When you sit down to eat with a ruler, pay close attention to what is in front of you,
and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite.
Do not eat the food of one who is stingy,
and do not crave his delicacies. (Proverbs 23:1-2, 6 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 23:1-11 GW)
Current American culture is obsessed with food—among other things. We’re absorbed with what we eat, how much we eat, when we eat, and the way we eat.
Our preoccupation with food fills a broad spectrum of concerns—health, cost, quantity, quality, variety, and availability are some of those concerns. But many people in the world are just concerned with having something to eat for themselves and their family.
I understand these concerns. Having lived in a nation where nearly half the population struggles at a subsistence level of poverty—a day to day concern for survival. That kind of obsession makes sense.
When I faced a health crisis, I developed a much stricter diet than in previous years. I still prefer to eat healthier foods, especially avoiding processed foods and excessive sugar. So, I relate to the focus many have on healthy eating.
Different concerns and situations
But these verses speak to another concern. They point out other reasons to consider what you eat—who we’re eating with and who’s paying for it.
These become practical concerns when eating out for business, or in my case, related to ministry work. This could apply when eating at someone’s home or a community-style meal like a block party, potluck, or progressive dinner.
I’ve eaten in many homes and a lot of restaurants over the years, and we’ve hosted many people in our home for meals. Here’s an observation—people notice what you order and what you do or don’t eat. It’s human nature to do so and it reveals something about us.
put a knife to your throat…
In the first situation—eating at a ruler’s table—it says, put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite.
Most of us don’t have rulers so think of this as someone picking up the bill. This could apply to a meal with a boss, a friend, or your in-laws.
The simple principle here is—don’t be greedy nor be a glutton. On one hand, it’s a matter of consideration for others. But it also reveals something about us to others.
When someone else is paying, I don’t go for the most expensive item on the menu. That’s just being greedy. So, show some self-restraint and don’t take advantage of people’s generosity. They’re more likely to invite you again.
…do not crave his delicacies
The second situation requires us to consider who’s paying but in a different way. I’ve eaten with stingy people and know how uncomfortable it is. This requires sizing up people before just digging in to the food.
Consider who you’re eating with and what they value. Here’s why we are not to crave his delicacies—
“Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. (Prov 23:7 NKJV)
Again, with potlucks or other community-style meals, be considerate of those who eat last. As a pastor, my family and I would wait to eat last at church potlucks and often wished Jesus was there to multiply the food.
Interestingly, each meal setting includes the admonition not to crave their delicacies.
This speaks to the need to be content. Don’t be envious nor greedy nor gluttonous. And don’t worry about what you’re going to eat—as Jesus reminds us—stop worrying about what you will eat (Matt 6:25 GW).
Perhaps, if we all learned to be more content with what we do have—what God blesses us with—we’d be a lot less obsessive about food. We’d also be the kind of people others like to have at their tables when they share a meal.
When we are content with what we have—with what God provides—it frees us from envy, worry, and even gluttony or any other obsession with food. Regardless of what’s on the table, we’ll be free to engage with and enjoy the company around the table.
If you are concerned about what you eat—whether it’s worry or an obsession—ask the Lord to help you be thankful and content. Ask the Lord to help you be considerate and thoughtful towards those whom you join at the table for any meal.
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