Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 24 2019 - Proverbs 16 – Better a little with righteousness

These chapters of Proverbs that we are looking over the next few days are not in the form of an extended discourse or argument but consist rather of a series of sometimes unconnected proverbial sayings. In reflecting on these chapters I plan to pick out a single theme for reflection. This morning I have chosen Proverbs 16:8:

Better a little with righteousness
than much gain with injustice.

The Western world is currently going through an economic crisis brought on by excessive debts. These in turn have been fuelled by the insatiable desire for more: the desire of the individual who runs up credit card debts that they cannot repay; the activity of speculators and fund managers who devote so much imagination to brokering a good deal – even making huge profits out of a crisis that brings misery to millions; the continual desire for cheap food, unrestricted personal mobility and the latest gadgets and toys. Meanwhile we have turned a blind eye to the costs of our insatiable demands: the destruction of rain forests for the growing of soya and palm oil; the imposition of subsistence living upon the peoples of other nations as they are enslaved to the production of raw materials for our consumption. We have made ourselves fat while others starve.

And how do we react to the present crisis? We bewail the effects of the current disaster and demand that something should be done to enable us to return to business as usual: growth in GDP; annual wage increases greater than the rate of inflation; an ever increasing standard of living; a return to the religion of "More" – more for us, even at the expense of others.

When will we ever recognise that we have enough? If everyone on the planet lived as I live we would need two-and-a-half planets to meet this level of consumption. We only have one.

As I write, many school children and young people are protesting against Climate Change. I saw a number of them marching through Bristol with placards such as "Social Change not Climate Change". They are concerned about the state of the planet that we are handing on as our legacy to them. They are aware that the world literally cannot go on like this. Our pride in our own ability to harness nature and its resources to our own ends is driving us along a road to destruction (v. 18, see also v. 25).

"Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice." All too often we read such a proverb in purely individualistic terms. We argue that we have earned our wages honestly and fairly and have spent them well – even giving generously to charity. But that is not enough. We need to look afresh at the structures of our society and ask what it means to pursue righteousness in banking, commerce, international trade, international development and planet care.

Verse 6 of this chapter says, "Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided." Love for God, for the world has made and for others, particularly our children, may convict us of our folly and drive us to repentance. Further evil may be avoided and atonement made for past wrongs as we begin to repair the damage we have done. We need to turn from love of self and love of our own ways to loving God and living by the wisdom that comes from his Spirit. And those in leadership positions in our society need to take the lead in such repentance and change of direction – see the references to the responsibility of the king in this chapter and think of how this applies to our own society.

Almighty God, you have entrusted your creation to our care and we have abused that trust. Open our eyes to the injustice that is woven into the very fabric of our society. Give us the wisdom to see how to live counter-culturally and to bring healing and transformation to a hurting world. Break our pride and give us a spirit of repentance and contentment.

Peter Misselbrook