“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.”
Wisdom begins by listening to the teaching of our Heavenly Father. Wisdom doesn’t attempt to create its own truth; rather, it recognizes and respects God as the Architect of truth. The reference to listening in this proverb is not to something shallow and superficial; it is deep listening. God does not want mere compliance; he wants full engagement and listening from the heart. The Lord wants us to hear and understand the what, why, and how of his teaching.
A central message is to stay away from people who indulge their impulses. Avoid people who eat and drink excessively, and who are lazy because they are too drunk, overweight, or hungover to do their work.
As was the case earlier in the chapter, the food and drink in this verse are symbolic of the tempting, self-indulgent offerings of the world. In other words, stay sober-minded and don’t get drunk on deceitful philosophies. Stay self-disciplined and don’t consume false teaching.
“Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”
This has been a theme in Proverbs from the early chapters. We need the constant reminder to hear and obey the disciplined instruction, teaching, and training of our God. This is the daily process of giving our heart to the Father’s teaching and commandments. It is the source of life.
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” (Proverbs 1.8-10)
At one level, since parents are the principal teachers of children in the formative years, this passage is a straightforward command for children to obey their parents. However, the primary audience of the book of Proverbs is not children; it is adults. The message here is an allegory where we are the “son” and the Lord’s truth and insight is “your father’s instruction” and “your mother’s teaching.”
Proverbs sets up a contrast between the teaching of the parents versus the corrupting influence of “sinners,” which is a reference to those in the world who reject God’s standards and pursue immoral activity. Every parent can immediately relate to this passage. Parents throughout history have instructed their children to stay away from negative influences. When the kids leave the protective environment of the home, parents know that the kids will be confronted by situations and people who will tempt and entice them to believe wrong things and do bad things.
In this allegory, we are the children, and the Lord knows that we are constantly confronted by situations and people that tempt us to compromise our faith. Like a father, he teaches us and warns us. May we have the ears to hear.
“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.” (Proverbs 23.24-25)