Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

Contentment (Aḥiqar 136)

Posted by jac/cdc on February 22, 2007

אל תבסר זי בעדבך ואל תרגג לכביר זי ימנע מנך

Do not despise that which is not your lot, and do not covet some great thing that is withheld from you.

Contentment has always been a challenge. This proverb warns on the one hand of sour grapes, and on the other hand of jealousy. However given our modern culture of “militant consumerism” (Brueggemann’s term), this notion is radical. No one should have to accept a “lot” in life, nor should I ever have a thing “withheld” from me. If I do, I’ll sue!

At our Ash Wednesday service our priest reminded us that the Day of the Lord does not turn the world “upside down,” as it is often describe, but “right-side up,” back in its proper order. The sages recognized certain things are “proper” and “improper” in a world ordered by God’s wisdom. The role of mortals is to look to God and find contentment in their place in the order of his world. This is not, however, fatalistic; the sages go on to offer sound advice, derived from the wisdom of God and the ages, on how to navigate life successfully. But this instruction cannot begin from a militant consumerist mentality!

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