Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Proverbs 21:17 commentary

17 ¶ He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.

As the Bible is written this way, notice that the second clause folds back on the first due to the colon. The second part of the verse helps to define what is meant by the first clause. Wine, we could say, refers to alcohol and so called adult beverages; the many gallons of beer and other booze that Americans consume each year, while less per person than in the era of our Founding Fathers, still way too much. Oil is a reference to the oil used in a rich diet and would be a reference to the high octane and expensive foods we eat.

This is something that most of us older people have seen in our lives. People who are addicted to pleasing the flesh usually spend their lives paying for it. While people who are disciplined and learn to tell themselves no seem to do well no matter how much they make. I know people who put themselves through school and have several homes, one they live in and a couple they rent out. I know someone who worked hard all his life and now owns a thriving hotel. The stories go on and on of frugal, thrifty people who are able to discipline their wants and control their needs to the point where they are comfortable.

But, those young people who spend many nights at the local sports bar or music emporium or night club, who use their credit cards to load up on the pleasures of life, and who can’t tell themselves no on the little doodads and geegaws they simply must have are going to spend their lives struggling. Now, none of these Proverbs promise you that if you don’t do these things you’ll by necessity have great success but they simply tell you that these missteps are the way to poverty and ruin.

Later on, we are told in Proverbs 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

For over 65 years now, since the end of World War Two, Americans have lived large, rarely saying no to themselves, living on credit and being enslaved to banks and mortgage companies. We have bought houses with little or no down payment, ran up thousands of dollars of credit card debt, bought cars we didn’t absolutely need, and filled our houses and sheds with toys we just wanted to have but never actually needed. We go on vacations and pay for our pleasure with credit and drop our plastic at restaurants and stores enjoying our pleasures when we really, really don’t have the money to pay.

When the good times are here we act as if they’re never going to end. Our rate of savings is pathetic and our spending habits are foolish. As it is with us, so it is with our government. We don’t even teach our children the blessings of frugality and thrift because we can’t. We don’t know those ourselves.

It would rarely cross an American’s mind to pursue a simple diet, to have simple tastes, and to take his or her pleasures rarely and with careful attention to cost. It appears though, now, that our lust for pleasing the flesh, our government’s incompetence and manipulations, and the greed of those we gleefully give our money to who have used us and our money as if it was their own has caught up with us. I would venture to say from now on or at least for several years you will find it hard to survive unless you are willing to cut some of the ballast from your life and learn to deny yourself anything but the most simplest of pleasures.

Learning to love a quiet evening at home with those you love, taking in the peaceful pleasure of a sunset or a sunrise, and taking joy in doing things for those less fortunate than you or physically unable to do for themselves may have to be your pastimes rather than loving pleasure and enjoying paying close attention to your slightest desire or whim.

Let this be a clear warning to young people just starting out in life. Learn to want less, learn to do more with less, and learn to enjoy simpler things that don’t require you whipping out your credit cards. Practice saying no to yourself at least once a day. Seek to learn discipline in meeting your bodily needs and wants.

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