Chapter
Verse

Proverbs 23:20

ESV Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
NIV Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat,
NASB Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
CSB Don't associate with those who drink too much wine or with those who gorge themselves on meat.
NLT Do not carouse with drunkards or feast with gluttons,
KJV Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:

What does Proverbs 23:20 mean?

This verse literally mentions drunkenness and gluttony, but the meaning is broader. The concept applies to those who are often drunk, or who overeat. Yet it also refers to those dominated by urges and appetites. The modern "party hard" attitude, which celebrates out-of-control indulgence, is part of that mistake.

Earlier verses warned against being jealous of sinful lifestyles (Proverbs 23:17–18). What seems fun and entertaining at first comes with serious risks, and eternal consequences (Proverbs 8:32–36). One way to avoid being tempted by sinfulness is avoiding those who persist in sin. This echoes other advice given in the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 22:24; 28:7). Those we associate with can influence our character (Proverbs 12:26; 13:20). This is one reason Scripture advises against close friendships or situations with those prone to vice.

Another reason for this warning is the collateral damage brought by those sins. Later verses will give more details about the personal dangers of drunkenness (Proverbs 23:29–35). The advice given here is not to be "among" such persons, because their lifestyle leads to ruin (Proverbs 23:21). Imitating their sin invites disaster. Just being around them means the chance of being caught up in the aftermath of wicked choices. Even if you are sober, a drunk friend can start a fight or commit a crime, dragging you into trouble.

Alcohol is not entirely off-limits for believers. However, the Bible is clear about its dangers and sets limits on when it should not be used. In Old Testament times wine was forbidden for priests while on duty (Leviticus 10:9) and for Nazirites (Numbers 6:1–6). In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul exhorted: "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). Wine and other substances can control a person, but a believer should take care not to be controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit.

In a comparable way, gluttony—greed, overeating, or other forms of excess—can produce drowsiness and render the glutton virtually useless. It's also a means to waste one's resources, pushing one closer to poverty.
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