Summary: Part 9 of the Sermon Series, "Rich Man Poor Man in Proverbs"
"Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich" (Prov. 21:17).
The two lines in Proverbs 21:17 give synonymously parallel meanings in a chiasm, as follows:
A Whoever loves
C will be a poor man
C1 will not be rich
B1 wine and oil
A1 He who loves wine and oil
The phrase, “whoever loves,” corresponds to, “he who loves.” The noun “pleasure” matches the phrase “wine and oil.”
The phrase “will be a poor man” parallel “will not be rich.”
The word “pleasure” (imha) means “joy, gladness, e.g. in festivity.”38 One gains such pleasure with wine and oil. The word “oil” (shemen) usually refers to olive oil. The ancients used olive oil as perfume or ointment. The sage links oil with wine and grain as products of the land. Oil came to symbolize prosperity (Deut. 32:13; 33:34).39 "Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel" (Prov. 27:9). The scent of perfume oil can get you into a good mood. Thus, wine and oil symbolize gladness and sweetness.
In the context of Proverbs 21:17, wine and oil symbolize pleasure through partying. The word “pleasure” therefore is synonymous to “expensive partying,” “excessive good times,” or in general, “extravagant indulgence.”40 Such uncontrolled luxurious lifestyles can only lead to excessive spending and to poverty.41
It is the same thing today. Nightclub owners call the drinking hour, “happy hour,” obviously, because alcohol induces happy feelings. TV and radio commercials link alcohol drinking with sexy girls, partying, and dancing. We are a nation of feast-lovers, partygoers, and alcohol drinkers. In 2006, about four out of ten Filipinos are alcohol drinkers, whether occasionally, moderately, or heavily.42 I am shocked to hear radio commercials promoting alcohol as early as 7 AM daily. Alcohol companies are creating a culture of drinking and a nation of drunkards. As light and salt of the earth, Christians should not conform to this culture of drinking. We should abstain from it. We should be careful not to encourage it by example. Young people are watching us. Pastors should speak out against it. Silence can sometimes mean—it’s okay.
Proverbs warns us that whoever seeks pleasure, partying, and good times will be poor. No one loving wine and oil will be rich. Wealth is quickly lost. If you love pleasure and partying, you will spend too much money on it, until you can no longer afford it. You will become poor by too much spending on drinking, pleasure, and parties. That is exactly the picture here in the Philippines. Many Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs) work hard abroad, only to come back and spend it all on partying, feasting, and drinking. The next day, their money is gone.
I know of a woman whose younger brothers work abroad. They come home, drink, and party with their friends. The next day, they borrow money from their sister. Their sister gets mad every time they do that.
That is a recipe for poverty. When they lose their jobs abroad, they come home poor. They failed to save money, build a house, and invest in a business. They failed to prepare for the future, because they live in the present enjoyment of pleasure, partying, and feasting. That is how you will become poor.
"If you love wine and oil, you will not be rich." You may ask, “Pastor, isn’t it right to enjoy the fruits of your labor?” Yes, that is correct. Qoheleth, the sage of Ecclesiastes, wrote, "And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil" (Eccl. 2:10).
Nevertheless, what did Qoheleth realize with all his expensive parties and indulgent pleasures? He realized that all is futility, emptiness, and unsatisfying. "Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity [emptiness; unsatisfying experiences] and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun" (Eccl. 2:11).
Did you just receive your first salary? Did you receive some money from someone? The first thing to do is to give to the Lord. Return the tithe (10% of your income) to the Lord. Giving back to the Lord shows that your satisfaction, your pleasure, and your joy are in the Lord, and not in your pleasures. The greatest gladness, the only lasting pleasure, and the only meaningful joy are the joy of the Lord. Therefore, you will give back to God, showing that you no longer live for your own pleasures. You will serve only the pleasure of the Lord.
The second thing to do is to say no to your friends. Your friends will say, “Spend money on us.” But let me say this, “But bring them to a low-cost bakeshop or some cheap diner.” Resist the temptation to spend, spend, and spend.