Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.
Just as God’s Word dictates our ethics in terms of right and wrong, it also dictates which ethics are of priority. If one thing is better than another, it is to be preferred, sought after, and valued more than the other. The lesson in this verse is simple. It is far better to be a poor man living in a shack and fearing God, than to be a rich man in a troubled, anxious state. This is because “in the fear of the Lord is strong confidence” (Prov. 14:26). The man who does not fear God lacks the only sure anchor for his soul in the storms of life. All the money in the world will not save him from death and hell. Many rich men look to their riches for that ultimate security, but riches are an uncertain thing. Stock markets crash. Buildings burn down. Law suits can result in total loss. Even insurance programs may not provide the total security that man expects from government and other man-made institutions. Thanks to all the wealth and material security available to the developed nations today, few people feel any real need to fear God anymore. But when these economies collapse, many will come to appreciate the full force and relevance of this verse.
Now is the time for us to learn to be content with what we have. Now is the time for us to seek after the fear of God with a thousand times the interest that we take in developing our financial portfolios. Let us acknowledge God in everything. Let us thank Him at every opportunity. And never let us contemplate an atom, a cell, an organism, or a universe without worshiping the God who made all of it! To ignore God in the chemistry laboratory is nothing less than cosmic treachery—ultimate treason against the Ruler of the universe!
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
Here is a second ethical priority, underscored also by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13; as he concludes that “The greatest of these is love.”
By comparison with the wealthy countries in the developed world today, most nations in past ages were extremely poor, and many people did not enjoy the luxury of eating meat. Today, even the poorest people in the world may enjoy a hamburger from time to time. But this was not so for the poor households spoken of in Proverbs. Their diet was often limited to vegetables and grains.
But, let us apply this old proverb to the modern situation. How miserable are those homes where conversations are laced with sarcasm and hateful speech! It doesn’t matter if a family lives in an 8,000 square-foot home, complete with an indoor pool and theater room. If the parents are consumed with their own self-interests, and the children are locked in their proud rivalries, there will be no peace and joy in the home. Sometimes, there is no real conflict to speak of, but there is still no love because there are no relationships. There is little room for love when a mother deposits her infant in day care at two weeks of age, and the family fragments itself by means of corporate work, business trips, age segregated activities, and a television set in every room. Such is the miserable lifestyle of the average rich family in the West.
Above all, it is love that makes a happy home. So if we want a happy home, we will teach love, discipline in love, and pray for love. This will be a huge priority in our home. We will eliminate certain forms of entertainment from our home if necessary. We will sacrifice for it. We will find ways to reintegrate the family and restore relationships. We will reduce the hours that mom and dad spend away from the family and away from the home. We will bring more love back into the education of our children. We will find ways to love our children more in their courtships so that their hearts are protected and beautiful new, loving homes are created. More love is what we need. More love that does not seek its own. More love that is not easily irritated by a brother or sister. More love that bears patiently through offenses, forgiving others and overlooking minor offenses. More love that assumes the best of others. More love that humbles itself in confessing sins to others, and confronting others in love. More love is what we need.
No preacher, father, or teacher is ever out of order to call for more fear of God and more love of brothers and sisters! There is never enough of either one. A generation that has killed fifty million of its own children and relegated millions of elderly people to lonely rest homes can hardly be called loving. Indeed, the love of many has grown cold. Moreover, for one hundred fifty years, the proud universities have refused to prostrate themselves in their classrooms in wonder and praise before the Creator, and many seminaries are hardly different. Consequently, there is a pitiful lack of the fear of God even in our “worship” services today. Above all things, we must study and apply the fear of God and the love of our brothers and sisters.
1. Comparatively, are we a wealthy family or a poor family? But more importantly, do we fear God and love each other? Would you consider our home a happy home?
2. Are there adjustments that we need to make so that we will have more opportunities to learn to love in our family? What can we do to increase the love quotient in our home?