Proverbs 23:19-21 (ESV)
19 Hear, my son, and be wise,
and direct your heart in the way.
20 Be not among drunkards
or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
and slumber will clothe them with rags.
The father calls his son to gain wisdom by hearing, following and keeping his good advice. The son would be foolish to reject the loving parental guidance of his godly father for the wicked ways of sinners. Self-indulgent gluttons and those who are addicted to wine squander the resources they’ve been given for immediate, temporary pleasure. The drunkard and the one who eats without restraint will consume their resources until they are left with nothing. Instead of clothing and bedding, the self-indulgent woman will be left with rags for warmth and covering. We live in a world that works hard to convince us we need to purchase more to be happy. But in the end, only our relationship with the Lord will satisfy our souls. Ask God to help you exercise self-discipline today, and say no to yourself more often. You really don’t need everything you want.
Proverbs 23:17-18 (ESV)
17 Let not your heart envy sinners,
but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
18 Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
The wise are instructed to refrain themselves from passionately longing for what sinners have, and instead keep the fear of the Lord as their focus. The one who consistently makes decisions motivated by a reverential awe of God and his authority will live eternally. In the future, God will wrap up this era of man living on earth and call all to account in judgment. Those who rejected the Lord and mistreated his people will experience his wrath, while those who placed their trust in him, patiently waiting upon him, and doing what is right, will be blessed beyond measure. If you see the temporary prosperity of the wicked around you and wonder why things seem to go so well for them, don’t forget their end. It is senseless to envy the ease of the ungodly. When you fix your eyes on heaven, the apparent unfairness of this life quickly dims.
Proverbs 23:15-16 (ESV)
15 My son, if your heart is wise,
my heart too will be glad.
16 My inmost being will exult
when your lips speak what is right.
When a child applies God’s wisdom to his life, righteous parents rejoice. Parents who fear the Lord yearn for the their children to live according to the word of the Lord. In fact, nothing makes a Christian parent happier than to hear that her children are walking in the truth. The same is true for those who mentor others in the church. Men and women who genuinely love the family of God are overjoyed when they learn that those they have discipled are carefully following after and applying Scripture’s wisdom to their lives. When the godly parent hears her offspring speaking and living the word of the Lord, her heart is overwhelmed with gratitude. What are you teaching your children to value? Money and career? Looks and health? Or godly character? In the end, finances and fitness are fleeting, but the one who pursues righteousness will endure to the end.
Proverbs 23:12-14 (ESV)
12 Apply your heart to instruction
and your ear to words of knowledge.
13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
14 If you strike him with the rod,
you will save his soul from Sheol.
Again and again the Proverbs remind us that the heart and the ear work together. The ear is for hearing and paying attention to wisdom, while the heart is for putting into practice learned truth. The good father instructs his son that he must discipline his own children. When a child is disobedient, the wise son, acting now as a godly father, must punish wrongdoing. To withhold painful discipline from a child is wicked. Though abuse, including fits of rage and exploding in anger, is unacceptable and sinful, we must never shy away from loving correction when it comes to parenting our children. The wise person leans upon the Lord rather than her own understanding. We can think that because we agree with biblical truth, we are on the path of righteousness. But the wise father repeatedly taught his son that the correct response to Gods’ word requires both listening to and obeying the commands of Scripture.
Proverbs 23:9-11 (ESV)
9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
for he will despise the good sense of your words.
10 Do not move an ancient landmark
or enter the fields of the fatherless,
11 for their Redeemer is strong;
he will plead their cause against you.
It is a waste of time to try and engage in intelligent conversation with a fool. The wise person assesses whether or not the one she is speaking with is capable of sensible dialogue before she proceeds to talk about the truths of the Lord. The greedy and wicked may try and take financial advantage of those who are weak in the community, but the ancient boundaries lines that were established by God are not to be tampered with. God cares about the security of those who don’t have adequate protection, and when necessary he will personally punish those who oppress the needy. If you are being taken advantage of, do what you can to right the wrongs you are experiencing, knowing that God stands against those who mistreat the weak. If you want to be like the Lord, then extend help to those who are less fortunate in your community today.
Proverbs 23:6-8 (ESV)
6 Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,
7 for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
8 You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
and waste your pleasant words.
It is never wise to invite yourself to eat at another’s expense, especially if your host is stingy. Most often, the tightfisted person is anxiously seeking to get rich and will view your meal in terms of her dollars and cents. Though to appear hospitable, she may encourage you to dine at her table, inwardly she despises you and every bite that you take. Even if she offers fine food and drink, exercise wisdom by restraining yourself. Your compliments and words of gratitude will be useless as you praise the one who inwardly detests you and your appetite. Learn self-control by paying for what you consume with your own resources. Be kind to the greedy woman, but refrain from indulging in anything that may cause her to abhor you. Keep your behavior honorable, so that when you are spoken against later, no one will have anything negative to say about you or the God you serve.
Proverbs 23:4-5 (ESV)
4 Do not toil to acquire wealth;
be discerning enough to desist.
5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
for suddenly it sprouts wings,
flying like an eagle toward heaven.
The Proverbs warn against the pursuit of financial gain independently of God’s wisdom. We tend to put our trust in our riches, and the woman who amasses wealth often hopes in her bank account instead of the Lord. When wealth is viewed through the wisdom of Scripture, it can be enjoyed, shared and even released. The one who is secure in the Lord uses her finances in a way that brings glory to God and the gospel. On the other hand, money is like a powerful eagle who flies through the heavens, with none to thwart his course, or capture him. When he is ready to depart, he goes, and there is no way to bring him back. In the same way, finances disappear quickly. The one who is foolish can blow through a week’s wage in a night or two. And once the money is gone, there’s no way to get it back. Find your security in God instead of your wallet.
Proverbs 23:1-3 (ESV)
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 are given to appetite.
3 Do not desire his delicacies,
for they are deceptive food.
Those who are wise realize that careful consideration must be given to every circumstance and opportunity. For example, when dining with someone in authority, the way one conducts herself can make or break her future career. Be thoughtful and restrained in your conversation, use good manners, and by all means, don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu! Observing someone in a social setting, such as dining, often reveals more about the person than during an interview over a desk. If you can’t control your appetites, then don’t eat at all. If you are given to drunkenness, don’t drink a sip. Avoid anything that would lead you to excess and sin. Don’t be deceived, and don’t let your guard down. Be sober minded and thoughtful in all you do. You never know who is watching your level of indulgence or restraint in the things put before you.
Proverbs 22:28-29 (ESV)
28 Do not move the ancient landmark
that your fathers have set.
29 Do you see a man skillful in his work?
He will stand before kings;
he will not stand before obscure men.
Under Joshua’s leadership, the land was divided up and allotted out to the tribes of Israel. In time, stone landmarks were established to define where private property boundaries existed. Eventually, thieves would slowly move the markers so that their own land was increased, while diminishing the property of their neighbors. This practice was equivalent to theft. The wise son is exhorted to be on watch for the skilled person, who consistently does the best job he possibly can. Because of his discipline, dedication and attention to detail, this person will win a good reputation and financial success. How do you work when no one is watching? Do you cut corners and do only as much as needed to get by? Our attitude toward work reflects our respect for God. Whether big tasks, small chores or even routine homework, choose to do all that you are called to with excellence today.
Proverbs 22:26-27 (ESV)
26 Be not one of those who give pledges,
who put up security for debts.
27 If you have nothing with which to pay,
why should your bed be taken from under you?
The Proverbs continually warn against the foolishness of putting up security for the debts of others. It is unwise to get yourself entangled in someone else’s financial problems. Although we should be quick to give to and assist those less fortunate, at the same time, to willingly take on another’s debt, especially if we cannot afford to cover it ourselves, is stupid. Why should you worry about whether or not the other party is making their payments? And what happens if they fail to follow through on the commitment? Then you lose the wealth you may have as a result, even down to your own bed. And how have you really helped the one you co-signed for? All you did was enable her to access something she really couldn’t afford. Better to help others get work and manage their money properly, than to take their financial problems on yourself.