In his chapter, “Convenient Food,” William Arnot’s comments on Proverbs 23:1-3 about what to do when dining with a ruler challenge us all about an issue that we all need repeated reminders. Although the verses that he comments on pertain directly to that specific situation, the principles apply to all our eating and drinking:
It is of the Lord that hunger is painful, and food gives pleasure; between these two lines of defence the Creator has placed life, with a view to its preservation. If eating had been as painful as it is pleasant to our nature, the disagreeable duty would have been frequently forgotten or neglected, and the world, if peopled at all, would have been peopled by tribes of walking skeletons. The arrangement which provides that the necessary reception of aliment into the system gives pleasure to the senses, is wise and good; it is an ungrateful return for our Maker’s kindness when the creature turns his bounty into licentiousness. The due sustenance of the body is the Creator’s end; the pleasantness of food the means of attaining it. When men prosecute and cultivate that pleasure as an end, they thwart the very purposes of providence. When the pleasure is pursued as an object, it ceases to serve effectually as a means of healthfully maintaining the living frame.
When the appetite is strong, and the food enticing, the danger of sinning and suffering is great,—greater than most of us care to observe, and acknowledge to ourselves. The warning here is strongly expressed, and all its strength is needed. “Put a knife to thy throat,” is in form similar to the injunctions of the Great Teacher, to pluck out the offending right eye, and cut off the offending right hand. “Be not desirous of his dainties, for they are deceitful meat.” They are of a set purpose made deceitful: they are prepared by an artist of skill, whose whole life is devoted to the study. Resisting virtue in the guests must be strong indeed, for the temptation is as powerful as wealth and experience can make it (Studies in Proverbs, 464-65).