“[He that is] despised, and hath a servant, [is] better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.”
Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant
than pretend to be somebody and have no food. – NIV
Nobody Has a Servant!
This proverb had me musing for a while. Not many people I know have servants these days, even the well known ones. But digging a bit deeper and flicking across the translations we find a few varieties. The essence remains the same, and ends up sounding a bit like “count your blessings.”
What do You Have?
When Moses first got acquainted with God it’s safe to say old Mo’ was a bit insecure. God reminds him of a few things and then asks Moses what he has in his hand. Moses looks and sees his staff. Nothing special there he thinks, after all it’s just a tool I use everyday. But maybe that’s the point?
We think so much about what we don’t have, about the ways we could be blessed, that we miss the obvious – the ways we have already been blessed.
And then we fall into the trap revealed in the second part of the proverb – we start to pretend. Pretend we are more than we are, we have more than we are, we like what we don’t, we value what we despise, but yet what we actually have is nothing.
Lord, help us to look not to what we don’t have, but instead to the things You have already given us, and in doing so give glory and gratitude to You.
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”
This blog is all about gleaning wisdom from the book of proverbs. What is interesting is that in terms of the Bible proverbs is quite a strange book. There isn’t really another book like it. We have these couplets some that link to others, some that can stand alone, others make perfect first glance sense while others still talk about pigs and women. It all seems a bit random… at first but look long enough and you will start to see the connections.
Finding the Threads
One thing I have been diligent at over the last couple of years is reading through the Bible. Every six out of seven days I sit and I make time for it. Not an awful lot of time but time. And something has happened. I know the Bible better than I ever have done. I remember bits of it. I know my way around it. And when I read proverbs like this my mind is draw on a journey through the Bible to get to the truth.
So let’s take a look – ‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life’, the first thing is that this is talking about a tree of life not the tree of life. So the verse seems to be implying that the righteous will bring life by their fruit. In John 10:10 Jesus tells us that He has come to bring ‘life to the fullest’ so it’s a good bet that the fruit of the righteous involves Jesus. In fact in John 15 Jesus Himself tells us that the way to produce this fruit is to remain in Him. What does this mean? Quite simply that if we plant ourselves in Jesus then we are more likely to produce His fruit which will bring life to all who taste it.
Of course we still have a choice. We can stubbornly remain in Jesus or gladly remain in Him. Which ever we do will shape the type of fruit we produce and therefore the type of life we are bringing to others. I wonder what type of fruit others are getting from you? Nice to look at but bland in taste? Or fresh and full of freedom?
The second part of the verse is also a theme clearly picked up by Jesus – that of building eternally rather than temporarily.
Stop reading and think about all the things that were on your mind before you started reading. Now on a piece of paper draw two columns one for temporary and one for eternal. List the things you were thinking off in the correct category. How did you do? Balanced? More on earth than heaven? I could go on but I’m guessing your list will be challenge enough for today.
Matt 6:19-21 ‘ “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”‘
“As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.”
Proverb or Nonverb?
If you want to run a great quiz round, make up a load of proverbs, mix them in with little beauties like this, and then ask which is the genuine article. I guarantee you will catch some people out. But just because a Proverb sounds made up doesn’t mean it lacks wisdom, or indeed a lesson for us to learn.
As we look into this idea of pig adornment, we discover a theme repeated throughout the Bible: the contrast between the image we present and the person we are. Despite this, we spend an inordinate amount of time working on the outside rather than the inside, and yet the outside makes up for so little of who we are and is often easy to see past.
Consider how small the gold ring is compared to the pig. It may catch our eye, initially (after all it is gold), but let’s be honest, no amount of gold is going to hide the fact it is stuck on a pig.
The Eye of the Beholder
Similarly beautiful women may turn a man’s head, but my experience is that if there is no substance beneath the beauty, no discretion, then the attraction is waning. I may tolerate them, but it is clear they are a pig – so to speak.
But what happens when I turn this mirror to my own life? Do I see a gold ring, or a pig? Is my “beauty” being wasted on a muddy snout?
Beauty for Ashes
In truth, it matters little what I see, but how God sees me. Can I believe that Jesus loves me despite myself? It may be hard to believe, but he does! That’s the truth on which I will stand.
Isaiah 61:3 “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”