1 When you sit to dine with a ruler,
note well what is before you,
2 and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.
3 Do not crave his delicacies,
for that food is deceptive.
The importance of self restraint is emphasized here, which is classically known as the virtue of temperance. Control your appetites, or they will control you. What impression is given by the one who lacks self restraint? This is important in every interaction, even more so in the presence of authority. Self restraint is a habit of character, which the wise person exercises here in three ways.
First, “note well what is before you.” Temptation is a fork in the road. We know where the path of indulgence will take us, but what of the path of discipline? There is much more than food at this table, the wise person contemplates this and chooses his path carefully.
Second, the wise person is able to bring future consequence to bear on his present conduct. While the dangers of temptation are hidden, he imagines them as if they were imminent. Like a knife to the throat, he strengthens his will by focusing on the danger at hand.
Third, he is humble in attitude. The proud person thinks he is too sly to be deceived, while the humble person knows his weaknesses. He notes what is before him, but he also notes that he might have missed something. Temptation seeks to focus your attention solely on the pleasures in front of you. Don’t take the bait. Look for the trap, and behave as if it is there even if you can’t see it.