Summary: Part 14 of the Sermon Series, "Rich Man Poor Man in Proverbs"
"Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags" (Prov. 23:19-21).
The wise writer particularly addresses his words to a young man, “my son.” It is a command to listen and be wise. It is a call to walk in the way of divine wisdom, be wise and direct [ashar, “to go (straight), walk”]64 your heart in the way. The writer tells the young man to avoid going with drunkards and gluttonous eaters of meat. The reason is that drunkenness and gluttony will lead to “poverty.” Drunkenness and gluttony, in turn, shall make one “slumber,” lazy, and inactive.65 Thus, the writer here identifies two causes of poverty—drunkenness and gluttony, which lead to laziness, inactivity, and non-productivity.
This is what I call the life of excessive consumption—in both eating and drinking. Live like a drunkard and you will become poor, says the text. Live like a glutton and you will become poor. Yet excessive consumption can take the form of expensive clothes, shoes, travel, cars, cell phones, houses, etc. It typifies the hundreds of pairs of shoes of Imelda Marcos. It also characterizes many Filipino-Americans craving for more cars and bigger houses in California, until the mortgage crisis hit them.
The word “drunkards” is literally translated “wine-drinkers.” The reason perhaps is that wine can cause drunkenness, esp. undiluted wine. These are not mere wine-drinkers but drunkards. Heavy drinking and wild living mark their lives.
The proverb implies that bad company corrupts one’s character. Paul affirmed, "Do not be deceived. Bad company ruins good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33). The sage warns against it. Do you have a friend who is a drunkard? God’s Word says, young man, do not go with drunkards. Do not spend time with them. Do not follow their drinking lifestyle. For, in the end, it leads to poverty.
The wise man of Proverbs strongly urges against excessive drinking and drunkenness. "Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine" (Prov. 23:29-30). Yet he also strongly advocates abstinence or self-restraint. "Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly" (Prov. 23:31). As Mark Twain rightly said, “It is better to stay out than get out.”
Another thing to avoid is gluttony. The word “gluttonous” does not necessarily refer to one who eats excessively. The Hebrew word is zalal, which denotes, “make light of” an object, so as to be “lavish with” it and “squander” it.66 Thus, the phrase “gluttonous eaters of meat” can be translated as “those making light of or squandering meat.” It refers to people who make light of the food to the point of squandering it. Such people live a life of lavish waste, extravagance, and squander. They are rightly called, “excessive consumers.”67
Yahweh condemned the drunkard and glutton in Israel. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says,
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Have you noticed that stubborn and rebellious sons are usually drunkards, partygoers, and feast-lovers? Oftentimes, drunkenness and gluttony are outward signs of inner problems.68 In this case, God links both drunkenness and gluttony with youthful stubbornness and rebellion. Clearly, a rebellious attitude towards a figure of authority can cause drunkenness and gluttony. Every wine-drunk and gluttonous believer, therefore, is disobedient to the will of God.
Let us resist the excessively consumerist culture of the world. The consumerist culture entices you to consume more than you need and to give less than you can. But the Christ-honoring culture is to give more and to consume less in everything we do. Follow the self-controlled, contented, and God-enjoying kingdom lifestyle.
64 Harris, Archer, and Waltke, “??????,” TWOT 1:183.
65 Harris, Archer, and Waltke, “????????,” TWOT 1:1325b.
66 Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “?????,” BDB, 2639:272.
67 Toy, A Critical, 435.
68 W. Gunther Plaut, Book of Proverbs (JCBRS; New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1961), 242-242.