Monday, June 5, 2017

Proverbs 23:1-5 -- On Deceitful Meat

"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.
Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven."
Proverbs 23:1-5

This is a good warning to us about envy and greed, and desiring and working for things that aren't of worth or that we cannot have.  It reminds me of "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy." (2 Nephi 9:51).

Sitting down with a ruler is dangerous in a few ways.  What is before us could be rich food, money, bribery, or other temptations, including power or envy of other things the ruler has and we do not.  God asks us to consider our choices diligently, so as to escape these temptations, because wanting them too much would be like putting a knife to our own throats.

The phrase "deceitful meat" is a fun one.  I think it probably means that it seems like a free meal, or the rich food whets our appetites, but that there are some real hidden costs to the whole situation that we need to be aware of.  This is followed up with "labour not to be rich," which is good advice, going along with the idea of not spending money or working for things that can't actually fill our needs.  I think that we do this a lot in life.  We feel an emptiness inside, and we throw many things at it to try to mask it or fill it... drugs, alcohol, inappropriate relationships, and many other greater or lesser forms of escapism or addiction.  But the thing that we all have to learn eventually is that we can't fill the hole.  That is the hole where God should be, and the *only* way to fill it is to repair our relationship with him.  All that time and money that we spend on so many other things is so often a complete waste, because we end up back in the same hole, wondering why we still feel empty.

This meal with a ruler I think is symbolic of a lot of that.  We can get ourselves into a lot of trouble if someone is willing to give us what we want, if we just compromise a few principles here and there.  And if we start down that road, we are selling our own souls, and getting emptiness in return.  Riches fly away as though they had wings, as do the benefits of all the rest of the things that we might try to put in the place of God... power, money, lust, fame, etc.  It's all temporary, and almost imaginary really, compared to God.  When we get some perspective and can see God and our other choices side by side, God wins, hands down.  The danger comes in that meal part, where we can be tempted by the things around us rather than thinking clearly about God, and all that he offers us.

Today, let's not be lulled by free food, or power, or money, or any of the other things that other people have that we don't.  Let's not work for things that don't matter, or invest in emptiness.  Let's focus on God, who can fill our emptiness and provide anything that we truly need.  Let's aim for the long term happy ending rather than the short-term flavor of deceitful meat. :)

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