The book of Proverbs is placed in the setting of Solomon, the wise king of Israel, teaching life lessons and imparting wisdom to his son. Solomon is setting his son down and trying to teach him about how he can have the good life now. Today we are going to look at how to have joy in living. Solomon spends a lot of time trying show his son how the decisions he will make in his life will either bring him great joy or great sorrow. I hope that we will think about implementing the example of Solomon in these proverbs. Not only should we consider these proverbs and make applications to ourselves, but we should also think about taking the opportunity to sit our children down and teaching them these important life lessons. But before we look at Solomon’s teachings about joyful living, he reminds his son about the pain of making bad life decisions.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (17:22). “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken” (15:13). “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful hearthas a continual feast” (15:15).
Sorrow In Life
“A man’s spirit can endure sickness, but who can lift up a broken spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14). Solomon points out that you and I can endure a lot in life. We will go through illnesses. We will go through difficult times of suffering. We will have to face trials in life. But the crushing of one’s spirit cannot be overcome. I am sure that there are many here who have experienced a crushed spirit. Bad things crush the spirit. As downtrodden as we can be from physical sickness, the impact of emotional and spiritual disaster is far-reaching. The effects of divorce and sexual infidelity cut deep into our souls. The emotional damage of malicious words and evil intentions hurt more than physical illnesses. Solomon is pointing out that the internal pain from not living a good life is severe and must not underestimated.
Other people cannot understand our suffering. We can have people be sympathetic to our situation, but no one knows the hurt like we know our hurt. “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy” (14:10). “Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound” (25:20). It is hard for people to understand how difficult our situation is. People who are trying to be helpful with cheerful words are often simply adding to the pain. Saying things like “it could be worse” is not comfort to those with a heavy heart. The point of looking at these proverbs is to remind ourselves that we do not want to go through those difficult times. We do not want to be in those times of anguish, nor do we want our children to have to endure those difficult times.
But if there is any overriding point that the Proverbs teach is that we can cause suffering in our own lives and in the lives of others. Our decisions, that we often do not give much weight or thought to, actually can have a tremendous impact on our lives and the lives of others. The ripple of our choices can be greater than we would ever believe. Decisions that may seem rather small at the time hold the key to a tremendous life impact. Choices like where we go to college, who we marry, where we live, and what our occupation is can irreversibly alter the course of our lives. Bad decisions in these areas can bring a broken spirit that cannot be lifted up. So let us look at the proverbs that teach us how to have joy in living.
Sinful Decisions Brings Sorrow; Righteous Decisions Brings Joy
“The hope of the righteous is gladness, but the expectation of the wicked perishes” (10:28). There is an expectation that comes from righteous living and that is a joyful life. The expectation of a good life is lost for those who choose the road of violating God’s laws. I have been asked the question wanting to know what I would change in my life if I decided to give up on God and stop obeying his commands. But there is nothing I would change because God’s laws, even if I did not believe in God, lead to having a good life now. Do we suppose that going and committing adultery will make us happy? Millions think so, but they are still unhappy. Do we think that stealing will make us happy? Millions do so, but they are still unhappy. Do we think that getting drunk every weekend will make us happy? Do we think that going to clubs and bars will make us happy? Do we think any activity in the world that is prohibited by God will bring us long lasting, true joy? Millions think so and engage in those activities, yet do not find any lasting joy. This is what Solomon is trying to tell his son. Don’t engage in the activities of wickedness because you will not find any joy there. I have talked to so many people who have lived those lifestyles and are not happy. People who have lived promiscuous lives are not happy. People who have lived practicing homosexuality are in great pain. People who have used drugs and abused alcohol suffered under the scourge of those chemicals.
“An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad” (29:6). There is no way to convince you but to ask you to try living the righteous life. You have tried living the life of selfishness and yet you are still seeking for more. You have tried working outrageous hours, yet have not found satisfaction in your life through work. You have tried accumulating wealth only to find you do not have any more now than when you started. You have tried seeking happiness in numerous outlets, yet still we have an emotional, spiritual void that physical things does not fill. Solomon says that we are only hurting ourselves by committing ourselves to sin. We become trapped by various vices. We become addicted to sex, addicted to alcohol and drugs, addicted to possessions and other vices. Why do we think this is happiness by become a slave to physical things?
Make Wise Plans To Have Joyful Living
The proverbs have been full of admonitions to make wise decisions and plans. The following proverb is a unique picture for our consideration. “Prepare your work outside, get everything ready for you in the field; and after that build your house” (24:27). This is a Hebrew idiom which is not talking about how to build a house. Rather, Solomon is teaching his son about life planning. We saw the usage of this idiom when we studied the excellent woman: “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (14:1). We saw that this proverb mean that the wise woman realize that she sets the tone of the house. She has a dramatic impact on her marriage and on her children.
In Proverbs 24:27 Solomon is teaching about the building a home. We need to know this and teach our children this: do things in their proper order. This is what Solomon just taught his son: do things in their proper order. When we do things out of order, then we are more likely to have problems. This proverb is an idiom for marriage. Marriage is to be last; get everything else prepared first. We have a society that now condones doing things backward and it only makes for a difficult life. We have people having children first, then getting married, then finding a job, and finally trying to get an education. This, of course, is not wisdom. Solomon says that a person should make preparations for work first. Go get your training or go get your education first. Next, Solomon says to get the field ready. In our language, we would say to go get a job that can support the building of the house. Once all of these pieces are in place, then build the house. After these preparations are made, then get married and have children.
I know a number of people who did not listen to these words of advice and have found themselves in life difficulties. I have a friend who got married first after only about a year or two of college. He was unable to finish college because he could not support his wife while going to school full time. Now they cannot afford to have children because he cannot get a good job because he never finished his education. This was not wise planning according to Solomon. I have another friend who had a child first and then got married next. They got divorced and he never was able to get an education. So he works at an auto parts store. There is nothing wrong with working at an auto parts store, but because he has custody of his son, he is not able to go do what he wanted to do with his life. His life is not as great as it could have been if he had done things in its proper order.
We are doing anyone any favors by cheerleading people to make bad decisions. After reading these proverbs over the past few months, do you think that Solomon would have applauded his son for making bad decisions? Do we think that Solomon would have overlooked his son’s bad choices? I do not believe so. These proverbs indicate that he would have trained his son in the way he should go by telling him that these are bad decisions and he needs to change course before it is too late.
I have seen too many lives go through turmoil simply because the person ignored following this proper order. Notice how Solomon is putting a responsibility on his son to think his life through. How are you going to build your house (have a wife and children) when you have not first made everything ready. When life decisions are not made in their proper order, we are asking for problems to come. My father drilled this proverb into my head while I was in high school and begin to have to make the big life decisions. We need to do more to teach ourselves to do things in their proper order and also teach our children so that they can have the good life now.
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with precious and pleasant treasures” (24:3-4). Notice that Solomon uses the same picture of building a house. Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are required to build a good home for yourself, your spouse and your children. If we want our home to be full of precious, pleasant treasures (this is not talking about physical decorations, but having a pleasant home life), then proper planning and wisdom is needed. Do not put things out of order. Be thoughtful about your life decisions. Decide carefully about your work, your home, your marriage, your family, and your location. These decisions make a dramatic impact on our lives that we often do not consider.
“Desire without knowledge is not good, and one who moves too hurriedly misses the way” (19:2). Just because we want to do something does not make it a good idea. Think your life through first. Think about the impact of your decisions. Make wise plans before following through with your desires. A hasty decision can lead to severe consequences and a complete change in the course of one’s life.
Application and Conclusion:
All of us want to have the good life now. All of us want our children to have a better life than what we have led for ourselves. God wants those things for us and our children as well. That is why God has given us His Word to teach us how to have the good life now. Society has led us astray into believing that we will have joy in these other life pursuits. Society tries to tell us that we will find our identity in our work or in being a success. But these pursuits are not fulfilling. These things are not who you are. We have to put things in their proper perspective and do things in their proper order. Your family is more valuable than your work. Your children are more valuable than wealth. We need to make decisions that will bring joy to our homes, not sorrow. Following God’s laws will bring joy in your life. You will not be wasting your time in empty, vain activities. I was with a young woman on a day when she seemed to be near rock bottom in her life trying to give her some counseling. She said that she had tried all that this world had to offer. She had wealth. She had been married. She owned business. She went to parties. She had been so drunk she could not remember what had happened. She had experienced life and had been ruined by trying it all. Her life was devastated. She had come to realize that God’s laws made sense.
God did not give these laws out of wrath, but out of love. His love for you is so great that he does not want to see you put yourself through such pain and suffering. No parent wants to see their child hurt themselves with bad decisions. God does not want to see us hurt ourselves. So God wrote a book to tell you and I how to live. God knew we would need help and guidance in this life. But God also knew that we would not do everything he said to do. He knew that we would follow our own desires and that we would have to try some things out for ourselves. He saw us wounded and sick because of our own bad choices. And God knew there was a way to make us well. No parent would think twice about doing something that would heal their child. God did not think twice and that is why he sent Jesus to die for every person. Jesus’ death could heal us from our wounded lives. Every violation of God’s law has brought pain to ourselves and to others. Jesus came offering rest from the pain.
Therefore Jesus declared, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).