Beginning in the latter part of chapter 22 and forward, the proverbs move from the two-line compare and contrast format to longer statements of truth. We will look at each thought group as one unit.
“When you sit to dine with a ruler,
note well what is before you,
and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.
Do not crave his delicacies,
for that food is deceptive.”
(Proverbs 23:1-3 NIV)
Solomon passes along wisdom regarding conduct before other rulers and authorities. In Solomon’s day, rulers were not kind, democratic leaders, but rather, they were all-powerful dictators who would just as easily kill you as look at you.
Solomon’s point is that the ruler would not invite you in unless he either wanted something from you and was trying to charm you into giving it to him, or wanted to find your weakness so he could exploit you for his benefit. The common way for a ruler to get what he wanted would be to throw a fancy feast, and invite the individuals in question as honored guests.
With the ruler’s motive in mind, Solomon cautions us to be very careful when being invited to such events. Solomon warns that if we are easily taken in by such events, or have a weakness of gluttony or over-indulgence, then we should take extra caution, because we are playing right into the ruler’s plan and trap.
When Solomon uses the phrase “put a knife to your throat”, he was not telling us to commit suicide, but rather, he was telling those who struggle with gluttony or other related issues to muster up extreme self-control so as not to play into the ruler’s plan and scheme, and thus may even save the person’s life.
“Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
do not trust your own cleverness.
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”
(Proverbs 23:4-5 NIV)
Solomon warns us to not put all of our energies into becoming rich, because we cannot count on that which we have accumulated. Solomon says that if we focus on our wealth, that it will disappear without warning. Solomon uses the analogy of a bird to illustrate that the riches are gone for good, without the ability to track them down. If Solomon had used a land animal like a deer or bear or sheep or ox in his example, there would be an opportunity to track down and recover what was lost. With a bird, its location is untraceable, just as the wealth that disappears.
So what should we do? From other previous proverbs, Solomon implies that we should still work hard, and let God give the increase. Whatever God gives us, we should first be thankful, and secondly be mindful of what we do with God’s blessings. He may be providing extra that we may help others in need, or providing an abundance that will be needed to endure a future hard time / lean time. We must always remember that wealth comes from God, and not from our own hand or labor.
“Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.
Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
The father of a righteous child has great joy;
a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
May your father and mother rejoice;
may she who gave you birth be joyful!”
(Proverbs 23:22-25 NIV)
Solomon gives us a reminder of the fifth of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12) to honor our father and mother. Even as they get old, they still have more life experience than we do, and presumably more wisdom as well.
Solomon encourages us to treat truth and wisdom as precious investments to be purchased and held, and not treat them as commodities to be bought and sold. When we invest in truth and wisdom, we bring honor to our parents, and they in turn have joy in their hearts. When we honor our parents, God then fulfills His promise in the same fifth commandment of giving us a long and fulfilling life. What a tremendous legacy to pass along to our children and our children’s children.