A Turn For The Better

Series: Turbulence


Sermon By Terry Siverd / October 04, 2020 / Cortland  Church of Christ


One of the surest aspects of life in general is that we have choices to make each and every day.  Being faced with an array of options begins early in childhood and continues all throughout adulthood.  Sometimes life is book-ended by caretakers - - others who make choices for us.  This is especially true in infancy and it is sometimes true when advancing years bring dementia or senility.

With so many choices to be made, we're often encouraged to choose the BETTER path.   Some get hung up always trying to choose THE BEST - - such constant quests for perfection can spawn all manner of problems.  It sounds strange to say so, but to seek “nothing but the best” is not always healthy.  

In a recent phone call with my friend Murph, we were reflecting on the arrival of autumn.  I told him that I have about 40 big trees - - most of which are deciduous - - which translates into a lot of leaves to rake.  He followed up by asking, “Are you as fastidious as you used to be?”  The word he used there is interesting.  Fastidious means:  (1) careful in all details; exacting; meticulous ... (2) difficult to please; overcritical.  As a sneak peek of where we're headed with this sermon, let me state the following:   in gathering leaves I aspire to make my house/lawn look better, but I refuse to obsess about making it the best-looking in the neighborhood.

The Old Testament writings of Solomon address this matter of making choices.  Two of his books feature proverbs, and in both cases - - Ecclesiastes and Proverbs - - we meet up with a variety of pithy admonitions urging us to seek a turn for the better.  The wisdom of King Solomon's mind provides some really wholesome directives:  not necessarily to only pursue that which is the best but to steadily seek to make the better choice.  Here's a few samples from Ecclesiastes of which we might call Proverbs 101 - -

Eccl.4:9 / Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor + assistance/warmth/resistance ... Eccl.5:5 / It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay ... Eccl.6:1a / A good name is better than a good ointment ... Eccl.7:5 / It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man than for one to listen to the song of fools ... In Ecclesiastes, Solomon also pens several baffling betters than require probing to make sense of them.  ome proverbs are like riddles in that they need to be deciphered.  e.g.,  Eccl. 6:3 / If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things, and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, 'Better the miscarriage than he.'  ... Eccl. 7:1b / day of one's death is better than day of one's birth ... Eccl. 7:2 / it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting ... Eccl. 7:3 / sorrow is better than laughter ... Eccl. 7:8 / the end of a matter is better than its beginning ... Eccl. 9:4 / a live dog is better than a dead lion

Although we have ventured out in passing to call attention to several citations from Ecclesiastes, I want us now to return to The Book Of Proverbs for the balance of this morning's sermon.

Wisdom Is Highly Undervalued

Prov.3:13-15 / How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.    For its profit is better than the profit of silver, and its gain than fine gold.  She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.  As we invest for the future, if our only focus is the S & P 500, then our standard will be quite poor.  (That was a pun - - the S & P is a grouping of stocks listed by Standard & Poor - - two investment firms that merged in 1941).  cf. Prov.8:10-11/ Take my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold, for wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.  In this regard, parents often fail in properly planning for their children's future.  Good grades can be demanded (SAT + ACT) … Funds can be put aside … Vocations can be explored … and Educational Institutions can be thoroughly screened … etc.  All the while wisdom is frequently overlooked and sometimes totally disregarded.  If only parents would bend over backwards to cultivate a culture of wisdom for their children.

More Is Not Always Better

A little with good things is better than a lot with bad things.  These are proverbs addressing the problems that accompany mammon and more.   Prov.15:16 / Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it ... Prov.16:8 / Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice ... Prov.15:17 / Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, that a fattened ox and hatred with it ... Prov.17:1 / Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife ... Prov.19:22 / What is desirable in a man is kindness, and it is better to be a poor man than a liar ... Prov.25:24 / It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman ... Prov.28:6 / Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, than he who is crooked though he is rich.  cf. Eccl.6:3ff - - footnote on vs.5 says, more rest this one than that

Open rebuke is better than concealed love.

Prov.27:5-6 / Better is open rebuke that love that is concealed.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.  People will fail to rebuke and justify it by saying - - “I did not want to hurt his/her feelings,” or “I don't want to judge anyone,” or some other such lame excuse.   They fail to realize that we have a duty to rebuke those we love:  kindly and gently, yet firmly.  This rough medicine, as Adam Clarke calls it, is the very prescription we need!  Prov.28:23 / He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue.  

Solomon's proverbs advise us to take a turn for the better.  Instead of being overwhelmed by trying to ferret out the BEST, what if we resolve each day to just make BETTER choices.  It's a less-stressful option, but it's incremental nature will likely prove more productive over the long haul.

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