There’s a wonderful line in Song of Songs 1:4
We will praise your love more than wine!
Franz Delitzsch (whose commentary I’ve been reading) brilliantly comments, “The wine represents the gifts of the king, in contradistinction to his person” (F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes, trans. by M. Easton, [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1891], 23). Why is this so brilliant? Well, it reminds me of something that preachers often say, that we should “seek the Giver, not the gifts.” If we read the beautiful poetry of the Song allegorically (even just a little) and allow the king to represent God and the woman/women to represent His people, then the exclamation reminds us to seek God’s love, to seek a relationship with him, not just the gifts he provides to us. For indeed, his love is far better than any wine or other princely gift that he may offer to us.
Human relationships work the same way. If anyone ever tries to buy or bribe your friendship (or worse), at first you may be attracted because of the “stuff” you might get out of the relationship. But in the end, you’ll be more disgusted with the person attempting to buy your friendship than anything else. You may even be disgusted at yourself for being tempted by the notion of being bought. Our relationships with one another don’t work right if we try to “buy” each other. Love is about self-less giving, not about an exchange of goods. Persons are ends in themselves and deserve to be treated as such–and to treat themselves as such. So next time you’re tempted to try and bribe someone or to regard God’s gifts above his Person, remember Song of Songs 1:4, that His love is far better than wine.