Would You Like Hatred with That?

I am so pleased that Solomon did not overlook discontentment. On three separate occasions he offered wisdom for all of us, especially for those times when we are tempted to feel sorry for ourselves. You may have already noticed that all three of this week’s verses are comparative couplets, proverbs in which one thing is declared superior to another. Here is an example:

Better is a dish of vegetables where love is
Than a fattened ox served with hatred. (15:17)

In Texas, where I was born and reared, beef is considered a staple item on the grocery list. In other parts of the United States, a thick T-bone steak is a special treat but fairly common nonetheless. In ancient times, however, meat of any kind was a delight usually reserved for the Sabbath, and then it was typically lamb or goat. Oxen were rarely slaughtered for meat because they were far more valuable alive. When plowing a field, a single ox could accomplish in one day the same work as three men laboring for a week. Consequently, the owner of an ox typically hired out the services of his animal once his own plowing, threshing, or harvesting had been done. It was not uncommon for an entire village to use the same team of oxen for farm labor.

So killing an ox for food in ancient, agrarian societies was a lavish extravagance, not unlike a farmer today selling off a tractor and then using the proceeds to buy the most expensive caviar and serve the finest gourmet cuisine at a single dinner party. Yet the sage who wrote this proverb placed such value on love and harmony that he would rather eat a meager portion of veggies than attend a lavish, sumptuous dinner marred by a hateful attitude and strife. He found contentment in the intangibles of life.

Who needs a T-bone steak? What’s the big deal about chateau-briand for two if it must be eaten in the absence of love? Several years ago I smiled when I read about a lady all decked out at a cocktail party trying to look happy. A friend noticed the huge sparkling rock on her finger and gushed, “My! What a gorgeous diamond!”

“Yes,” she admitted, “it’s a Callahan diamond. It comes with the Callahan curse.”

“The Callahan curse?” asked her friend. “What’s that?”

Mister Callahan,” she said with a frown.

The proverb asks the penetrating question, what good is it to have “more and better” if love and harmony isn’t part of the package? The sage gave his answer, stating that the love he shares with his eating companion is always the best part of the meal. It’s still truth, isn’t it?

From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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