Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich (Prov. 21:17, ESV). The two lines in this verse give corresponding meanings. The phrase, “whoever loves pleasure,” corresponds to, “he who loves wine and oil.” The words, “will be a poor man,” parallel, “will not be rich.”
Let’s look closer. The word, “pleasure” (Heb. imha), means, “joy, gladness, e.g. in festivity.” (BDB) Such pleasure is gained with wine and oil. The word, “oil” (Heb. shemen), usually refers to olive oil. Olive oil is used as perfume or ointment. Oil is linked with wine and grain as products of the land. Oil came to symbolize prosperity (Deut. 32:13; 33:34).(TWOT) Prov. 27:9, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” The scent of perfume oil can get you into a good mood. Thus, wine and oil symbolize gladness and sweetness.
Wine and oil came to symbolize pleasure through partying. The word, “pleasure,” therefore, is synonymous to “expensive partying” or “extravagant good times.”
It is the same thing today. Night club owners call the drinking hour, “happy hour.” TV and radio commercials for alcohol products link alcohol-drinking with partying and dancing. We are a nation of feast-lovers, party-goers, and alcohol-drinkers. Five out of ten Filipinos are alcohol-drinkers, whether occasionally, moderately, or heavily. I am shocked that alcohol radio commercials are aired as early as 7AM daily. Alcohol companies are creating a culture of drinking and a nation of drunkards. As light and salt of the earth, evangelicals should not conform to this culture of drinking, but be transformed by abstaining from it or by being careful not to encourage it by example. Silence can sometimes mean, it’s okay.
But the writer warns us that whoever loves pleasure, partying, and good times, will be poor. Anyone loving wine and oil will not be rich. It is because if you love it, you will spend too much money in it, that you will no longer afford it. You will become poor by too much spending on drinking, pleasure, and parties. That is exactly the picture here in the Philippines. Many Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs) work hard abroad, only to come back and spend it all on partying, feasting, and drinking. The next day, their money is gone.
I know of a woman whose younger brothers work abroad. They come home and drink and party with their friends. The next day, they borrow money from their sister. Their sister gets mad every time they do that.
Folks, that is a recipe for poverty. When they lose their jobs abroad, they come home poor. They come home poor because they failed to save money, build a house, and invest in a business. They failed to prepare for the future, because they live in the present enjoyment of pleasure, partying, and feasting. That is how you will become poor.
If you love wine and oil, you will not be rich.