proverbs
by Pastor Frank Rice
The term “better” indicates comparison. Some things are better than others. That might be rather subjective for us humans; food, music, entertainment, sports, heroes, movies, etc. But for those who hold God’s Word as our final authority for faith and practice, there is clear objectivity. God says (20 times) that some things are better than others! We have choices. So, we’d be wise to figure out what Yahweh values before making selections. Only a fool ignores, disregards, or challenges Yahweh’s counsel! The term “better” expresses relative values.
I. Make Wisdom & Understanding Your Number One Priority In Life!
v Realize that society has its own value system based on what can be seen, acquired, hoarded, and stolen! (Tragically, and to their own detriment, God’s people often adopt the same value system as the culture in which they live!)
- We’re fully aware that every society values gold, silver, jewels, and treasures, along with other trendy tangibles and intangibles.
- So often the acquisition of these things is accompanied by turmoil, trouble, and stress! The act of acquiring and the fact of owning these things contribute to this dilemma!
v Recognize (believe & behave) according to a radically different set of values; God’s values! (The term “better” always calls for a comparison and a choice, normally between two entities.)
- God values wisdom and understanding far above earthly, societal values (3:14; 8:11)! Wisdom (living life skillfully) without a vital relationship with Him is unthinkable and unattainable.
- God says the benefits of embracing His values are far greater than the fruit/yield of embracing those of society (8:19).
- With interest rates so low, “Wisdom is a better investment than silver or gold because she never fails to pay interest.” (Garrett)
- “Wealth without wisdom is vulgar and greedy and/or may be due to ruthless individualism.” (Waltke)
- “Wisdom and wealth are not incompatible; but this comparison is between wealth w/o wisdom and wisdom w/o wealth.” and “The fear of the Lord brings more satisfaction than wealth with discontentment… the teaching concerns the negative side of wealth – it is often the case that wealth replaces love in a family.” (Ross)
- “Even modest prosperity is more important than status.” (Garrett) [I will continue to call “witnesses to the stand” (commentators) to bolster my argument and to affirm the truth of what God says!]
- How big does your (house, bank account, boat, vacation, car, truck, yard, accomplishments) have to be?! Who are you trying to impress? Do you really comprehend the cost?
- So, who you gonna believe? How does your life demonstrate what you say you believe?
II. Make Humility & Sobriety Your Conscientious & Constant Quest!
v Society values pride, self-sufficiency, and self-confidence!
- Humbly working and living within your means is better than living beyond them, putting on a show, and being hungry (12:9)!
- “Better is a man of humble circumstances who works for himself, than one who plays the big man and has nothing to eat.” (Ryrie) “Reality is more important than appearance.”
- You are better off living among the poor and sharing their fate than acquiring riches by illegitimate means (16:19)! [Remember Who is speaking!]
- It is better to assume a position of unimportance than to have an elevated self-opinion and suffer public humiliation (25:6-7). [Why would you set yourself up for failure and public humiliation because of pride!?]
- “It is wiser to wait to be promoted than to risk demotion by self-promotion.” (Longman)
III. Make Personal Integrity More Important Than Power & Prosperity!
v You may be forced to choose between modest right-living and compromising your integrity to obtain wealth (16:8; 19:1; 28:6)!
- “Follow honesty even if it leads to poverty.” and “Honest poverty is better than dishonest wealth.” (Ross)
- “Fools are not only dull of mind and do stupid things; they are also evil people… they speak in a way that does not faithfully reflect reality.” (Longman)
- Your greatest achievement and source of joy and satisfaction will be a godly life, a loving home, and personal integrity. (Do you live with these in mind?)
v You may have to choose between exercising patience and exerting power (16:32). Self-control is more difficult and more important than feats of power! “’Control his spirit’ means he has his emotions under control.” (Ross)
v If there is an “opportunity to get ahead” by lowering your ethical standards, remember your reputation is at stake (19:22; 22:1). A reputation for kindness and honesty, once forfeited, is difficult to recover!
IV. Make Peace with Poverty More Valued Than Feasting with Fighting!
v Silver and gold may put food on the table but it cannot insure fellowship around it (15:17; 17:1). Stress can ruin an appetite and a delightful meal. Fellowship can make a meager meal wonderful!
- “Poverty with peace is better than prosperity with strife… Abundance often brings a deterioration of moral and ethical standards as well as an increase in envy and strife.” (Ross)
- “Feasting is better than a dry crust,.. but peace and quiet are better than feasting, so much more so that it would be better to eat a dry crust than to put up with the social problems implied…” (Longman)
v When selecting a spouse, a gracious spirit is far more important and treasured than any culturally valued traits (21:9, 19; 25:24). [This goes both ways.]
- Husbands… any complaint against your wife is self-incriminating! “Was she that way when you married her?”
(a) If the answer is “yes” the response is obvious! “Why did you marry her dummy?”
(b) If the answer is “no” the response is less obvious. “What did you do to her dummy?!”
- “While marriage and companionship are positive things in Proverbs, it is better to be alone than with a person who makes life unbearable.” (Longman)
- Proverbs warns of “entering a relationship with a difficult woman.” (Longman)
- Housetops and wildernesses are uncomfortable, lonely, and dangerous, but at least they’re quiet and peaceful! Any living conditions are preferable to living with a quarrelsome spouse who constantly stirs up conflict and provokes!
v When choosing and developing friendships, exercise discernment.
- Honest friends tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear (27:5).
- “A true friend gives time and attention but is not always flattering.” (Garrett)
- “Direct reproof is better than unexpressed love. Open rebuke is a frank, direct word of honest criticism or disapproval (from either friend or foe)… love that manifests no rebuke is morally useless,.. one might question whether or not it is sincere.” (Ross)
- Helpful friends are often more accessible and aware of your circumstances than relatives (27:10). When life hurts, friends may be the only ones “close enough” to help.
- “A friend who is available is better than a relative who is not.” (Ross)
In all likelihood, you know most of these truths!
The question is; do you believe them enough to live them out?
Do they impact the way you live and make your decisions? Do they determine your world-view?