15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord
than great wealth with turmoil.
17 Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred.
When it comes to happiness, perspective is more important than circumstances. There is always something that could be better, someone who should act differently, somewhere you would rather be. The oppressed are well aware of such things, especially those they cannot control. This traps them in feelings of powerlessness and gloom. But attitudes are often much easier to change than circumstances. As those with cheerful hearts know, every challenge is an opportunity and in every day there is something to be grateful for.
“Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” Wealth certainly does not ensure happiness, as so many people assume. But it does ensure complexity. On the other hand this verse does not romanticize poverty, for it too has its turmoils. The emphasis is rather on the fear of the Lord, which gives hope and peace no matter the circumstances. “Give me neither poverty nor riches,” prayed Agur, “but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
“Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.” The people in our lives are much more essential to our happiness than the things we consume. If our hunger for love is fulfilled, what does it matter if we have only vegetables to share? But hatred can spoil the best of meals, which can never satisfy a starving soul. Do you focus more on the people you love or on the things you consume?