“Do not join with those who drink too much wine, or gorge themselves on meat; For drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”
— Proverbs 23:20-21 (NIV)
by Dr. Larry Poland
As Armand Nicoli, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, looked back on his lifelong career as a psychiatrist, he noted a striking pattern shift. When he began his career, he says, the maladies facing him in his practice dealt a lot with the repression or suppression of impulses. Patients needed to be freed to express themselves and their impulses responsibly. Today, he notes, patients suffer from the inability to control the expression of impulses. Most “lack impulse control” and are in bondage to unbridled appetites.
Wisdom Principle #45: The one in bondage to repressed impulses is no more a slave than he who is shackled by lack of control over them.
We live and work in a world in which excess is often the norm. Unrestrained anger, sexual addictions, chain smoking, binge drinking, workaholism, bondage to pornography, drug abuse and, yes, gluttony leading to obesity, characterize many. The word “orgy” describes the excesses we see around us and which tempt us to binge ourselves.
Wisdom Principle #46: Associating with friends who lack restraint over their appetites exposes us to their contagious virus of excess.
Solomon knew the dangers of unrestrained human impulses. He knew that the character weakness which causes a person to lose impulse control in one area often extends to other areas of excess. So, he warned against even associating with those lacking impulse control lest we succumb to the pattern of excess.
Wisdom Principle #47: If it is true that “a fool and his money are soon parted,” it’s equally true that one who binges on anything else will likely binge on spending and borrowing.
Wisdom Principle #48: Financial poverty and bankruptcy begin where lack of control of other impulses leave off.
The inevitable link to financial irresponsibility cannot be missed in Solomon’s warning. It’s as if the wise king is saying, “Show me a person who can’t control his eating and drinking, and I’ll show you a person who can’t control his spending.” Bingeing in any area is expensive, but more than the direct cost seems to be the spillover lack of self control which makes us slaves to financial debt. The pattern eventually “clothes us in rags.”
Fascinating, then, that the Apostle Paul packages “self control” in with the fruit of the Spirit of Christ in Galatians 5:22. Noteworthy, too, that I can’t stay on a diet or exercise program without conscious reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit within me. I guess only God can override sin’s gravitational pull into excess.