“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Proverbs 15:17 (ESV)
It was one of the nicest houses I’ve seen. Secluded with a view of the mountains, a clean blue pool surrounded by a beautiful garden, a porch made for celebrating outdoors, large immaculate rooms, and every comfort you could imagine. It was hard to believe that the husband and wife inside had such contempt for each other and were ready to divorce.
But I’d seen it before. Beautiful houses, well furnished, and miserable occupants: a husband and wife who barely talked without arguing, children alienated from their parents and one another, and little happiness to be found. They drove nice cars, were successful in school, business, and the local society clubs but had contempt for one another within the walls of their suburban mansion. One daughter told me, “everybody at church thinks my parents are so great but they would cringe if they knew how they talked to each other and us kids at home.”
I’ve been in homes where guests sat on hand-me-down furniture, sparsely decorated, and if there was a garden it was probably for vegetables to provide relief to the grocery bill. The working TV might be on top of the non-working TV and, if the gathering was sizable, the place setting at dinner wouldn’t match. Yet you would often find particle board bookshelves filled with religious books and pictures of family past and present on the walls throughout the house. Arguments would be the exception, not the rule, as mutual respect and affection were evident in their interactions.
Not all rich houses are occupied by miserable people who loathe one another and some humble houses have contemptible abusive people. The size of the house is not important nor is the prestige of the address or the furnishings. The love the occupants have for one another makes a home. The finest food loses its flavor if eaten in a house filled with hatred. A dinner of herbs found in the yard will seem like a feast for royalty if you are surrounded by love.
Happily, the couple in the opening paragraph rekindled their love for one another, found a deeper love for God, have used their house and their home to be a blessing to others, and help the cause of God in so many ways. And there is love at their table.