Drama! I confess I am not a fan of drama in my house. And here I am living with three women! I guess the joke’s on me!
OK, before I get in real trouble here, let me say that I have noticed the older I get, the more I like quiet and smooth sailing. And yet, I’m a parish priest of a growing congregation filled with dynamic people, the head of a growing media ministry, and soon to be the father of a teenage daughter! So, all my protestations about not liking drama really do come off as a bit disingenuous, don’t they?
But still, I do like it when things go smoothly. Reality is, however, another matter. And my Orthodox Faith DEMANDS I deal with reality, not the delusion of my own selfish fantasy world!
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 21:3-21:
To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin. The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but every one who is hasty comes only to want. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death. The violence of the wicked will sweep them away, because they refuse to do what is just. The way of the guilty is crooked, but the conduct of the pure is right. It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious woman. The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes. When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge. The righteous observes the house of the wicked; the wicked are cast down to ruin. He who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be heard. A gift in secret averts anger; and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath. When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but dismay to evildoers. A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead. He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich. The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the faithless for the upright. It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and fretful woman. Precious treasure remains in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it. He who pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor.
Here is a litany of wisdom about the realities of life and how our choices matter and how short-sighted decisions really cause us trouble.
Notice a pattern here:
The writer of Proverbs loves contrasting the foolish person with the wise person. The foolish person is governed by his desires and temporary thinking. The wise person has the humble heart of a willing learner and listens to the commandments of God. But he doesn’t just hear them; he actually puts them into practice as well.
The wicked person is full of contention and trouble. their lives are one bad choice after another. Their lives are marked by selfishness and a “me first” attitude. I’ve seen this poverty in my own life when I selfishly demand my own way and insist that my own comfort and convenience must take precedence over everyone else. And no matter how often wise instruction is offered, the self-centered ignore it.
But not the wise person. The wise get wiser still because she is willing and humble enough to always learn, always know she needs to know more. And the wise man even knows how to be shrewd in dealings so that the wise man averts wrath. The wise person values peace rather than the constant upset of companions gripped by their own selfishness.
And, in the end, the wise person receives honor and life, not because they sought life and honor. NO! In fact, they didn’t seek life and honor. The wise seek righteousness and kindness and the results are life and honor. Amazing how that works out isn’t it?
So today, as we journey still closer to Holy Week and Pascha, it’s still not too late to practice the virtues of the disciplined life of Great Lent. End your Lenten Journey well these last few days. Pay attention. Be Orthodox on Purpose!