Category Archives: food

Give Them Wine

Proverbs 31:6-7

“Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”

Debate Addressed 

Chris Jordan did an excellent job of dealing with 31:4 and 5. With wisdom and tact, he expressed both sides of the alcohol debate, ultimately showing that “under the new covenant of grace, all things may be lawful for us, but not all things are beneficial.”

My Baptist upbringing was one that left little room for debate on this subject. It was only after a lengthy (before computers) study of the word “wine” as used in the Bible did I begin to realize that there may be more to the debate than a simple black-and-white, drink-or-not-drink argument. Even king Lemuel’s mother understood there were times when alcohol could be useful (and not just in cough syrup).

The Perishing

Just today, not more than a few hours before writing this, I stood beside the hospital bed of a man in pain, a man dying. Cancer had taken over his body, his breathing and heart rate were rapid, and his mouth was dry. The family was standing around crying as they waited for the inevitable.

As I stood beside him, a nurse came in with a sponge on a little stick and placed it in some ice water, then put it in the man’s mouth. At that moment one family member said, “What he really wants is a milkshake.” Then the man’s sister said, “He should get whatever he wants.” Had he wanted a shot of Jack Daniels, they should have given it to him! He will be dead long before you, the reader, read this.

If alcohol was a sin (not just the consumption of it), then it would have been wrong for Lemuel’s mother to suggest giving strong drink to him that is “perishing.” But the king’s wise mother understood that when a man is at the end of his life or even the ends of his ropes, something that will ease his pain, or lift his spirit, is perfectly appropriate in moderation. But is to be used as a temporary remedy, one that can help one deal with his situation, not completely hide from it.

A Giving King

But there is even a deeper message in all this. What kind of king keeps hoards his wealth when his subjects are suffering? What kind of leader draws comfort from his cellars, while the poor search in vain for relief from their heavy hearts?

“Look at all you have,” Lemuel’s mother might say. “You have more than you need, and you don’t even need what you have. Therefore, open up your wine cellar; give to those who are perishing; lift the spirits of those who are discouraged; and lead your kingdom with clarity and compassion.”

Wouldn’t it be great if more kings, queens, presidents, and politicians would think less about what makes them happy, less about their own ambitions, and more about the needs of others? Most are drunk with the wine of power, forgetting the law and perverting judgment, while the powerless suffer.

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The King’s Beverage

Proverbs 31:4-7

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:  Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.  Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”

Teetotaler?

As a life-long Baptist, I know that I am treading on thin ice when I tackle this passage. There are many within my denomination who are what we call “teetotalers,” which is a term for those who will never touch a drop of beverage alcohol. And because of this, if I say anything positive about alcohol I am likely to be censured.

On the other hand, there are whole denominations within the Christian faith that have no problem with drinking beer, wine, or whatever suits their fancy, even purchasing wineries with tithes and offerings. For the record, I don’t approve of going that far.

However, I do feel that there is more to the subject of drinking alcohol than totally abstaining or totally imbibing. Wisdom is the key. And that is why, as we look at the verses above, we can see that king Lemuel’s mother was evidently not a proponent of “teetotalism” (total abstinence), but rather a developer of wisdom in a son who was destined to lead.

Not for Kings

There are several things this godly mother warns her son about in the first part of this chapter, but much of her focus is on the use of alcohol. Why is that? Could it be that alcohol is a dangerous, mind altering, inhibition-destroying drug? Could it be that even though it may have its uses, a leader worth his salt is wise enough to avoid it?

Plenty of men and women from all walks of life have been able to drink alcohol with little or no adverse consequences. However, the gutters of history are strewn with the carcasses of leaders who drank away their kingdoms. The broken hearts and ruined lives caused by drunkeness are innumerable.

I can envision a young prince Lemuel, his mother’s hand on his shoulder, as they walked by the equivalent of a modern bar. As they peeked in on the raucous behavior brought about by the effects of wine and strong drink, she may have whispered in his ear the words he later penned: “It’s not for kings, my dear Lemuel, it’s not for kings; nor even when you’re just a prince.”

Proper Place

Even though a king, a man whose decisions carry so much weight, should avoid strong drink, king Lemuel’s mother, and thereby king Lemuel himself, knew that there was a time and place for it. You see, wine has the dangerous ability to make one “forget law” and “pervert judgment,” but it also has the ability to lift a heavy heart, to numb the pain.

Warnings against wine are plenty, but king David declares that God creates the “wine that maketh glad the heart of man” (Psa. 104:15). The key is to not only know its proper place, but the proper place of the one who must choose.

Wisdom should be the king’s beverage of choice.


Anyone for Dessert?

Proverbs 27:7 

The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
A person who is full refuses honey, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry. (NLT)

Really Hungry?

The longest I have been without food was during a hospital stay for abdominal surgery. I wasn’t allowed to eat before going into hospital, and it was about eight days after the surgery before I was allowed to look at food again. I don’t remember that I was particularly hungry at this time, as I had been connected continually to a drip since the surgery and received sustenance in this way. The first meal I was given was soup followed by ice cream. I often tell people that the ice cream was warmer than the soup! Did I enjoy this meal? No! I guess if I had been really hungry then anything would have tasted good, even bitter food or warm ice cream.

Room for Dessert

raspberry profsDespite the hospital experience I don’t think I have ever experienced true hunger. I am fortunate to live in a part of the world where there is more than enough to eat. As I get older I find I eat less, and while often tempted, I am usually unable to find space for dessert after a good meal in a restaurant. This is difficult as I have a sweet tooth and I love dessert.

Hungry for What?

The challenge that this proverb throws at me is not really one of absence of food or a desire for dessert, but a question about my hunger for God. Is it possible to feed on God so much that it is impossible to consume any more of Him? Is it possible to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that I can barely stand? I think back to an incident in the Temple when two people had their hunger for God satisfied. Simeon was described as a righteous and devout man who was eagerly waiting for the Messiah (Luke 2:24). When he set eyes on Jesus he took the Child in his arms and praised God.

Anna, a prophet was standing nearby earwigging. A widow of eighty-four, Anna had remained in the Temple for many years worshipping God day and night with fasting and prayer. Her delight in Jesus was so great that she couldn’t stop talking about Him to everyone she encountered. Anna fasted but her hunger was not for food but for more of God. Simeon had waited his whole life for his hunger for Jesus to be satisfied, having been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until He had set eyes on the Messiah. While we don’t have to wait for Jesus, the irony is that Jesus spends most of His time waiting for us to recognize our hunger and come to feed from Him. As I write these words I am overwhelmed by a sudden and urgent hunger that food will never satisfy. I need more of Jesus.


The Sluggard Life

Proverbs 26:16 

“The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.”
“The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” – NKJV
Self Perception

The idea here is that the sluggard….wait just a moment…what kind of mental image do you have this very second?

slugSluggard. Think about that word, sluggard. Not just lazy or slothful, but slimy, covered with mucous, moving slowly about the ground leaving shiny trails behind. Sluggard. A slug. A snail-like critter, but too poor for a shell.

The idea, here, is that the sluggard has a self perception problem. He is wiser in his own eyes than seven men, simply because he is the sluggard, not the ones working. The great Matthew Henry comments:

“His slothfulness is the cause of his good opinion of himself. If he would but take pains to examine himself, and compare himself with the laws of wisdom, he would have other thoughts of himself… So wretchedly besotted is he that he takes his slothfulness to be his wisdom; he thinks it is his wisdom to make much of himself, and take all the ease he can get… Of such sluggards, who are proud of that which is their shame, their is little hope.”*

Beyond Reason

So, is there hope for someone who sees laziness and living off of others as a virtue? Verse 12 says that there is more hope for a fool than one that is wise in his own eyes. How much worse, then, one wise in his own eyes that is also a bum? A sluggard?

The Fox News Channel did a story on how some people are scamming the American food stamp system (EBT). They attempted to show how assistance originally meant to aid those in real need was being taken advantage of by people refusing work. Fox News found a perfect example in a young surfer named Jason.

Jason, an unemployed surfer who mooched off of relatives and friends, determined that work was something he did not want to do. He admitted to being perfectly happy taking tax payers’ dollars each month to buy food. All he cared about was playing in a band, meeting cute girls, drinking, and most of all, surfing every day.

There was no reasoning with him. He had everything figured out.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY AND WATCH THE VIDEO

Beyond Argument

But what does the Bible have to say?

“The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.” – Proverbs 21:25

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1014.


Don’t Follow Your Heart

Proverbs 23:19-21

“Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe [a man] with rags.”

Stay Away from These

The first thing many people will pick and choose out of these verses is a condemnation of drinking alcohol. Like many I have known in my life, the point many will immediately deduce is that drinking will lead to ruin, poverty, rags, etc. The last thing most will conclude is that eating will lead to destruction and ruin. No, the only thing many will see is, “stay away from those social drinkers and drunks.

Why is it that little is ever said about gluttony? Why is it that gluttony is a sin, but eating isn’t? Unfortunately for the legalists among us, this proverb has nothing to say about eating and drinking, but gluttony and drunkenness. Take that for what it’s worth.

What Solomon is really telling us to stay away from are people who will most likely influence us to act like they do. We should stay away from those who eat and drink simply for pleasure because their self-indulgent spirits will lead not only to their own destruction, but also to the ruin of those who follow.

A Heart Issue

Drunkenness, gluttony, and drowsiness are certainly dangerous characteristics, but the initial command in this passage, a warning, is to “guide thine heart in the way.” Much like as in Proverbs 23:12, the idea is that the heart must be forced to do what is in its best interest.

How many times have you heard it said, “Just follow your heart”? Solomon is warning against that advice by cluing us in to what the heart desires. The Prophet Jeremiah said that the heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). The way that the heart wants to go is where the “winbibbers” and  “riotous eaters” are.

Wisdom should guide the heart, not the other way around.

What of the Other?

Alcohol is no different than carbohydrates and fat; both are amoral. In other words, there is no more inherent sin in a bottle of Jack Daniels than there is a Big Mac and a large fry or a banana split. Some people can eat what they need to stay fit without over-indulging, while others will pig out and clog their arteries…all in the name of a church social.

Some people can consume alcohol without becoming drunkards, too. However, many who consume are proven to be fools.

Simply put, an unguided heart will go in the way that numbs pain, fills voids, and distracts from reality. The wise son will guide his heart down a different, disciplined path which leads to provision, not poverty; robes, not rags.


Nauseous Hosts

Proverbs 23:6-8

Eat thou not the bread of [him that hath] an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so [is] he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart [is] not with thee. The morsel [which] thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.

Don’t eat with people who are stingy; don’t desire their delicacies. They are always thinking about how much it costs. “Eat and drink,” they say, but they don’t mean it. You will throw up what little you’ve eaten, and your compliments will be wasted. – NLT

Puzzling 

I have been struggling with this proverb. You must admit, it’s a little odd. I mean, what’s the deal with “dainty meats” and throwing up?

The best I can figure, the meaning of this proverbs is pretty simple once you get past the language. For one thing, don’t eat with a hypocrite. Secondly, if you do, you’ll regret anything nice you ever said.

It does seem a little strange, though. Why would someone feed you and say, “Go ahead, dear, eat all you want,” while at the same time regret you ever came to dinner?

Better to Eat Herbs

Solomon must have had an experience or two with people who wanted to entertain him with a meal. But evidently there were people who offered the best on the menu while wincing every time he took a nibble. Have you ever known anyone like that?

What makes a person sick after eating all the nice, expensive food is the guilt one is made to feel. There are some people who want to make you think they care, but then they make you feel guilty for taking advantage of their hospitality. The great Matthew Henry said,

Do not sponge upon those that are bountiful, nor make thyself burdensome to any; but especially scorn to be beholden to those that are paltry and not sincere. Better have a dinner of herbs, and true welcome, than dainty meats without it.*

Gag Reflex

Here’s the point that must be taken: don’t desire the things that belong to the wealthy, nor ask them for a free meal. Sure, there are kindly millionaires who love to give. The problem it that there are many others who love money more than people, but don’t want to seem greedy on the surface. That is why they will say, “Eat and drink,” but gag you in the end.

One commentary says that “Cultivating the friendship of the wealthy is a waste of effort,” and then goes on to say…

“For like a hair in the throat, so he is.” Just as getting a hair in the throat while eating causes a gag reflex and sometimes vomiting (v. 8), even so the wealthy man’s hospitality will leave one feeling disgusted.**

I sure hope the next rich person that takes me to dinner keeps his hair off my food.

Sources:

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 23:6–8.

**Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 195-196.


Deceitful Riches

Proverbs 23:1-3

When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.

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. (NIV)

The Wealthiest

Most if not all people who read this live in or were born in a so-called First World nation. These are the wealthiest and most technologically advanced nations.

The standard need of the average citizen here – food, clothing, shelter, etcetera – is usually met.

In fact, today’s passage is probably more of a warning to you if you live in one of these nations, than it is a warning for someone from a Third World nation – a nation of extreme poverty and lack of advanced technology (though they usually have cell phones!) However, it is a warning for all people who have wants and desires.

The same old warning

Everyone wants their children to have a better life than they had … or at least a better life for themselves, so there is always a desire for better circumstances.

However, look at many lottery winners or those who receive large inheritances. They end up bankrupt and sometimes worse than before.

The reason is simple: they fall in love with MORE! They see how nice it is to always have food and things, and they simply want more.

Paul warned us through Timothy about this almost 2000 years ago, but also with advice:

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
1 Timothy 6:9-11

Gracious God, protect our hearts from a love of more of the things and money of this world. Rather, please give us a heart for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and humility!