In Proverbs 23:19-21 King Solomon writes, “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.”
The issue Solomon is addressing here is getting caught up in the foolishness of the crown. He’s a king writing to those who will have power in this world and warning them away from that which will destroy them and harm those under their care. Notice that “drunkards” and “gluttonous eaters of meat” are coupled in this text. Although the effects of the excess use of alcohol and food are different, at root the impulse to indulge in either one, or both, is much the same. The impulse is, “Feed me and my lusts at any cost.” This attitude corrupts the soul and thus destroys one’s ability to lead well.
This is why Solomon instructs the son, not only to avoid these things, but to avoid those who make a life of these things. We become the company we keep, and thus if we keep company with those who make a “god” of their pleasures, we will eventually give ourselves to that same way of life.
Please note that the primary issue here is not the pursuit of pleasure but the pursuit of false pleasure, or perhaps better put, over-indulgence in worldly pleasures. The issue here is false worship. God has created us to be satisfied in him alone, and when he takes first place in our hearts then we’re free to enjoy many things in this world in moderation and wisdom. But when we get the balance out of whack, we get in trouble.
Consider the words of Jeremiah 17:5-6. “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” This is the destiny of all who reject Solomon’s wisdom.
One way to guard our hearts against this tragic end is to contemplate the end of giving ourselves to certain things, and the end of those who indulge in them. Drunkards and gluttons come to poverty, not always material poverty, but great and tragic poverty nonetheless. Sometimes our riches blind us to our poverty and sometimes our poverty opens our eyes to true riches. As the Bible says elsewhere, bad company corrupts good character, and we would do well to carefully contemplate this fact.
As we do, we should then resolve to spend our time with the kind of people we want to be, namely, godly people who are slowly but surely becoming more like Christ. For me, I like to soak my mind in the Bible and in good books written by those who also love the God of the Bible. Further, I love spending time around local and global missionaries who take seriously the call of Jesus to take up the cross and follow him. Being around people who are intensely seeking Jesus inspires me to seek Jesus with intensity.
So, to bring this rambling blog to a close, life in Christ has much to do with the company we keep. What kind of company are you keeping? Are you becoming more like Jesus because of those around you, or not? What would God have you do about your current situation? Whatever the Lord reveals to you, I encourage you to join me in listening to him and surrendering to his will.