Posted tagged ‘best things’

Bailing Water from the Titanic

August 9, 2008

22 “The blessing of the Lord makes rich and he adds no sorrow with it. 23 Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding. 24What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted.” (Prov. 10. 22-24).

Can you tell what these three proverbs have in common?

The first proverb (v. 22) tells us that the best things in life come from God.   “The blessing of the Lord”, Solomon says, makes us “rich” –-rich in ways that have nothing to do with investment portfolios or money in the bank.  As in that beautiful Psalm 33, where David likens God’s gift of peace among brothers to “the precious oil on the head” and “the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.” And because they come from God, the best things in life are guilt–free:  “He adds no sorrow with it.” Paul reminded Timothy that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1Tim. 6.9).  We see it every day–the feverish efforts to get wealth, the contention and competition in using it, the fear of losing it, the guilt of abusing it.  And so it is with all that counts as desirable in this world.  But “the blessing of the Lord” makes us rich without regret.

The second proverb tells us that the best things in life are also the best things for life.  An old song asked the question “how can it be wrong when it feels so right?” Solomon answers the question by simply observing how foolish human beings can be: “Doing wrong is like a joke [or a ‘delight’, or a ‘laughing matter’] to a fool. ” For proof, look no further than your own television set, where sacred things wind up on Comedy Central and fools make light of their own destruction.  But “to a man of understanding,” wisdom brings a different kind of delight–not the cheap, crude delights of a culture amusing itself to death (as Neil Postman said in his book), but the deep satisfying pleasure of growing in grace, discovering step-by-step, moment-by-moment, more-and-more, that the “Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Ps. 19.7). The best things in life are also the best things for life.

The third proverb tells us that the best things in life are lasting.  Here is an extraordinary piece of wisdom.  All the intense, ambitious, obsessive human striving after things and power and pleasure and prestige–all of it amounts to nothing more than bailing water from the Titanic.  The best that the world can hope for is to delay the inevitable:  “What the wicked dreads will come upon him” (v. 24a).  Everything we learn to fear in this world–loss of health, wealth, loss of youth, significance, will come upon us.  But those of us who know and love the Lord need never dread the loss of these things, because we look for things that are eternal.  Things like love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and goodness, and faithfulness, and gentleness, and self-control (see Gal. 5.22).   The best things in life God will give us in spades–for “the desire of the righteous will be granted.”

These three proverbs tell us what the best things in life really are.  In these days, my beloved people–in this culture and in our own congregation–there is nothing we need to hear more clearly.  You are dearly loved.

Your Pastor,

Richard Wells