Proverbs 23:1-3, 6-9 ESV
When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
observe carefully what is before you,
and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies,
for they are deceptive food…
Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
and waste your pleasant words.
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
for he will despise the good sense of your words.
A Different Perspective, Perhaps
You know, this doesn’t have to be about physical food, and the person whom we are sitting across the table from does not have to be a ruler, either. He or she could be anyone – a friend, neighbor, family member, fellow Christian (or professing Christian), a pastor, coworker, or our boss at work, etc.
And, it appears, from several commentaries I read on this passage, that the correct translation for verse one is (or can be) to “observe carefully who is before you,” i.e. it means to observe this person’s character, his lifestyle, his attitudes, behaviors, and speech, etc. And, this seems to fit with the following verses, too, regarding one who is stingy and calculating, etc.
And, it doesn’t have to be a literal table we are sitting at, either, for the word table also has to do with an agenda or something up for discussion or something being proposed and talked about. So, this could be about two people having a conversation with each other, and the “food” could be what is being offered up for discussion, such as “food for thought.”
For, to eat is also to swallow, and to swallow is also to accept, absorb, allow or ingest, i.e. to take in what is being said into one’s heart and mind and emotions for consideration, or for understanding or acceptance.
The Counsel Here
So, with that in mind, then the counsel here is to be wise in what we accept into our minds and hearts, and with regard to the source from which this “food for thought” is coming to us. If this person has a reputation for trickery, manipulation, playing mind games, deceiving others, setting traps for people to fall into, and lying continuously, then we need to not automatically trust this person or what he or she is telling us.
We must exercise much wisdom with regard to the “delicacies” they are offering to us for our consideration and/or for our approval and acceptance. For, their “delicacies” may well be their charm, smooth talk and diplomacies, being skilled with speech, or a choice or pleasing bit of information offered to us. For, they may be skilled at deception and manipulation, and so what they are offering may well be a carefully laid out trap for us to fall into.
For, they may promise trustworthiness while they stab us in the back when we are not looking. They may promise to be with us all the while they are plotting evil against us behind our backs, and behind closed doors.
But, this is where it gets tricky, I believe. We are taught in scripture to love even our enemies and to do good to them. We are taught to forgive others as God forgives us. And, so, in demonstrating God’s love to others, and in forgiving even our enemies and desiring to do good to them, we want to give even those who have sinned against us greatly another chance. And, so we want to trust that this time will be different, or to give them the benefit of the doubt, and so we may let down our guard sometimes in an effort to show that we want to believe them, and so that may be used against us.
But, I look here at Jesus’ example. He knew that Judas was going to betray him, but he still loved him. He still ate with him. He still gave him the opportunity to do what was right, I believe, but Judas turned on Jesus, and he betrayed his confidence, and he sold him out for 30 pieces of silver. But, this was God’s will that Jesus should suffer unjustly in this way, because it was for our salvation that Jesus was put to death for doing no wrong.
So, sometimes we are going to give people the benefit of the doubt, not about what we know is wrong, but that maybe their hearts have changed, and maybe they are now on the right path, and that their words can be trusted, and so we are going to let down our guard, and maybe not be so careful about every word we say, and that may come back against us. And, I am not speaking about us saying bad things, but I am talking about trusting people with our hearts even knowing they may stomp on them in return.
Finding the Right Balance
So, I see that there is wisdom in guarding our hearts, but we can end up putting up impenetrable emotional walls (barriers) that bar people from seeing who we are out of fear of getting hurt again, and that is not healthy.
So, there is a balance here that we must find between being afraid to say anything or afraid to trust anyone and going overboard the other direction by not exercising reasonable caution and discernment about what we say and to whom. So, we need to pray for wisdom. I know I do, for I don’t always get that balance thing right. Sometimes I am too trusting, and sometimes I am too cautious, too, out of fear. So, I need wisdom to know what to say and to whom, and regarding what not to say, too.
And, the putting a knife to our throats really, then, in this scenario, has more to do with guarding the words on our tongues, which also fits with the rest of these verses here. We need to be cautious about what we say to this person because we can’t trust this person, and what we say may be used against us if the person takes our words out of context and twists them to his or her advantage against us.
Now, if the Lord says to speak, then we need to speak, and we need to say whatever he gives us to say, even if some people might twist our words or take them out of context and use them against us. We have to obey the Lord no matter what, for the Lord doesn’t promise us that we won’t be misunderstood or accused falsely or betrayed by those we trusted. But, we must exercise wisdom and discretion when talking with those who are likely to betray our trust and to use our words as justification to attack us.
But, whatever comes our way, and if we are betrayed, and if our trust is violated, and if people take our words the wrong way and use them against us or accuse us falsely or take our words out of context, we need to put our trust in the Lord. We need to realize that God will use these situations in our lives ultimately for our good to mature us in him and to make us more like Jesus, so we just have to commit our ways to the Lord and yield to his sovereignty over our lives, and we have to give our situations over to him and believe him to work out all things for our good.
It Is Well with My Soul
Lyrics by H. G. Spafford, 1873
Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1876
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well; it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well; it is well with my soul.
*copyright status is public domain
Saturday, June 15, 2019