“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house of feasting with strife.”
The fields around Chatham, Ontario contain crops of corn and soy beans. The wheat was harvested in July. The tomatoes are being taken off the fields and carted off to be made into paste and ketchup. The crops are not as good as they were last year in the Chatham area. Many farmers experienced record yields last year, when they used tractors and snow blowers to stack the corn in heaps, but this year the yield is less. There was too much water in the spring, and many of the seedlings drowned. Some fields were replanted too late to produce a good crop. While no one will go hungry here, there will be slightly less grain for the cattle, and the price of meat will go up. Should we then be less enthusiastic in our thanksgiving this year?
Proverbs 17:1 reminds us that wealth of material goods is not the only way to measure the success of a year. “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house of feasting with strife.” Even when we have little in the way of material possessions, we can enjoy other blessings. In fact, this proverb reminds us that there are things we should value higher than material goods. A person might be rich, yet desperately unhappy because he lacks peace and security in his life. On the other hand a person might be poor, yet enjoy other blessings with his family and friends in the presence of God. Although the harvest was not as good here as it was last year, we mostly enjoy a comfortable life with a wide range of gifts.
How will we measure the success of this past year as we sit down with our families to give thanks together? Will we measure it by the headway we made on our mortgages or RRSPs? Will we measure it by the quality of our life? Certainly we must give thanks for the incredible wealth we enjoy. We must not give in to the temptation to look in envy at others who are richer. God has given us so many material possessions to enjoy. Most of us own our own home and have a vehicle parked in the driveway. We have steady employment, we can afford Christian education for our children, and there is still enough left over for a week or two of vacation.
The author of Proverbs 17:1 does not say that a dry crust is something good to have. We would all rather enjoy more than a dry crust. Praise God that we enjoy muffins and bagels and waffles and soft rolls and fresh baked bread straight out of the bread-maker! By the measure of material goods it was a successful year, even though in some places the crops weren’t so good, or in other places business was slow. We are so rich!
But there are other ways to measure the past year. Were you able to enjoy the riches God gave you? Was your enjoyment marred by strife or ill health or anxiety or guilt? Recent events in Syria and Egypt help us to put our lives into the perspective of Proverbs 17:1. Injury, loss, and death have brought grief, insecurity, and fear to thousands in the Middle East. The poor and the wealthy alike experience unrest and disturbance. Many Egyptians or Syrians would give all they possess to enjoy the freedom, peace, and security that we take for granted. What does it matter then, if the harvest is poor here or the economy takes another slight downturn? Even the poorest among us will still enjoy relative peace. There will be food on the table, a warm place to sleep, and no fear of soldiers or rockets or chemical gas tearing apart your world while you sleep. Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house of feasting with strife.
There are other blessings to count than the food on the table and the numbers on the bank statement. Did the Lord bless your home with joy and love? Did he allow you to reach out in hospitality? Were you able to contribute to the coming of his kingdom? Did you watch your children grow and thrive? Perhaps you went backwards in your finances and are ending the year with less than you started. But in the meantime, how many other ways did God show his favour? Perhaps you ended the year with a great deal more than when you began, but did that increase really make it a “good year”? Consider Proverbs 17:1 as you give thanks this year.
Rev. David DeBoer is minister of the Chatham Canadian Reformed Church in Ontario
Clarion, The Canadian Reformed magazine, Volume 62, Volume 20 p. 473 October 4, 2013