And put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Proverbs 23:2
Great Appetite – What kind of suggestion is this? It seems outrageous. Here is a man who has been invited to dine with the king. He is in a privileged position. And Solomon tells him to put a knife to his own throat! Why would he do such a thing? The answer is all about uncontrollable desires. In other words, this is a verse for the addicted.
If you think you are exempt, take a closer look. What Solomon observes is that each of us has a place where we are vulnerable to overwhelming desires. In this example, it is the desire for the power by association with someone important. But the proverb applies to every area where we are likely to be carried off by our own lusts. There is something deep inside of us that longs to have the world the way we want it. Solomon knew what that was like. Therefore, he offers advice from experience with a metaphor about a death threat. If you want to avoid the trap of those things that have the greatest appeal to your specific lust, then you must take radical measures. You must hold a knife to your own throat in order to prevent any allowance in that area.
Every addict knows this to be true. A recovering alcoholic can’t have a single drink. A recovering drug addict can’t allow a single puff. A recovering compulsive spender can’t have a single credit card. For some addicts, it’s more difficult because the addiction is associated with life functions. An addict who is a compulsive eater still has to eat to live, but the knife must stay at the throat. Jesus was no less severe about this when he spoke about plucking out an eye that kept you from entering the kingdom (Matthew 5:29-30). There is no room for a little leaven in heaven!
The Hebrew phrase is ba’al nephesh. Even the construction sounds a warning. Ba’al is a word we recognize. It is the name of a false god often worshiped in the civilizations surrounding Israel. More importantly, it is a word that means, “owner, possessor or lord.” If you are the kind of person who is the possessor of an appetite that is difficult to control – an appetite for pleasure, power, prestige or any other self-glorifying addiction – then hold the knife against your throat whenever such an appetite rears its head. You are in mortal danger. This is nothing to fool with. Your soul (nephesh) is at risk!
Carry a spiritual pocketknife all the times. You never know when you will need it.