One of the great advantages of getting older is not that a person gets any inherently smarter (his IQ stays the same throughout life) but he learns a lot from experience – observation. For example; in early life a person with a sense of rightness can get upset, naturally, at all the injustice in the world, etc. One gets impatient with God Himself (to say nothing of human instruments of justice, like courts and police) for not clobbering down on people promptly.
Well, for one thing, we should all be glad He doesn’t operate that way with ourselves! His dominating virtue is patience; give everybody a chance to come to his senses, find out his error and become a changed, better person. (so says II Peter, re. delay in Judgement day.) If Jesus had come charging back promptly we wouldn’t have even been born!
Even God’s “punishments” (results of one’s faults – STDs on account of promiscuity, for example) are intended to change a person’s badness. And when we talk about “God’s doing this, that”, actually, it is just the Bible’s way of personalizing the laws of cause and effect which a wise, systematic, moral God has bred into his creation. “Honesty is its own reward; the best policy.” “Crime doesn’t pay” – “Be sure your sin will ‘find you out'”, etc.
And finally, God doesn’t “pay his bills every Tuesday afternoon.” The guy who gets away with “murder” in school, on the job, in marriage, etc. – gets caught up with finally. Kills himself with over-eating, drink, sex – you name it. Really, has no true happiness all the while that his “punishment” is delayed. The goofer-offer, deadbeat, etc. feels like a heel, and thinks people are downgrading him more than they are, which they do, leaving him “left out”, etc.
Now, a few thoughts about “things”. We are often told that things do not make a person happy. This is not really true. We may not think of them all the time as reasons for gratitude, but every-thing good contributes to a person’s sense of well-being, contentment, peace of mind, etc, which is really what happiness is all about. In Africa I thought I would never take for granted such things as running water (hot, cold), electric lights, dependable autos, etc. Naturally you do; you can’t think of all those things every day or you wouldn’t have time to think of anything else. But they all contribute, as I say, to a good feeling, a sense of well being. A shower, for example; good bed. Comfy clothes and the self-image that presentable ones give to you.
Really, what that proverb is saying that things by themselves cannot provide happiness, for the simple reason that every one of them brings with them additional cares and responsibilities, problems, more needs. Think of car maintenance and expense; house repairs. The bills for utilities – like the phone.
So, it’s a good caution to make us realize that heaping up things – more of this, a better that – is no way to seek something which is as non-material, “spiritual”, as contentment, peace of mind (freedom from vexing problems, etc.). By the way, I was reading a book about the real Camelot – England of 500 A.D. Average life span was 40 years, and hard! “Simple people” had dirt floors. Moral: Praise the Lord!