I can’t tell you if Solomon or the Holy Spirit intended these verses to be considered a paragraph. But that is what I’d like to do. At least for our purpose tonight, I think they all talk about the same general subject.
For the purpose of an introduction I take you back to late 1990. Just a few weeks after our family moved to Post Falls, I was invited to attend the local Chamber of Commerce meeting. I was young and naive so I agreed. It involved a nice free lunch at Templin’s Resort. After the opening remarks by the president, I was asked to lead the mixed multitude in prayer, and I did. It was a standard Christian prayer which I concluded in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t remember the meal, but I do remember being ignored for the rest of the afternoon. And I also remember feeling very uncomfortable. Did the Chamber have an agenda in asking me to bless their meeting? I really don’t know. If I was asked to attend and lead in prayer again, I would try to politely refuse.
Now back to Proverbs. If I was trying to develop this scripture into a sermon, the title would be “Beware.” And it would have three points. Beware of an evil appetite, beware of the evil eye, and beware of the evil heart.
First, beware of the evil appetite.
“When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.” Obviously, it isn’t talking about the ruler and his luncheon – it is about us – our appetites. And the first thought which comes to mind when we talk about appetite is volume – excess. If you are prone to eat too much, put a metaphorical knife to thy throat if you have to make yourself stop when you have had enough. While that may be an appropriate application, I don’t think it is the Holy Spirit’s lesson.
It is neither here nor there, but out of curiosity I went on line, looking for pictures of my favorite theologians. I wanted to look at the men who have expounded these verses. The pictures I found of Matthew Henry and John Gill depicted men with distinct double chins. Matthew Henry and heavy jowls; it wasn’t due to his beard – he was clean shaven. C.H. Spurgeon definitely had a weight problem, and his eating habits contributed to his death. In other words, there is precedence for over weight men to condemn appetite. So I don’t feel too out of place speaking about the subject. But this scripture isn’t really talking about the amount of food we eat or of what kind it is. Going on we read, “Be not desirous of his dainties, for thy are deceitful meat.”
Let’s say that you have been invited to the White House to dine with the President. The food is absolutely delicious – perhaps unique – you’ve never tasted these goodies before. If you like them and especially if you want more, ask yourself, “Why have you been given this invitation?” I assure you, it is not because the President knows you have to eat somewhere, so it might as well be at his house. I guarantee, the ruler almost always has an agenda when he invites the common man to his table. Those dainties are deceitful, because they have a different purpose than to simply please your palate. “The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up” – when you discover the purpose of the meeting. “Put a knife to thy throat,” if you find that you have an on-going appetite for this kind of meal.
Am I saying, don’t go to the Chamber of Commerce meeting or to the White House if you are asked? I am not saying that. I am saying, and I think Solomon is saying, “Go into that dining room with your eyes open.” And have a butter knife ready if asked to agree to something which is contrary to the will of God.
That ruler may butter your meal with promises of wealth and success. But Solomon says, “Labour not to be rich, cease from thine own wisdom,” in this regard. “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” How much of your current wealth is contained in gold or silver? How much is bound up in cattle and vegetables? The equity in our houses can evaporate as quickly as morning fog. You say you have a pillowcase full of Federal Reserve notes? In reality that is nothing but paper. Tomorrow, the government, the bank, or even the grocery store may refused to accept your $20 bill. Are you banking on your strength or your incredible brain to put food on your table tomorrow? Remember Nebchadnezzar who lost both over night. If your riches are not in the Lord they have only relative value – not intrinsic value. They are worth something only as others say they are worth something. Your gold and silver cannot keep your body alive, if you shave them into slivers and try to eat them. So be careful about what things you crave.
Beware of an evil appetite and also beware of the evil eye.
I have heard many silly things in regard to “the evil eye” as if it has some sort of mystical, demonic power. Witches can look at someone with an “evil eye” and they might go mad or turn to stone. “The evil eye” is most common among primitive people around the world, but is also a part of Islam, Judaism and other world religions. However there is no such eye or power.
And yet we find some sort of reference to it in the Bible. There are several scriptures which speak about this kind of eye. But it is not mystical or magical. An “evil eye” refers to an “evil purpose” not to something overtly Satanic. The Lord Jesus condemned “evil eye” but it was not to something demonic – it was very human. The Lord said, “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Jesus’ comment doesn’t help us to understand the word, but Deuteronomy 15:7-9 does – “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.” The “evil eye” in this case is a wicked look toward someone – a plan to abuse him. In Deuteronomy 28 – where Israel hears of God’s blessings and curses – among the curses for disobedience, the nation could expect war and famine to the point that … “The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, and toward her young one… for she shall eat them.” The evil eye of this woman was her desire to eat her children to save her own life.
In contrast to an “evil eye” is a “good eye” or “bountiful eye.” Across the page in Proverbs 22:9 we read – “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.” The evil eye is found in the face of someone with an evil purpose. “A bountiful eye.” seeks out ways to be a blessing. We cannot keep a wicked man from devising his wicked plans, or even looking at us with “an evil eye.” But we better make sure that our eye looks only for good. “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”
Our third point reminds us to beware of the evil heart.
So, a powerful ruler has invited you to his banquet He sets before you the best of the very best food – perhaps he knows exactly what it is you like to eat. “Eat and drink, saith he to thee.” What is wrong with this? Intrinsically – in and of itself – there is nothing wrong with it. Hey, you have to eat don’t you?
But Solomon’s point at this point is that people’s outward actions don’t necessarily reflect their hearts. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” He is a wicked man with a wicked agenda. He would gladly fill you with rich food and even financial riches, if in the process he is made richer. Don’t look at the appearances of the moment; try to understand the heart of your host.
And it is equally true – what your heart is, you are. As Jeremiah tells us “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” The heart is naturally selfish – seeking its own – even to the eating of our own children – metaphorically. How many times have parents sacrificed what was best for the family in order to satisfy their own lusts? Without regeneration and without the further blessings of God, the heart is always going to be looking at the world through an “evil eye” – looking for its own benefit.
This is the nature of the world today because it is the nature of humanity. Our society is going to continue to spiral into moral abyss, because our evil hearts look out through “evil eyes.” The only solution – the ONLY solution – is in new and different hearts. Heart replacement surgery only switches one evil heart for another. We need new hearts of a different kind, and only the God of grace can perform that surgery.