Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife
The word better appears throughout the Proverbs as a means of establishing value. Usually the things compared are reversed in their value in the eyes of most. Wisdom is seeing the value in what the proverb points out. Wisdom realizes that things are not always as they seem. When you see the word better, remember that the proverb is trying to get us to question what we value with this type of proverb. Which item has a higher price tag in your world?
In the proverb before us, bread with contentment is contrasted with rich parties with anger. Most people in Solomon’s day and in our own would choose rich parties with anger. Most figure that people will get over their anger or that we can always get new friends or now a new family. But Solomon presses us with the idea that if the relationships of your life are not connected, you don’t have a life no matter how much money you have.
Solomon had experienced all of the parties and riches a person could ever want, but he had also developed the anger and seething bitterness that multiple wives and concubines can create. He testifies under the inspiration of God to take the relational vitality and little money over lots of money with anger and bitterness.
Now there is nothing wrong with big parties. The point in this proverb is that if you have strife, it is not as good as being poor and yet loved. There is a great joy that comes from relational peace where everybody in your relational circles is okay with you.
There is another angle on this proverb, and that is that the words translated feasting with strife is really the phrase sacrifices of strife or the offerings of strife. In other words, you have been making sacrifices to the god of strife in order to obtain the money that you have heaped up for yourselves. This type of wealth will rot your soul. There are many in our day that have chosen this method of wealth building. This type of wealth building is usually the product of an unbalanced life. This type of wealth building is not necessarily illegal or immoral; it is just relationship killing.
The thinking goes like this: I will work 20 hours a day for a period of time to make a lot of money and then spend time with my family and friends. This thinking says that I am sacrificing all of my time to make money for my family. I have to be rude to the family and my friends and co-workers now in order to close this deal, and then I can make nice when the money comes in. I have watched people be sucked into this type of short-term sacrifice – everything for a little extra money – for years. We are being lulled into this type of capsulated life where we focus on only one aspect of our lives to the exclusion of the others, hoping the other relationships of our life hold on until we are ready to give them some time. This is folly. Life is a whole; it has nine relationships in it and all must be constantly developed and recharged.
Don’t be suckered into an unbalanced life by the pressure of our world. Be transformed by renewing your mind that God’s ways are better. If I have to produce strife in order to have rich parties, then they are not worth it. If I have to betray my friends, family, and others to build up wealth, then I have the wrong way of wealth accumulation. There are career paths in our culture today that leave a man or woman wealthy but alone and often bitter. Don’t go down that road or change the way you go down that career path.
Are there things that you can do today that will demonstrate that you believe in relational peace over riches and strife? Could you apologize to someone? Could you balance your life more? Could you invest more deeply in the people in your life? Could you find a new way of making money that does not require so much time away from home?
* This material is copyrighted © by Gil Stieglitz who retains all rights to the material. The verses quoted are taken from the NASB Bible 1995 edition.