Dear Radio Friends,
Thanksgiving is a day we reflect on the earthly provision that the Lord has given us this past year. It is a time that we gather together as churches and often times with family to give thanks for all that God has given us. Unbelievers like to celebrate this day too. They also speak of giving thanks. â€œWe must be thankful for this and that,â€ they will say. But they will never speak of thankful to whom. It is important that Godâ€™s people not forget to whom we give thanks at this time of the year and to understand how our thanks is really quite different from that of the those who refuse to believe in God.
It is true that at this time of the year we give thanks to God for the earthly gifts He has given us. There is nothing wrong with this since it is God who gives us these too. After all, we do request of God to â€œgive us this day our daily bread.â€ It is only fitting that when He does this we thank Him for it too. At the same time, believers ought never to separate these earthly blessings from the spiritual blessings we receive in Christ. We can have all the wealth in the world, but we are reminded in Psalm 73 that this wealth can be used against us. If it carries with it Godâ€™s curse, if God uses our earthly wealth to set us in slippery places in order to cast us down into destruction, then that wealth is useless. But if it carries with it Godâ€™s favor and blessing, as is true only of the child of God, then we have all the reason to give thanks. This is why we consider today one of the proverbs of Solomon. He writes for us in Proverbs 15:16, 17, â€œBetter is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.â€
Those who fear the Lord come before God at this time of year filled with happiness and joy whether they receive much or little in the way of earthly gifts. We do so because we belong to Jesus Christ, and Godâ€™s blessing rests upon us in riches in and in health but also in poverty and sickness. For that reason, Godâ€™s people are a happy people. And we have all the reason in the world to be filled with thanksgiving to God. Solomon writes in verse 15 here in Proverbs 15, â€œhe that is of a merry heart has a continual feast.â€ If we are happy in this life, then life is for us a continual feast of praise and thanksgiving. Only when one is happy is he truly going to give thanks to God. If we are disgruntled with something, perhaps with life in general, then we fail to give thanks. Godâ€™s children, however, do not have reason to be disgruntled with life. They belong to Godâ€™s household and family. We are those of a merry heart! In the verses we examine today Solomon searches out for us what gives us this merry heart, this happiness. He is concerned with the source of our happiness and ultimately therefore our thanksgiving too.
I. A Happy Heart
The proverb we consider is concerned with happiness. Now, I realize that Solomon does not even mention that in this proverb. But in it he makes a comparison. Notice again: â€œBetter is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.â€ In summary this proverbs teaches us that if we have very little in the way of this worldâ€™s possessions, even if that means we have only a table spread with vegetables, but we possess love in our homes and the fear of God in our hearts, this is far better than to have great earthly treasures and therefore a table spread with the finest of foods, including the fatted calf, yet to have hatred in the home and spiritual troubles. Solomon makes this comparison in order to point out to us that if we have all the possessions in the world, but have also hatred and unbelief in the home, then happiness will elude us. On the other hand, we can possess next to nothing in the way of this worldâ€™s wealth, but to have the love and fear of God abide in our homes will make us the happiest people in the world. One is therefore better than the other, if we are going to be a happy person and a happy family.
So this proverb is concerned with happiness. But to understand this point that Solomon makes here we must understand what constitutes true happiness. That is important because it looks as if the world is perfectly happy in their riches and prosperity, and that without the fear of God. I mean, we go to the restaurant and look at all the people dining there because God has given them so much in the way of wealth. Those people are holding conversations and laughing and joking no differently than we are while sitting there. Who says they are not happy? We go to the shopping mall, especially at this time of year, and we see people walking with their arms full of packages, talking and laughing with each other and they seem no different than we are. Who says they are not happy? We must understand therefore what distinguishes the happiness of a child of God from that of the wicked who do not fear God.
The first thing that distinguishes true happiness from its worldly look-alike is that one is eternal and the other temporal. The happiness of a child of God is eternal. It is rooted in salvation: deliverance from the burden and misery of sin. It is a happiness therefore that cannot be taken away! Christ lives in his heart and works in his heart so that the child of God is fully aware that there is no more condemnation to him. There is no more punishment for sin. The God of heaven and earth is not his enemy who uses all things to destroy him. God is his sovereign Friend who bestows all things on him as a blessing. God loves and favors him. The child of God knows this. And that knowledge gives him joy, peace, contentment in his heart. And that will never disappear. It is his now and unto all eternity.
The unbeliever, on the other hand, finds happiness in things that pass away, temporal, earthly things. He too carries on in life with a certain happiness and laughter. But it is rooted in earthly richesâ€”a new car, a new house, a new marriage, and so on. But when that particular possession passes away, as all earthly possessions do, then he is miserable. He must look for some other earthly possession to make him happy again. Another difference between true happiness and outward happiness is the result of such in oneâ€™s heart. When happiness is rooted in sin, then there always remains a nagging, gnawing dissatisfaction, discontentment with life. We know that for ourselves because sometimes when we do not look to God for our happiness we can experience the same thing. Well, in the unbeliever that never is gone. It is always there. And since the unbeliever looks to the things of this present world for happiness, he is always trying to find something new that will remove that nagging emptiness inside. That emptiness, that void in a personâ€™s life, is filled when Christ enters the heart of a person. Then no matter what is given or taken away, that believer is going to be filled. One does not need the things of this world to fill any void because his joy and happiness is rooted in Christ. So we bear that in mind first of all in connection with this Word of God.
In the second place, we bear in mind too that this happiness will determine whether a person is thankful or not. Believers are happy! They are filled with the joy of salvation, and because of that they give thanks. And there is more too, because the happiness that they have also determines to whom they are thankful. If my happiness is found only in earthly possessions, then my thanks will be no more than an earthly thanksâ€”a thanks that is not really directed at anyone or anything. When we are filled with eternal joy and happiness, then our thankfulness is directed toward God. We know it is God who gives us all things. We know it is God who imparts to us that joy. It is God who fills that emptiness in our lives. This, then, is why we reflect on this Word of God before us. We take a close look, then, at the source of our happiness.
II. Its Source
What is it that gives us happiness? Obviously, from this proverb a person is able to have all the riches in the world and not be at all happy. Listen: â€œbetter is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.â€ A family and individuals can have great treasureâ€”they can have riches, luxuries, power, and fame in this world. They can have everything their heart desires in the way of this worldâ€™s comforts. To use the words of the psalmist in Psalm 73, their eyes can stand out with fatness. From an earthly point of view they do not have a care in the world. They need never fear financiallyâ€”their life is secure on earth. They have housesâ€”luxurious houses. They have carsâ€”not one but several, and the cars can be the most expensive that are made. They can have all the toys that money can buy. People can have their RV, their snowmobiles, their four-wheelers, their boats, and so on. People can have enough money to go on the most extravagant of vacations. They need never worry about dropping a hundred dollars here or there. They could buy a house with cash, and it would not even put a dent in their savings account. Solomon uses the picture of a stalled ox here in verse 17 to denote that these people can eat the best of the dainties of this world. They are not content with a mere morsel, but they have money to put on their table the meat of a cow that has been kept in a stall and fattened there for the slaughter. They need not eat moderately, but they have the money to go out and wine and dine every meal. And when they do, they do not go to the fast-food restaurants. Neither are they ever seen frequenting the middle-class restaurants. They are out fine-dining all the time. Our country and society is filled with these kinds of people! Filled with them! Neither is the Christian exempt from all of this.
God has given you and me so much in the way of this worldâ€™s wealth and comfort that we do not even realize it. We look at others who are much wealthier than we and we begin to think that we do not have it so good. Look at what they are able to do! We cannot afford to do that. I challenge any of us to visit any third-world country and compare what you and I have as middle-class Americans to what they have. We would find out that we are not at all poor! In fact, we would hang our heads in shame! Riches and wealth breed greed. They do not satisfy our greedâ€”they wet our appetite for more! And this is why Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven! It is so hard not to place our trust in uncertain riches when we have them. It is so hard not to love moneyâ€”even though we know it is the root of all evil.
The point of Solomon is that we can have all these, but these things do not buy for us true happiness. Oh, they buy happiness all right! But the happiness they can buy is only fleeting and not deep-seated happiness. Now, Solomon does not say in our text that with riches comes unbelief. When we look at Abraham and Job, or even at David and Solomon, we see that these men were rich. But they were believers. They did fear the Lordâ€”although in Solomonâ€™s case, and even Davidâ€™s, these riches did bring troubles and hatred. But Solomon is not saying that hatred of God and trouble necessarily come when we are rich. But surely this is what is often seen in the homes of the wealthy. Solomon writes in Proverbs 30, â€œGive me not riches, lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord?â€ We see this all the time in our societyâ€”no one needs God! They have ousted Him from the government, from the schools of our land, and virtually from society itself. And the upshot of it is that, as rich as people are, they are miserable! The rate of suicide continues to rise. People shooting drugs, drinking themselves drunk, sexual binges, partyingâ€”all because this world is one miserable place to live. And in their wealth people even turn to these baser means to find some kind of real joy and happiness in life. Enter into that home where father and mother are gone all the time to make more and more money and what do you see with their children? Talk with children who because of wealth witness their parents becoming independent of one another and divorcingâ€”listen to the bitterness they will express.
People keep asking why it is that this generation coming up is so selfish, so violent, so promiscuous? The answer is: they are rich but they do not fear God! They do not love God. They have great treasure, but they are not happy! Mom and Dad will compete for their childrenâ€™s affections by buying them everything their hearts desire. Children mope a little, and parents right away buy them what they want. Parents may insist that their children work to earn money, but then those children are taught no responsibility toward others. They keep their money and spend it on whatever their flesh desires. Our society has raised a generation of selfish, lazy, spoiled, irreverent snobs! Why? Because of riches! And everyone is happy with that. Yet, when the family gathers around their table with the fatted calf, there is nothing more than trouble and hatred. Then you tell me whether these people are thankful to God on Thanksgiving Day. They not only are not truly thankful, but they do not thank anyoneâ€”especially not God! All that because they are not happy.
Far, far better than this, Solomon writes, is possessing little. Possessing enough to put food on the table. Possessing enough to put shoes on oneâ€™s feet and nice clothing on oneâ€™s back. A modest home, a trustworthy car. Better by far it is to have only enough money to spread the table with herbsâ€”or literally, vegetables. Do you think that Godâ€™s people who, a number of years ago, had half the wealth that we have today were less happy? Do you think that children in the home and family that played with a box, that would roll a hoop around with a stick, that would make their own scooters out of old metal skates were less happy than we are today? Do we honestly think that by buying our children everything they want we are making them happier?? Are we really happier today because we have the wealth to go to a restaurant to eat or go on extended vacations, than were the saints of long ago when they could not??? It is far better to have little, to have only a modest spread of food on your table, and to have love.
How true that is, is it not, people of God? There is nothing better than to gather around a table together as family or friends and share in the love of the saints for one another. How blessed it is, even if we have nothing on the table to speak of, that we are able to share a time of peace and love with one another in the home. We open the Bible after a good meal and we read the Word of God and we pray together as a family. Now, there is a concept that is lost today in the church! How wretched it is, even if we have wealth untold, to be divided and at war with each other in the home. It hinders our prayers. How miserable it is to gather around a table when there is nothing more than animosity and hatred. Who cares to read Godâ€™s Word when this is true?
We give our thanks to God in this season of year for what He has given us. It may be nothing, it may be plenty. We give God thanks today! For what? For happiness! For the joy of our salvation. No matter what God has given usâ€”or not given usâ€”in this past year we are happy, because we know that He has given us everything we have in His love for us. God works in us such joy and happiness because we fear the Lord! That is the source of all joyâ€”the fear of the Lord! That is the source of love within the home and familyâ€”the fear of the Lord. If there is no fear of God in our hearts, then there is no real love. When there is no real love, there is trouble, unrest, and hatred. That will, in turn, make us miserable and unthankful today.
But when God works in us a deep respect, a deep love, for Him, then we find happiness! And that fear of God Christ has worked in the heart of every believer, has He not? Christ has delivered us from the clutches of sin and unbelief. What more could we desire? We are heirs to the finest of riches in heaven. Those riches await us. In faith we look to God. We begin to understand that He is the end of all things. The earthly gifts we receive of Godâ€™s hand are but means we use to seek God and the glory that is ours in heaven. We place our firm hope and trust in Him. All because we fear the Lord. Letâ€™s give proper thanks to God today. He has given us all that we need and more. We do not look to riches. We look to Him. And there we find a reason for real thanksgiving. May we bring that before Him this day. God give us to fear Him and grant that His love might abound in us.
All thanks be to God.