Proverbs 23:2 …and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite.
Australians have been endlessly warned of the dangers of over-eating and lack of exercise. Diabetes, heart disease, stomach problems, insomnia. lack of energy, impotence, laziness, respiratory problems, movement problems—the list of consequences is mammoth. We have so much space and opportunity, yet we persist in pursuing such self-destructive lifestyles. Australia today is ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world.
To follow this proverb literally, may be a very good idea. For life is not primarily about eating and drinking, but life in God’s Spirit.
Even so, the gospel of grace is always primary: only Jesus Christ fulfils the Proverbs!
We are listening to the Proverbs, not as “law”, but as exhortation to those living from the gospel.
Proverbs 23:1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite. 3 Do not desire the ruler’s delicacies, for they are deceptive food.
A ruler (read: “Governments at election time”) will offer all sorts of benefits to people just in order to be the ruler. Beware. They are deceptive food. We are all prone the the offers of politicians – lower taxes, more take-home pay. However, the cost may be selling off the nation to foreign ownership, domination by Coles and Woolworths, and bullying by BP, Mobil, and Shell, or the destruction of the manufacturing or farming sectors of the community. ‘The economy’ is a false ‘god’. Life considerations involve more than that.
Let’s think about a human being, in Christ, with human powers to both (1) desire and (2) desist.
The word ‘desire’ describes a powerful ’emotion’ or driving thought. It has many connotations. Some are good forms of desire; other forms of desire, are evil. Read these from the Bible:
Psalm 10:17 O LORD, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
Psalm 112:10 The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.
Psalm 145:19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.
Proverbs 10:24 What the wicked dread will come upon them, but the desire of the righteous will be granted.
Proverbs 11:23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
Proverbs 13:2 From the fruit of their words good persons eat good things, but the desire of the treacherous is for wrongdoing.
Ecclesiastes 11:9 Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
1 John 2:16 for all that is in the world–the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches–comes not from the Father but from the world.
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
First up, one who has known God’s grace in Christ, has a new desire for God himself, to live in and with him by faith, delighting in his will, and in that context desiring genuine participation in life. So then, lets combine good, noble desires, and the desisting from desire that can soon become ‘evil’.
Back to Proverbs 23 then:
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist.
Desist: it is a good word. Where desire is strong, it can be difficult to do. Even so, to learn to ‘desist’ is character building, personally empowering. It has all sorts of positive spin-offs.
Life involves living in the Father’s Presence, both enjoying life and—where necessary—desisting. Jesus desisted from evil desire. He gives us his own Spirit, to enable us too, to ‘desist’ and embrace suffering and difficulty.
Jesus lived his whole life, as a great Son to the Father, and he ‘grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him’ (Luke 2:40).
Jesus, help us to be wise in what we do with our lives, in both desire, and in desisting. Amen.