Proverbs 15:17

What Love and Hatred Can Do



1. This proverb is quite similar to vs.16, with a few differences.

a. They both contrast poverty with wealth.
• Vs. 16 – little vs. great treasures
• Vs. 17 – a poor man’s meal vs. a wealthy man’s meal.

b. They both teach a similar truth: poverty can be better than wealth, and often is. That which really determines one’s wealth is not his earthly treasures or his lavish meals, but his heart attitude.

c. There is also a notable difference between the two:
• Vs. 16 – the heart attitude that makes poverty better is the fear of the Lord.
• Vs. 17 – the heart attitude that makes poverty better than wealth is love.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is…

1. In one sense, the contrast appears to be between a bowl of vegetables vs. a steak dinner.

a. For most folks, there is no contest! Steak dinner is better!

b. The contrast is between poverty and wealth… a poor man’s meal and a wealthy man’s meal.

c. When viewed at that level, anyone and everyone—rich and poor alike would choose the steak dinner if they had their choice!

d. Given that choice, choose the steak dinner. It’s way better!

2. But the REAL contrast in the passage is between a steak dinner with a side order of hatred… and a bowl of broccoli with a side order of love.

a. If you have to eat the whole thing—side order and all, then the dinner of herbs is better!

b. A poor man’s meal of plain vegetables is better than the rich man’s banquet, if it is accompanied by love.

c. In this case, choose the herbs! It is far better!

d. All things being equal, no one in their right mind would choose poverty over being prosperous. That would be like choosing sickness over health.

e. But take a deeper look at this proverb.

f. Sometimes, things come with STRINGS attached. This is what Solomon is getting at in this proverb.

3. A deeper principle appears upon further thought…

a. Many things in life APPEAR to be superior on the surface, until we dig a little deeper and read the fine print.

b. When offered a steak dinner in life—be sure to ask what comes WITH it!

c. On the surface, of course a steak dinner is superior to a bowl of rice. But when the whole package is examined, the rice dish might prove to be better!

d. If you are offered a new position at work—a raise from a bowl of rice to a steak dinner, so to speak—be sure to ask what comes with it!

e. On the surface, the pay and position might seem to be better, but when the whole package is examined (all the new responsibilities that come with it) the old job and lower pay might be better in the long run!

f. Sometimes choices on the surface seem like a no-brainer!
→ Of course steak is better dinner. Why bother giving it any further thought?
→ Advertisers prey on this principle: they have ways of wording their sales pitch that make buying their product SOUND like an obvious choice. Why look any further? Why read the fine print?
→ Of course I should go to this college; that’s where all my friends are going! It’s obviously better, why bother praying about it? (Do you see the potential danger in this kind of thinking?)
→ Lot looked out over the landscape and saw a very appealing lush valley… the lush valley compared to the other drier areas was like comparing a steak dinner to bowl of rice. Of course you choose the lush valley! Why think about it? Why investigate further? Why pray about it? The choice is obvious.
→ BUT, the lush valley of Sodom came with a side dish… it was an evil city!

4. There is something that can make the poor man’s dinner BETTER than the rich man’s feast: LOVE.
a. Love can SWEETEN the most meager portions in life and make them better than prosperity.

b. It is far better to be poor and have genuine LOVE in the family… displayed at mealtime… than to have 6 cars, 3 homes, 2 boats, 3 bank accounts, and 4 lawyers ready to divide it all up in divorce court!

c. This is Solomon’s main point in this proverb.

d. LOVE can transform poverty into something BETTER than wealth!

e. Psalm 133:1 – dwelling in unity (and love) is SO pleasant!
• When family members dwell in love, they can have a grand time around a table spread with peanut butter sandwiches.
• They can enjoy their mealtime far better than the royal family can enjoy their banquet in the palace… when accompanied by hatred.
• The same principle applies in the local church: when there is love and unity in the body, the fellowship is a taste of heaven on earth!
• When there is no love or unity—but hatred, it can be a taste of just the opposite!

f. Prov. 15:15 – A merry heart can turn any meal into a feast!
• This is the same principle in different words… with a slightly different twist.
• Here that which sweetens up a poor meal and is able to turn it into a feast (make it better) is a merry heart—a sweet disposition—a happy, joyous attitude.
• The heart attitude towards those sharing a meal with us can make a poor man’s meal a feast!
• No wonder the Lord instituted the Lord’s Table –an occasion when believers sit around a table to share a meal with one another… and no wonder it is to be preceded by a time of self-examination!
• Without love for the brethren and love for the Lord –we turn the Lord’s Table into a mockery.
• But a simple cracker and juice WITH LOVE, is a FEAST!
• In vs.17 Solomon states that LOVE for those sitting around ANY table can turn it into a feast… including your family’s kitchen table… even if it’s only leftovers!
• Thus, in the immediate context of vs.15-17, Solomon lists 3 things that will transform meager conditions into banquet-like conditions:
→ A merry heart (vs.15)
→ A fear of God (vs.16)
→ Love (vs.17)

• Thus, if we want a continual feast,… if we want to transform our meager portion in life into something BETTER than a feast, what REALLY needs transforming is not the condition of our bank roll, the condition of our earthly circumstances, but the condition of our heart!
• I have known both types of people: God-fearing folks who love the Lord, love people, and love life, who seem to be eternally cheerful though not well off financially… and I have known some miserable wealthy folks who, though they possess many things, don’t seem to be able to enjoy any of them.
• It is far better to love the Lord, love people, and love life… even if you do have to eat rice.
• It is better to eat rice and enjoy it and be satisfied, than to eat steak and not enjoy the meal.

Than a stalled ox and hatred therewith

1. This man has a stalled ox for his meal.

a. This is a fatted calf—a desirable meal of luxury!

b. This speaks of the meal of a well to do man… a wealthy man… prosperous in the world.

c. He is able to afford the “best.”

d. But Solomon’s point is that his meal is not really the best!

e. Everyone would look upon this man’s circumstances and agree that this meal is best… this man is truly BLESSED!

2. BUT—the steak dinner comes with a side order of HATRED.

a. This hatred is powerful enough to REVERSE his blessings.

b. Hatred undermines his capacity to ENJOY his blessings.

c. Possessing material blessings does not guarantee that the owner is able to ENJOY them.

3. A bad attitude… a bitter spirit… a lack of love… can RUIN the best of events.

a. It ruins a banquet here.

b. It can ruin a trip to Disneyland too!

c. It can ruin all your efforts to go camping.

d. It can ruin a very expensive ski trip to Vail.

e. It can ruin a first class suite on a cruise to Hawaii.

f. Has it ever happened to you?
• You planned this big family vacation for months, saved all year for it, and then when you finally hop in the car to go—tempers flare… bad attitudes boil up… hurtful words are spoken… the atmosphere is poisoned.
• Suddenly your dream vacation is no fun… you almost feel like heading home.
g. Try this: pull the car over… have a family prayer time… confess your sin of an angry, bitter spirit… apologize to those you hurt—and then go to Disneyland and enjoy the rest of the vacation!

4. The cure for the issue Solomon raises is to deal with the attitude of our heart.

a. A merry heart doesn’t need a trip to Vail or Disneyland to have an enjoyable time.

b. With love and a merry heart—a meagerly picnic at Billerica common can be as enjoyable as a trip to Vail.

c. Just as a good spirit can SWEETEN poverty and make it better than wealth, a hateful spirit can SOUR wealth and make it worse than poverty!

d. Prov. 21:19 – if the attitude in the house is contentious and bitter—life in the wilderness is better than living in a comfortable home!

e. Heart attitude is everything.

f. There are many extremely wealthy people who are so miserable, hateful, suspicious, jealous, etc… that they are unable to ENJOY the physical blessings they possess.

5. Remember, the MAIN contrast here is not between the poverty and wealth, but between love vs. hate—the spirit of the man or woman.

a. Solomon mentions the possibility of a wealthy man with a hateful spirit.

b. Of course, it is equally possible for a poor man to have a hateful spirit too. That’s a subject for another proverb!
• The BEST situation is the steak dinner with love.
• But if you have to choose between steak dinner and hatred or a bowl of vegetables and love—choose LOVE!
• It is superior—far more enjoyable.

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