Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
~ Proverbs 15:17
Do you ever feel like maybe your life just isn’t good enough? I mean, it’s okay – but it definitely isn’t on par with the way you see others living.
Early in my adult life I came across this verse in Proverbs and it had a profound affect on my thinking. It’s also part of the inspiration for the title of my blog, “A Pretty Nice Life.”
I didn’t want the pressure of being – or pretending to be – someone who’s got it all together, has a perfect life, is to be envied, etc. Don’t get me wrong – my life is good, and I have a whole lot to be thankful for.
In fact, I pretty much love my life even though it’s not perfect. So this verse sums it up nicely.
Just for fun, here are some other ways Proverbs 15:17 is translated in different Bible versions:
- Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred. (NIV)
- A simple meal with love is better than a feast where there is hatred. (Contemporary English Version)
- Better to have a dish of vegetables where there is love than juicy steaks where there is hate. (GOD’S WORD Translation)
Living in a home with love is better than living with hatred, whether you have juicy steaks or just potatoes. 😉 There’s nothing wrong with a juicy steak, just as long as it’s served with a side of love.
But the verse is even better in context, because its meaning becomes clearer, even in King James English. Here’s some of the context of Proverbs 15:17:
All the days of the afflicted are evil: But he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.
Better is little with the fear [reverence] 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.
In this short section we are encouraged to value a merry heart, respect of the Lord, and love. All of them are sort of hard to portray on Instagram, but in real life, they’re so valuable! And all of them are decisions we make – not fleeting feelings or emotions.
Proverbs is written to young people, and really to anyone else who needs wisdom and instruction. You can see this in chapter one; specifically Proverbs 1:4a where it says it’s to give “…to the young man knowledge and discretion.” And you can see the proof of this when you read through Proverbs.
There’s so much practical, sound instruction in this book. I don’t pretend to understand all of it, but I’m really thankful for the parts I understand.
And one part I understand is that when I serve a meal (or do anything else) I want to be doing it with love, thankfulness to God who is the provider, and a merry heart. Maybe it’s a simple meal that didn’t cost a lot, and maybe it isn’t even Pinterest-worthy, but when there’s love around the table, it’s better than a gourmet meal.
And in the age of the internet, I think it’s important to have that reminder. Not that there’s anything new under the sun; the young people in the time when Proverbs was written must have needed that advice too, or it wouldn’t have been written.
But the goal is to look for the love in your home, and in your life, and in your actions, over looking at how Insta-perfect it may or may not be. And what a relief to know that you don’t really need to be Insta-worthy to be worthy. You don’t. You’re worth it to God. And your life, if it’s pretty nice, is a lot better than some – no matter what things may look like. So go for that. Go for the real gold, which is to have reverence for God, to have the love of God in your dealings, and to have the continual feast of a merry heart.
*This word “better” in verses 16 and 17 is used in 17 other places in Proverbs, according to my Bullinger’s Companion Bible. I looked them all up and listed them below, if you’re interested. I was. When God compares one thing to another, you know His comparisons are going to be right.
Other uses of the Hebrew word for “better” in Proverbs:
- 3:14 [wisdom and understanding] is better than …silver, and…fine gold
- 8:11 Wisdom is better than rubies
- 8:19 My [wisdom’s] fruit is better than gold…
- 12:9 …despised [little noticed, according to Bullinger], and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.
- 16:32 …slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
- 17:1 Better is is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.
- 19:1 Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
- 19:22 …a poor man is better than a liar.
- 21:9 …better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
- 21:19 …better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.
- 25:7 …better it is that it be said unto thee ‘come up hither’ than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince…
- 25:24 …better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.
- 27:5 Open rebuke is better than secret love.
- 27:10 …better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.
- 28:6 Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways though he be rich.