Evil Days vs. a Continual Feast
ALL THE DAYS OF THE AFFLICTED ARE EVIL
1. Afflicted: poor; humble; weak; wretched; needy; oppressed, i.e., pertaining to being a lowly, needy state; miserable; wretched with the focus on the trouble and hardship caused by poverty.
a. This term is almost always translated POOR.
b. Solomon is speaking about a particular kind of affliction: poverty.
c. Of course, application could be made to all kinds of other afflictions, but Solomon is speaking about poverty in this passage… and two very different responses to it.
2. Evil: bad; disagreeable; malignant; unpleasant; misery; injury; calamity; distress; adversity.
a. To some men afflicted with poverty, every day is evil: miserable, disagreeable, unpleasant.
b. WHY? The reason is not stated explicitly, but putting the two sides of this proverb together it is clearly implied.
c. Why are all the days of this poor man miserable, disagreeable, and unpleasant? Because the spirit of the man himself is miserable, disagreeable, and unpleasant!
3. The point: unfavorable circumstances can RUIN the lives of some folks.
a. Every day is miserable because this poor, afflicted man has not yet learned to be content.
b. His source of joy and happiness is related to things that are out of his reach… treasures of this world which can be destroyed by moths or rust or thieves.
c. Wealth does not bring happiness. One man said: “Wealth only makes misery more comfortable!”
d. When one’s joy is found in the Lord—even poverty and other forms of affliction won’t get us down… at least not for long.
e. Hab. 3:17-18 – 17Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
• Poverty didn’t get this man down!
• His cheerfulness was not dependent upon wealth. The Lord was the strength of his heart—and his joy.
• Of course there is a certain amount of earthly grief and discouragement that comes from failed crops—after all the work he put into his vineyard!
• But a poor year on the farm—or in the office—or in the family business—does not have to translate into a poor year with the Lord.
• In fact, such years of physical poverty CAN be (with the right attitude) prove to be exceedingly WEALTHY years spiritually!
f. Phil. 4:11-14 – Habakkuk didn’t allow his poverty to get him down spiritually. Poverty didn’t get Paul down either.
• He LEARNED to be content.
• He saw various forms of affliction as learning opportunities…
• He grew spiritually through various seasons of life… times of abundance and times of poverty.
• Paul was afflicted with poverty and no one but the Philippians seemed to offer assistance.
• But he didn’t grow bitter. He learned to LEAN on Christ. He experienced the strength of Christ in him
• Vs. 15-18 – Paul learned that even though in the world he suffered need—in Christ he was abounding!
4. But not all afflicted people have the spirit of a Paul or Habakkuk.
a. Solomon’s point is that some folks who are afflicted (with poverty or any other affliction) seem to let their affliction dominate their lives… and life is miserable to them.
b. They allow unfavorable circumstances to RUIN their lives… and make life miserable.
c. Such a person is a slave to circumstances… And let’s face it… Circumstances in a cursed earth are not always favorable!
d. If our happiness is dependent upon favorable circumstances: it’s going to be long, tough, miserable life!
BUT HE THAT IS OF A MERRY HEART HATH A CONTINUAL FEAST
1. Solomon now contrasts two kinds of persons.
a. At first glance, it appears that he contrasting a person afflicted with poverty and a merry/happy person. (poverty and happiness)
b. It seems better to understand Solomon’s contrast this way: a poor person who is not happy and a poor person who is happy.
2. One issue to settle in this verse is this: is the continual feast the RESULT of the merry heart or is it the CAUSE of the merry heart?
a. In other words, does this person have a merry heart because he is wealthy and has a continual feast before him? Does he have a merry heart because of merry circumstances?
b. OR does this person have a continual feast even in the midst of poverty… BECAUSE he is a merry person… a content person with a merry heart?
→ This second view is correct.
→ Solomon is teaching that if a man is a cheerful person with a merry heart, even if he is poor—he is happy!
→ 15:17 – this is similar to what he states here.
→ If the spirit is right (love) then a dinner of wild vegetables is better than a steak dinner around a table full of unhappy, bitter, angry people!
→ Where the attitude is right (love; contentment; cheerfulness) even a peanut butter sandwich is a feast!
3. A continual feast.
a. It appears that his continual feast is not necessarily the result of favorable circumstances, but rather, it is due to his merry heart.
b. A person who is cheerful and has a merry heart will be cheerful regardless of his circumstances.
c. Our disposition rather than our circumstances is the key to enjoying an abundant life.
• Paul and Silas sang in prison.
• Job praised God when everything was taken from him. The Lord took away: Blessed be the name of the Lord!
• The Hebrew believers took joyfully the spoiling of their goods.
• In Acts, the apostles were imprisoned and then beaten, yet they went away “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
d. It is the condition of our heart—our inner man that determines whether we are miserable or cheerful… not the stock market… not the job market… not the traffic… not our health… not any tranquility from without. It is tranquility from within!
e. The same set of circumstances may befall two different kinds of persons (loss of income; loss of health; tragedy; accident; loss of mobility; loss of a relationship; house burning down; etc…) — and there will two very different reactions.
f. Even something like losing a baseball game can reveal differences in the hearts of men. Sports are good training for that reason.
• Some folks can walk away from a loss and say, “That was fun.”
• Others tromp away in a rage, complaining about this call, saying the refs are not fair, and angry at the coach etc…
g. Some folks find themselves with a handicap. One person may handle it well, and learn to life with it and be cheerful. Another with the same handicap grows bitter and resentful.
h. Solomon noticed that about human nature.
• It isn’t really one’s health, income, social status, intellect, looks, talents, or favorable circumstances that determine whether a person will be happy or not. It is his heart attitude.
j. Enjoying life is not determined by what’s happening on the outside, all around us. It is determined by what’s going on inside… in our heart… our inner man… our inner attitudes.
k. This passage teaches that a merry person with a merry heart is going to be merry in any environment… in any set of circumstances! A miserable person will also be miserable in any circumstances.
l. People find themselves in unhappy circumstances all the time—and think that if they could just change their circumstances or their environment, that life would be happy again.
• For this reason we have a high divorce rate.
• For this reason, we have folks running from one church to another.
• For this reason we have people who face problems and pack up their goods and move to Miami, hoping that life will be happy there… in a new environment… leaving all my problems behind.
• The problem is, if we leave our spouse, leave our local church, leave our job, or even leave our country because we are not happy… we are not really leaving our problem behind.
• SELF is the problem… and there isn’t any way to leave him behind. He goes with you to Miami, or to a new church… or to a new marriage.
• That kind of thinking is wrong! If life is miserable, it is a heart problem, not an environmental problem!
• As a Christian, the right way to deal with our real problem (self) is the cross!
• That miserable old man will follow us everywhere and make life miserable until we by faith learn to leave him on the cross where he belongs!
• As a new creature in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, we will then learn to be CONTENT. And even if dinner is a bowl of plain rice, it will be a continual feast if our heart is full of the joy of the Lord!
4. Obvious application: those who have a merry heart ought to try to cheer up and encourage those who are afflicted and are miserable.
a. One way to cheer them is to try to improve their circumstances. (if they are poor, give money; if they are weak, do something for them that they are not able to do)
b. But the best way to cheer up a person who is miserable, is to point him to the Source of unending joy: Christ.
• The money you give will be an immediate, but short-lived encouragement…
• Because that kind of help doesn’t change the HEART of the person. After the money is gone, then he’s back to his old, miserable, square one.
• But if we teach a person to focus on that which is eternal, then he too can learn to have a continual feast, regardless of his earthly condition.
• If we teach a person to encourage himself in the Lord, he has a valuable skill! (David at Ziklag)
• It is the difference between giving a hungry man a fish and teaching him how to fish.