A STUDY OF WISDOM IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS

Applying Wisdom to Everyday Life

12/6/15 SCC Proverbs 23:1-16

 

WISDOM PREVENTS ONE FROM DESPISING THE VALUABLE TO SATISFY APPETITES

Think about the point made in both paragraphs v 1-3 and 6-8. Solomon is asking us to consider a danger to our character that approaches through an appearance of innocent hospitality and goodwill. A ruler who seeks some advantage over you (verses 1-3), or a miser who also seeks personal advantage (verses 6-8) offers something you like and believe you need (a good meal). The danger is, the "feeder" or host offers this meal, but not with your good in his heart. In the first paragraph, Solomon urges caution: "Consider carefully what is before you." In the second paragraph, he alerts us to the danger through a direct prohibition: "Do not eat!"

 

Here is one of many cases where everything seems to be right, innocent, and morally neutral and without serious consequence. What wrong could there be in eating a meal with a powerful man, or sharing hospitality with "a miser?" You have to eat? The issue Solomon wants us to consider is - the motive and character of the host, the "feeder." Apparently the "ruler" in this context has such evil designs, it would be better to "put a knife to your throat" (curb your appetite, control yourself) than to let him satisfy your appetite. In the case of the "miser," v 6 the writer says, "his heart is not with you." He is insincere in the offer and makes the eating unpleasant. The outcome is described in terms of vomiting up the delicacies you consumed. Often in Proverbs we are warned that circumstances and relationships that seem right for us can contain hidden moral dangers (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25).

 

There are two prominent illustrations of this in the Bible; both of these exemplify the right response. Daniel, who "resolved not to defile himself with the royal good and wine," and our Lord, who though hungry, resisted the devil's invitation to make bread of stones (Dan. 1:8, Matt. 4:3). Hunger is a legitimate need, but it may be used to our disadvantage. Food can become bait in the hands of the devil and his operatives. A practical response to this is not to refrain from all eating, but to guard oneself with care and consider the approach of subtle temptation.

 

NB: There is a bad illustration of this with Esau who was a victim of his own personal appetites. Esau may have been a cunning hunter but Jacob also knew how to catch his game. At the beginning Jacob had lintel red soup and Esau had the birthright and through the exchange Esau obtained the soup, satisfied his compulsive appetite and Jacob secured the birthright. The point is not relinquishing eternal things for momentary pleasures. Wisdom prevents this. Do not be willing to relinquish things of lasting spiritual value by living to satisfy your basic appetites. Watch out for people of influence who may tempt you to do so with alluring banquets, gifts, promises, or promotions.

 

WISDOM PREVENTS WEARING ONESELF OUT BY PURSUING WEALTH 4-5

The saying begins with practical adviceódonít overwork for the sake of getting rich. We need wise restraint in a day and age when materialism drives people to excessive workloads to accumulate more money. He extrapolates on the warning in v 4 by advocating for controlling the urge to do this. Cease from considering such a path. The reason for this warning is because riches disappear quickly v 5. Wealth is temporary and unstable. There is no guarantee that you will secure wealth especially since one cannot control future circumstances, which make oneís wealth vulnerable. The idea is if you fly after prosperity, prosperity will elude you flying away like an eagle. Prosperity and wealth is fleeting. There are at least two implications to consider when pursing wealth:

 

1. Prosperity should not be trusted as a personís foundation or protection.

Along with an encouragement to seek material prosperity, Solomon warns his son not to trust in his riches. Material prosperity should not lead to materialism. The perspective in Proverbs is that prosperity is good as far as it goes. It can be very helpful in daily life, but it is no replacement for righteousness, and it is of no value without righteousness. It will be helpful in dealing with people, but it will not impress God. So Solomon recognizes the value of prosperity, but discourages the pursuit of wealth.

 

2. Prosperity should not be pursued. We should pursue work, not wealth.

Solomon stresses diligence, wisdom, and responsibility in the context of holiness as the means of a stable life situation. When we pursue wealth as a goal, we tend to neglect virtues and think, the end justifies the means. We will have a tendency to ignore, or justify, sin when it helps us reach our goals to obtain wealth. Sinful strategies to attain wealth come into play and the drive to have more to secure oneís future becomes a trap that enslaves one in the present.

 

WISDOM PREVENTS ONE FROM ENVYING SINNERS 17-18

The advice of these verses is always to be zealous for the fear of the Lord rather than for sinners who have no fear of God. Living with a fear of God keeps the vertical view of life a priority. Envying sinners is the desire to ignore the vertical for the horizontal. It replaces an eternal view of life with a temporal and earthly one. Those who do not fear God do not secure their future. The difficulty of course is that the sinful world seems more attractive. The motivation here is that the future belongs to the righteous, live in the fear of the Lord always, surely there is a future (there) and a hope that will not be cut off.

 

NB: The remedy for envying sinners is to look up fearing God and look ahead to a future hope. A mature believer delays gratification to the other side of the grave. This does not mean one cannot enjoy life. We are commanded and expected by God to enjoy our lives. One understands that this is only possible when the eternal is a priority over the temporal. When pleasing God is a priority over pleasing people. Envying sinners is a misplaced desire that will get one in trouble. You cannot pursue righteous ends by sinful means! So do not attempt to get ahead by mimicking sinners who seem to. The way to avoid this is developing an eternal mindset where one delays rewards as far as possible.

 

WISDOM PREVENTS TROUBLE FROM EXCESSIVE DRINKING 20-21, 29-35

First v 20-21 tells us associating with drunkards and gluttons leads to poverty. Both of these are representative of a lack of discipline. Drinking is especially focused on later because of its far-reaching personal and societal consequences. Eventually both promote a lifestyle that ends in poverty. Oneís excessive drinking and eating ends up consuming him or her.

 

NB: Solomon put gluttony in the same category with drunkenness because they both lead to, or come from, laziness. And drowsiness will clothe one with rags. What the glutton and the drunk have in common is they are focused on short-term pleasure, mortgaging the future for the present. And living for short-term pleasure never provides wisdom.

 

Second, v 29-35 says one should avoid excessive drinking since it leads to trouble when oneís senses are dulled. Drunkenness is an addiction. Again, it is not wine per se, but those who linger long over wine, who are in danger of losing wisdom. Wine (obviously, because of itís alcoholic content) is dangerous when it leads to an addiction. An addiction is a pleasure inclination that lies to you in two ways: it says you cannot live without it, and it promises to satisfy you. Short-term satisfaction can become a pleasure inclination, which falsely promises long-term satisfaction.

 

We can always live without any particular pleasure inclination. The excessive food or alcohol, the drugs, the pornography, the gossip, the other woman, the toys, all can become addictions, which we do not need at all. But addictions tell us that our wants are our needs. Outwardly, we may deny these wants are needs, claiming, ďI can quit any time,Ē or something. But we really donít believe it. The pleasure inclination is too intense. Then our addictions also become habits. So our lifestyle becomes organized around these addictions. Because they are perceived as needs, we fight to keep them, even when we know very well they are destroying us, and those around us.

 

So we have a vivid picture of the one who drinks too much. He raves on and on, picks quarrels and fights, poisons his system with alcohol, gets bloodshot eyes, loses control of himself, is unable to speak clearly, imagines things, and is insensitive to pain v 29, 33-35. There is nothing but trouble when the senses are dulled like this and this prevents wisdom.

 

SO WHAT?

1. Wisdom is to be applied to everyday life situations that come and go and that come often. Set yourself up to be wise.

2. Avoid living with a short-term perspective. Biblical wisdom provides the understanding to look beyond oneís immediate circumstances for direction.

3. The temptation to be unwise is the appeal of worldly wisdom. WW always tempts one to mortgage the future for the present. This is Satanís way.