Proverbs 27:23-27 (NASB)
23 Know well the condition of your flocks,
And pay attention to your herds;
24 For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown endure to all generations.
25 When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen,
And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
26 The lambs will be for your clothing,
And the goats will bring the price of a field,
27 And there will be goats’ milk enough for your food,
For the food of your household,
And sustenance for your maidens.
Here is a fascinating word from the wealthiest man in the world, King Solomon, to a group of men who were hand to mouth on the bottom of the nation’s social register – shepherds. Shepherds would no doubt have spent much of their day dreaming about the splendor of life in the king’s palace in Jerusalem. When they took Sunday drives with their family they would have moseyed by the palace and wondered what the privileged were doing on their day off.
But Solomon gives a caution to them. “Look well to your flocks.” This simply means “don’t be discontent and envious in your job but do it diligently and excellently.” His reason? “Riches are not forever and splendor will not endure.” It means, “Do not be misled by what I have because it won’t last. It’s highly overrated. It’s only temporary.”
But shepherds in the following verses have all they need: food, milk, covering, land, a home, wife and family. Solomon exhorts them to contentment and to the delight of the simple life: the uncomplicated life. The contented life, uncluttered and uncomplicated by the complexity that Solomon faced each day; the complexity and ambition that robbed him of the joy of life. That which brought pain to his father, David, and death to his brothers, Amnon, Absolam, and Adonijah. Solomon watched his father’s home and his own. Though unimaginably wealthy Solomon never knew a happy, peaceful, and simple life. It’s as if he is envious of his shepherds. Who knows that he did not hear stories of the pastoral life from his father and long for a quiet life. This passage is Citizen Kane’s “rosebud.”
I have heard that a study was once done on happiness – what group of people were the happiest. The answer? The Amish. They had the final answers from their religion. They had a strong family. They were communal – meaning they had a strong community of friends and were never at the risk of being alone and were separated from much of the societal corruption. But a main reason is that their life was simple, uncomplicated, debt free, and non-stressed. Makes sense. It’s why we love Thomas Kinkade’s art. It is restful. Peaceful. Simple. Safe. Warm. Protected. Quiet.
Solomon said, “Enjoy the simple pleasures.” David would say the same. “I have not involved myself in matters too lofty for me. I have composed and quieted my soul like a weaned child against his mother.” (Ps 131)
Like man in the garden, with a job to do, and a family (the start of one anyway) and food, and a God he walks with in the cool of the day. Adam. Man.
…the dark of the early morning with good coffee and the Bible before me on an unmarked page.
…to sit in the evening on our patio (i.e. a concrete slab from a pre-existing migrant house left over from a pre-existing chicken farm) surrounded by our garden with a cup of coffee, visiting in the cool with Teresa, along with our 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 3 chickens – sweet!
…sitting behind the first base dugout at a Ranger game with friends, eating a Nolan Ryan burger and watching the best play the greatest game.
…the quiet of evening and a really good book.
…Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
…grandkids, any or all, anyplace that will allow them to be yelled at.
…a clear conscience (without which all the rest are dulled).
…a Saturday morning with nothing scheduled. A garden waiting.
…rain…sitting on the porch.
…Law and Order on a Saturday morning with Jack McCoy, Lenny and Green.
…a used bookstore…browsing…discovering treasures.
…an antique store…majoring in the 50’s and 60’s…as I am an antique.
…sitting down to a brown bag with folks in the church I don’t know but am about to know and digging into the uniqueness that makes them, well, them!
…going west in a pickup with huntin’ buddies to sit under a mesquite tree on a cool September afternoon and wait for the doves to come over.
You know what I’ve observed? Life is what you do on the way to your ambitions. We dream and labor and build and maintain then get old and downsize and move back into the same square footage as our first house then retire and delight in sipping ice tea and scratchin’ the cat and then think “deja vu.” “Oh yeah, I did this in college. That sure was nice.” Still is.
Ambition is o.k. So is attainment. But enjoy the ride. Smell the roses. Remember that Revelation 22:1-5, the eternal state, is in the country and in the shade, a picnic with family.
American-ism demands that we succeed and success means money that requires attaining which means dreaming, planning, initiating, persevering, and succeeding. Thanks to gas we can travel – fast. Thanks to Thomas Edison we turn night into day. A day life and night life. A Sunday is a day free to plan more. We are Americans. Individuals with a capital “I”. In fact, early visitors from England recognized this of Americans – in a hurry, a place to go, dreams to realize, failure to avert. But we wear down. All careers just become jobs. “Splendor will not endure.”
What do you look forward to each day?
Do you know what the Hebrew word is for “delight”?