Bible Society of South Africa

To be contented - 14 September 2023

By Ben Fourie

Bible text(s)

1Better to eat a dry crust of bread with peace of mind than to have a banquet in a house full of trouble.

Proverbs 17:1GNBOpen in Bible reader

Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, is one of the most iconic novels of all time. The old knight-errant and his alter ego, Sancho Panza, teaches us so much about life. When I read the proverb for today, I remembered a passage from the book. It was translated by Andre P Brink from Spanish to Afrikaans. I am going to do my best to translate what Sancho Panza is saying, from Afrikaans to English: “Even if it is only a piece of bread and some onions that I am eating in my little corner, without having to bother about table manners and fads, it tasted much better than the turkey on a table where I have to chew slowly, don’t drink too much, wipe my mouth frequently and where I cannot cough or sneeze when I want to.”

A dry crust of bread with nothing to drink with it, against a table overflowing with “sacrifices”, is how the King James Version translates it. The word “sacrifice” in the original is a bit problematic to translate, but might point to a banquet where meat was in abundance. We find the same idea in Proverbs 15:17: “Better to eat vegetables with people you love than to eat the finest meat where there is hate.” The proverb wants to draw our attention to the big contrast between a crust of bread and a gourmet meal.

Meals, in biblical times, were a much less hurried affair than what we have in most of our homes these days. The main meal of the day was usually a joyful occasion, where families were often joined by friends to spend a peaceful hour or two with each other. Strife and trouble were not part of such an occasion.

The author of Proverbs uses this metaphor of a simple meal with peace of mind, in contrast to a banquet and a house full of trouble, to teach us the very important lesson of love and harmony. This is not only necessary in an ordinary family, it is also very important in the family of God, where there should be no disputes and fighting at all.

Prayer: Father, thank you for teaching us, through this easy-to-understand proverb, that peace and rest are much more important than being very important myself. Please help me to live accordingly. Amen

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