Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 15:16
"Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it"
This is another one of the comparison proverbs that helps us see things more clearly by comparing one thing that looks very desirable with something that looks less desirable but is truly more valuable. We are sometimes tricked by the world in which we live to value the wrong thing too much. Solomon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, draws out in the book of Proverbs those comparisons that would still be true 3,000 years later and would be appropriate to include in a book without errors.
In this instance, Solomon wants to show the relative value of having a lot of wealth. He uses the term great treasure. The Hebrew word for treasure here is osarwhich means treasure or storehouse for treasure. It consistently refers to the king's treasure. Solomon puts the word great in front of this word to tell us that he is talking about more wealth than one can possibly spend – wealth so much so that one would never have to worry about making a living again. This represents a pile of resources that you can have or purchase anything you want. This amount of wealth is what many push and work and strive to attain. This amount of wealth is the unspoken goal of most in business today. Solomon wants to point out that while there is nothing wrong with that goal, it is an inappropriate, naked goal and there are some things that are more valuable than being wealthy.
First, Solomon wants to point out that often times gaining wealth can result in neglecting vital relationships. This is why he says great treasure and turmoil with it. So the first insight Solomon wants to point out is that wealth is nice (and he had lots) but if the wealth you are pursuing requires that you have relational strife (marriage, children, relatives, overwork, little relaxing time, no time to volunteer in the community, no friends outside of work, lack of a deep spiritual life), then your wealth has not been a blessing to you but a curse. Yes, there are lots of ways to become wealthy; but if you choose the way that runs through heartbreak and loneliness, then your wealth has become a curse.
The second thing Solomon points out is that there is something more valuable than having so much money that working is not a need anymore. This is almost a blasphemous idea in our day and age – to suggest that there are goals that are worth striving for other than money and possessions. A few in our day and age are catching on because they are full of money but have exceedingly empty lives, or they have money and now they realize that there must be something more. That something more is a deep connection with God. Solomon here refers to it as fear of the Lord. It is the same phrase that he used when he spoke of starting on the road to wisdom at the beginning of the book.
The fear of the Lord is a phrase which means really being afraid of the reality of the Lord; it means having a deep abiding reverence for the Almighty; it means connecting with God in the way that He wants to connect; it means to serve the Lord in whatever ways He wants you to; it means to admit that He is God and you are not; it means to acknowledge that there is more to this world and life than the three-dimensional things we see; it means that pleasing God has become the center focus of your life.
When a person dials into what God created them for and begins doing it, they know a greater level of peace than if they had untold riches. You and I were made for a purpose and all of our experiences, abilities, gifts, and talents are designed to allow us to be effective at that thing. That thing that we are to do is what will bring a level of satisfaction that no amount of money can make up for.
Make sure that you are seeking to please the Lord with your life and the money, satisfaction, joy, and peace will follow. The same cannot be said for pursuing just money alone; and if you have to choose between money and being deeply connected with God who is pleased with you, choose God... it is a better life.