Proverbs 21:17, “Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.”
Is King Solomon teaching us that pleasure is bad? No, if he were then he would be contradicting the parts of the Bible that encourage us to enjoy life (Psalm 104:14-15). For example, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:7, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.” The idea he is conveying in today’s proverb is that if you’re “obsessed” with the pleasures of wine (getting drunk) and olive oil (eating too much fatty foods) you will never be rich; and if you are rich now, living like this will cost you your wealth.
Pleasures by themselves are not inherently bad, but if they consume your life they will cost you all your riches.
When I read this proverb a person like Dennis Rodman comes to mind. He was a famous basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, who won five NBA championships and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He made tens of millions of dollars, however, he went broke because of his love for pleasure (mainly alcohol). He was known to be a “party-animal,” spending his money on the temporary pleasures of this world. Rodman went from being worth over 30 million dollars to being one million dollars in debt.
Though Rodman is an extreme example, I see the same kind of thing happen with ordinary people all the time. Some people will work hard and earn $50,000 a year, however, because they love the pleasures of designer clothes, expensive cars, extravagant vacations and five star restaurants, they spend $70,000 a year. As a result, they can never become rich (have more than enough) because they are $20,000 in debt. Sadly, then they’ll wonder why they can never get ahead financially.
Augustine wrote, “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; Where your treasure is, there is your heart; Where your heart is, there is your happiness.” In other words, when we prioritize our pleasures by the desire to please God, we will find our greatest pleasures come from heaven. Earthly pleasures left unfiltered by heavenly wisdom will lead to harmful results, but they can be beneficial when submitted to God. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
If you want to be rich in life and have more than enough you must learn to say no to uncontrolled pleasures. Don’t let your desire for earthly pleasures control your life, but rather control your desires with godly principles. Principles that help you know when to work hard, celebrate and how to moderate your desires. Gain the life experience of being guided by the wisdom of God and not your flesh. Then you will truly experience the greatest pleasures that come God (Psalm 16:11).
- Think about three earthly pleasures you enjoy.
- Pray that God will help you control your desire for pleasure.
- Live according to godly principles and not earthly pleasures. For example, don’t “love wine” by only drinking 2-3 servings in one sitting. And don’t “love olive oil” by eating so much food that you gain weight and become unhealthy.