1 When you sit to dine with a ruler,
note well what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.
3 Do not crave his delicacies,
for that food is deceptive.
6 Do not eat the food of a begrudging host,
do not crave his delicacies;
7 for he is the kind of person
who is always thinking about the cost.
"Eat and drink," he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
8 You will vomit up the little you have eaten
and will have wasted your compliments.
Sometimes we need to start with the context of a verse or section of verses. At first glance we see that as a king in ancient times, Solomon was advising his son on good behavior, or etiquette, when dining. We'll see later that it was more than just an etiquette lesson, but first let's look at the surface of these verses.
Anyone besides me remember the classic movie, Ben Hur? (I liked the book better, just sayin'!) Do you recall the scene where Judah is in the tent of the rich Bedouin, enjoying a sumptuous feast? My kiddos always rolled with laughter when Judah was expected to belch AGAIN. After all, one belch meant the meal was absolutely no good, and he didn't enjoy it - and his host would have been so insulted! (For those of you who haven't seen the movie, he was able to get out one more and avoid embarrassment.)
I think we can agree that some of the customs of that day seem strange to us, and there were probably other "rules" that were to be followed when dining with a king or an important man. So, on the surface, Solomon is reminding his son to "mind his P's and Q's" at dinner.
Since he is encouraging moderation and temperance in the sight of "dainties" I think that we can safely apply this to our lives as well . . . it's best for us to refrain from eating to excess, and it's also good to be aware of what we are putting into our bodies --- we're told that they are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and we need to keep them in good working order!
The second group of verses tells us about a host who is ungracious; perhaps he is a miser, and so to entertain others will use up his precious monies, and he, thinking only of the cost, begrudges them the dainties. Solomon has already told us that it's better to have a simple meal of herbs -- than to dine where there is no true welcome, no loving companionship.
That brings me to my last point for today --- as Christians, perhaps we should give good attention to our own attitude: are we hospitable? Are we gracious and generous, when we invite others to partake of the blessings on our table?
I was talking to a friend about their church, and they told me of a conflict over this very issue. Many of their members were whole-heartedly supporting (with time and money) an effort to provide food and meals to families and individuals "within the shadow of the steeple." One or two members, however, were very vocal about their concern: that the meals might have been taken to someone who actually had money to purchase food, but may have squandered it on other things; even for illegal things. I found myself agreeing with my friend, who remarked that the food did give them a chance to speak to, and witness to, these people --- they might not have any other way of reaching out to them, so why begrudge them the food? It would seem to be a better choice to be gracious in giving, and to witness to them about our Father.
After all, Jesus told us that if we offered food or drink in His name, it is as if we did it for Him. (Matthew 25)
I think I will try to watch what I eat -- but not watch (keep track of) what "they" eat!