“A worker's appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.”
Appetite refers to desire or motivation. The common sense message is that if you want to eat, then you must work to earn the money to buy food. However, as we have learned in Proverbs, there is a deeper meaning.
People are directed by their desires. People are motivated to satisfy their appetites. The challenge is that sometimes our desires and appetites are misdirected. The book of Ecclesiastes provides this commentary: “All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied … Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite.” (Ecclesiastes 6.7-9)
An “unsatisfied appetite” is characterized by greed, gluttony, lust, or addiction. It is an out-of-control desire for something. Default desires are dangerous because they’re never satisfied; they are always looking for more. Thus the reference to “the wandering of the appetite.”
The things of this world can stimulate and give temporary pleasure, but they cannot fulfill. Default desires always want more; they are never satisfied. It is far better to recognize and be content with what you have than to be perpetually indulging an insatiable appetite. People who are not content are driven by their appetites and desires, and they inevitably fall into addiction of some kind.
The book of 1 John addresses this problem, and gives this command: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." (I John 2.15-17)
Desire is a natural and powerful force in our lives, but it must be managed and properly directed. Therefore, it is imperative -- it is essential -- that we are discerning and disciplined about what we desire. In this passage, John warns of three "things of the world" that we should not desire.
(1) The desires of the flesh. This is when the world tempts us with things that feel good. It refers to the impulses and passions of the old nature. Humans have a tendency to fulfill natural desires in a way that is contrary to God’s will. Having desire or passion or appetites is not intrinsically bad; it depends on the object toward which our desire is directed. The sin nature distorts and misdirects a natural desire.
For example, the sin nature distorts natural sexual appetites into lust. It distorts physical appetite into gluttony. It distorts healthy emotion into disruptive, negative feelings. The desire of the flesh is appealing; it can be fun, enticing, attractive ... and deadly. Not everything that feels good is good for you.
(2) The desires of the eyes. This is when the world tempts us with things that look good. What we give our attention to and the way we see things is an important part of life. Proverbs 20:12 says, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye—the Lord made them both.” However, the sin nature distorts the way we see things. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-29, "You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."
We are creatures of sight, and we must continually be on guard. Remember, it was David’s eyes that led him to lie, commit adultery, and murder (2 Sam 11). Not everything that looks good is good for you.
(3) The pride of life. This is when the world tempts us with things we think will make us look good: position, possessions, popularity, power. It's an attitude of arrogance. It's a person's pride in their wealth, rank, or stature in society. It is parading one's position or possessions to impress other people. James 4:16 underscores the warning: "As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil." Not everything that makes you look good is good for you.
The world is constantly trying to seduce us with things that feel good, look good, and that we think will make us look good. We must stand firm in the face of these temptations, and we must resist. We must not give our attention or affection to the things of the world.
John's final comment in this passage: "And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." The world is temporary and transient, but the kingdom of God is eternal. If you love the world and attach yourself to it, then you are giving your desire to something that will eventually pass away.
The world and its "things" is stimulating, but it is a dead-end street. Life in Christ is eternal.