All the days of the poor are hard,
but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.
My translation: All the days of the poor are evil; but a good heart (has) a continual feast.
Let the feast continue! Proverbs 15:14 began the eating metaphor with the grazing of fools. Here, the metaphor is flipped to the positive side. The poor have a hard life, but a glad heart has a continual feast.
Now there are two observations that should be made here. First is the nature of eating. In 15:14 it is grazing, like cattle, eating grass and bland food. It is eating for the sake of eating, and for the minimum of sustenance, but it brings little joy. However, here, the eating is a continual feast. It is celebratory and savory, full of meats, breads, vegetables, wine, etc. Thus, there is a difference between the foolish and the glad heart in constant eating.
2. Proverbs 15:15 does not speak to the nature of fool/wise. It speaks to the economic situation and the disposition within it. In Hebrew, the word for poor also means afflicted. And it is a regular observation, throughout history, that the life of the poor is hard. But, this proverb says nothing about the joy of physical riches. It only speaks about a glad heart in comparison to the poor. The question is this: Is a glad heart the opposite of being poor? I believe not. Instead, this proverb begins with the physical truth: the poor suffer every day. Then, it moves to a suggested lesson on the disposition of the heart: but a glad heart feasts continually.
How do the poor, who are always hurting, develop a glad heart? That is the question that is left hanging in the air. For there are some who are poor who have fostered the disposition of joy and contentedness within their situation. It seems that this proverb points to Jesus’ beatitudes (more of Luke’s than Matthew’s) and his teachings on contentedness.
The gladness of the heart does not depend on money but something else. This will be revealed in the next few proverbs.