Proverbs 23:19-21

A Father Warning His Son


1. This trilogy of verses is the 14th of 30 wise sayings in this section of Proverbs.

2. It is an exhortation from a father to his son.

19 Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.

1. First Solomon encourages his son to LISTEN to what he has to say, be WISE, and then to GUIDE his heart.

2. Hear defined:

a. To hear; listen to; obey; to hear with attention and interest; to receive information; to hear and to heed what is heard.

b. Solomon speaks to his son and advises him to hear, to listen to, and to take heed to the advice of a godly father.

c. He says the same thing in vs. 22. The one who begot him certainly has no ill will against him. He wants only the best for his son. A son should consider that as the advice is given.

d. This has been an oft repeated theme in the book of Proverbs.

3. Be wise defined:

a. BE wise; become wise; show oneself to be wise; demonstrate wisdom; to make wise decisions.

b. Prov. 6:6 – It speaks of observing life, learning lessons, and putting them into practice.

c. It is the wisdom that is gained from hearing and observing. Pay attention, and put it into practice.

d. Consider God’s heart towards His wayward son, Israel: “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29)

e. Here we learn that wisdom (like faith) cometh by hearing. The one who has ears to hear will learn and become wise.

f. This is another common theme in Proverbs: be wise! The book is all about becoming wise.

4. Guide defined:

a. Now he gets a little more specific:

b. Guide means: To go straight; make progress; to step forward; to advance.

c. Solomon urges his son to guide his HEART… to make progress on the inside—in his heart.
• That includes his thoughts, emotions—the whole inner man.
• This is good advice for ALL of us. We all have a lot of progress to make in the development of our inner man – our inner character.
• This is what Solomon urged his son to do: to walk the straight and narrow path, to step forward, to make progress—to advance in the development of his heart – his inner man.
• This would involve his thoughts – his mind. Progress is to be made intellectually and spiritually.
» This would include education.
» It would include reading the Scriptures and thinking on things that are true, lovely, full of virtue, and of good report…
» Prov. 24:9 – “The thought of foolishness is sin.”
• This would also include one’s emotions—getting a handle on them… controlling them.
» Prov. 25:28 – “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”
» Emotions are good, but they are to be under the control of the Holy Spirit or they will lead us astray.

d. Solomon encouraged his son to guide his heart… to grow as a man… to mature… to develop… to make progress in every way: mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

e. Prov. 4:10-13 – When a son listens to the counsel of his father, his steps WILL make progress.
• This is a command not to stagnate… not to just slide by, but rather to take steps forward and to progress in these areas.

f. Prov. 4:23-27 – If we guide our heart, our steps will be headed in a good direction. The feet will take us where the heart orders.
• If the heart is right, the life will be right… and progress will be made. Thus, keep your heart with all diligence… and keep on advancing.

g. Peter warns us all to “Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Pet. 3:18)

h. Peter also challenges us: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (I Pet. 2:2)

i. Paul also commands us to grow up: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Eph. 4:15)

20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:

1. First Solomon encouraged his son to listen, be wise, and to guide his heart… make progress intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

2. Secondly, Solomon delivers the CONTENT of his warning: watch your company! He gives some particular examples of “guiding one’s heart.”

3. Be not among winebibbers: (one word)

a. Prov. 20:1 – He has already warned about the dangers of alcohol.

b. Prov. 23:29-35 – He has MUCH more to say about alcohol, later in this chapter.

c. This is still a major parental fear in today’s world—that one’s child would become involved in drugs or alcohol… they are so available and so addictive and destructive.

d. Here the advice is to avoid company with those who indulge in alcohol. Their attitude towards alcohol might rub off on you.

e. Everybody who starts drinking THINKS he can handle it.

f. One in ten drinkers becomes a problem drinker. It’s dangerous. It’s sort of like playing Russian roulette.

4. Riotous eaters of flesh (one word)

a. The term here means: Vile; frivolous; gluttonous; worthless. The term means to over-eat… but implies the lifestyle that goes along with it.

b. Prov. 23:2 – He has also already warned about gluttony in this chapter.

c. Associating with those who over-eat and over-drink WILL affect you—even if you think you are strong enough to resist.
• Paul warns, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (I Cor. 10:12)
• I Cor. 15:33 – “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” (communications = communion or companionship)
• Prov. 13:20 – “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
• Birds of a feather flock together. Those you associate with WILL have an effect on you whether we want to admit it or not.
• Hence, Solomon warns his sons about certain groups NOT to associate with: those who are given to lustful living.

d. The believer today is to be filled with the Spirit and thus, he will exhibit self control – temperance – the fruit of the Spirit.

e. Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh – indulging in eating and drinking.

5. Deut. 21:20-21 – The rebellious son who was a glutton and drunkard could be stoned to death by the elders of the city. They did not tolerate this kind of behavior in those days. They wanted all the other young people to “hear and fear.”

21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.


This is the final verse of a trilogy of verses (19-21) which constitutes the 14th wise saying of this section of Proverbs.
– Solomon gives advice to his son: (1) hear (2) be wise (3) guide – make progress in your heart.
– The content of the advice is found in vs. 20 – be not among winebibbers or riotous eaters of flesh. He advises his son to avoid their company.
– In verse 21, Solomon concludes this trilogy of advice.

Now Solomon gives some practical REASONS WHY his son should take heed to his advice to avoid the company of winebibbers and riotous eaters of flesh: you will end up poor, lazy, and dressed in rags.

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty

1. The drunkard and glutton

a. The drunkard and glutton speak of the kind of men who have no control over their appetites.

b. They are controlled by lust… and lust when it hath conceived bringeth forth sin.

c. They think only of themselves, satisfying every lust and desire.

d. Such a man lives to eat and drink… gorging himself.

e. This is the classic hedonist – one who lives only for pleasure.

f. II Tim. 3:4 – This attitude is destructive of one’s spiritual life.
• Love can mean to have a preference for one thing over another.
• Paul writes of men who are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.
• Often there is a choice between ENJOYING something appealing OR putting God first.
• By repeatedly choosing to do things that WE ENJOY before serving God or worshipping God, we are developing hedonist habits… becoming lovers of pleasure MORE THAN lovers of God.
• Love is a choice we make. We can choose to love God or we can choose to love pleasure…
• John put it this way: We can choose to love God or we can choose to love the things of this world. (I John 2:15)
• The Lord Jesus put it this way: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24)

g. We can either LOVE God, or LUST after earthly things.
• Solomon mentioned two types of earthly lusts (eating and drinking) because they are so common to man.
• But there are MANY other things that we can lust after: material goods; the big house on the hill; boats; money; prestige; fame; fancy cars; fancy clothes; sex; drugs; pleasure; etc.
• Just as food and drink are CONSUMED by the drunkard and the glutton, so all kinds of earthly things can be consumed by us with just as much lust and excesses.
• This proverb is just as applicable to those who lust after “other things” as it is to those who lust after food and wine.

2. They shall come to poverty:

a. Shall come: to take possession of; to inherit.

b. Solomon warns his son that the drunkard and the glutton shall inherit poverty… they shall come in to the possession of poverty.

c. The end of that road is poverty.

d. Prov. 21:17 – “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.”

e. Choosing to please self and live for pleasure eventually leads to poverty.
• Living for selfish pleasure leads to poverty because lust is expensive.
• Drugs and alcohol are expensive.
• Going out to eat all the time in fancy restaurants is expensive.
• Developing expensive tastes can bring a man to poverty. The one who loves oil and wine will not be rich.
• Prov. 21:20 – There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.”
• Of course there is application to things other than food and drink. This applies just as well to clothing, shopping, buying cars, houses, and 1001 other things.
• In so many ways, we CONSUME more than we should… more than we can afford…
• One of the problems with our economy right now is the millions of people who bought homes they could not afford—and the banks helped them do it!
• Lusting for the nicer things in life… lusting for a life of luxury and pleasure is very expensive and often results in poverty.
• Luke 15:13-16 – Like the prodigal son who wasted his substance in riotous living… feasting and drinking… (A glutton and drunkard).
» As a result, he came to poverty. He ended up eating with the swine.
» He went from eating the finest cuisine to eating pig slop.
» What happened to that young man in an accelerated pace happens to most gluttons and drunkards over a longer period of time… but it’s the same END.
» If this young man was more sensible as a youth, he could have inherited his father’s wealth at the proper time. Instead, he inherited poverty.

3. Gluttony and drunkenness leads to drowsiness:

a. Drowsiness:
• This term is used only in Prov. 23:21.
• It means: Laziness; indolence; formally; drowsiness; i.e., the willful refusal of making effort or work as a life-style, as a moral failure.
• One dictionary defined drowsiness here as a figurative extension of slumber as a state of inactivity.

b. Everyone knows what it feels like to be tired and drowsy – sleepy.

c. Of course over eating and drinking can make you physically tired and drowsy.

d. This can become a lifestyle…
• “I’d love to go to work, but I’m just too tired.” That too can lead to poverty.
• And in the spiritual realm, “I’d love to read the Bible and go to church, but I’m just too tired.” That can lead to spiritual poverty.

e. One can develop a mental lethargy… drowsiness that can ruin a life. It can become a deep-seated laziness that leads to destruction.

f. Prov. 6:9-11 – The lustful man or woman who lives to eat and drink and live it up usually becomes lazy.
• You can’t go to work with a hangover… you need to stay in bed.
• You can’t stay late at work when the boss needs you… you have to go to that party tonight.
• You don’t feel like mowing the lawn—you just ate a big meal and need a nap… nor can you paint the house, fix the fence, work in the garden or do anything. You’re just too tired.
• All you need after all that eating and drinking (or after all that shopping… or whatever else it is that you were so busy consuming that you are now exhausted to work) all you need now is just a little slumber… a little folding of the hands, and you’ll be fine.
• vs. 11 – And so shall your poverty come! That’s a sure road to poverty.
» Here Solomon warns that laziness is usually followed by poverty.
» This does not mean that ALL poor people are poor because they are lazy. That is not the case.
» But it does mean that lazy people usually become poor… or poorer.
» His “want” (desire to have goods) shall come like an armed man—like a bandit… like a thief in the night. It will come upon him very swiftly…

g. Prov. 19:15 – “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.”
• The one who loves to eat and drink becomes drowsy and lazy… and he ends up hungry because he is too poor to afford food any more.
• If you are too lazy to go to work… then you won’t have any money. If you don’t have money, you can’t buy food.
• It’s as simple as that.

4. It will clothe a man with rags.

a. This is picturesque way of saying that it leads to poverty.

b. This was quite a warning in light of the fact that Solomon was addressing his sons, who were princes – part of the royal family!

c. The young man being addressed was the son of the wealthiest man in the world – Solomon; yet he was warned that he might end up in poverty and dressed in rags!

d. That would be quite a culture shock for a son brought up in the lap of luxury in the royal palace, and dressed in royal velvet and gold all his life.

e. It would be quite humbling for him to end up wearing rags.

5. The underlying problem Solomon highlights in this passage is much deeper and broader than food and drink. It is a lack of self control.

a. If a person lacks self control in eating and drinking—it is likely that this character flaw will manifest itself in other areas too.

b. It is the fruit of the flesh. The flesh loves to indulge itself in all kinds of things—both good and bad.

c. We all used to live in the lusts of our flesh – fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. (Eph. 2:3)

d. Walking in the flesh will manifest itself in many different forms of the same sin of intemperance.

e. The answer to a lack of self control is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit who produces in us the fruit of temperance… self control.

f. A lack of self control can lead to drunkenness, gluttony, and then to laziness… and from there to poverty.

6. Rom. 13:13-14 – “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”

a. Not only should we avoid association with those who engage in such things, we should make no provision even for the temptation!

b. Don’t put yourself in a place where you will be tempted.

c. This passage says not just don’t be one OF them, but don’t even be AMONGST them.

d. This is the same advice Solomon gave in Prov. 23:20 – Be not AMONG winebibbers and riotous eaters of flesh.

7. Eph.5:14 – Awake thou that sleepest and Christ will give thee light!

a. If you find yourself lazy because of over eating and drinking… or lusting for the things of this world…

b. If you find yourself poor because of drowsiness…

c. The answer is to wake up. Be aware of your condition and DO something about it.

d. Read the Bible.
• The Word teaches us how to control our appetites.
• It teaches us about the power of the Spirit to produce the fruit of temperance or self control in us.
• It teaches us not to love the things of this world.
• It teaches us be diligent, hard workers… and to ponder the path of our feet.
• As we follow the Scriptures, we can return to the place of self control and get our life back on track.