This is the back side of happy hour. And even though I am not against a social drink, there is some wisdom in Solomon’s words for us. Solomon had lived a colourful life, as he pursued every enjoyment and vanity of life, and he found out that booze can lead us astray.
20 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
17 Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.
4 It is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine…
32 In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
Proverbs 19:20, 21:17, 31:4-5, 23:29-30, 32
Solomon is talking about what happens when we are led astray by the bottle. This is about those who love pleasure and wine over responsibility and work. The picture is painted of drinking so much that one forgets decisions made in leadership. That’s not leadership. When we get to the place where our eyes are bloodshot and we are poisoned to the point of feeling like we have been bitten (read hangover), we are over the line by a few shots…
I don’t know about you, but I hear regularly about people whose lives have been ravaged by the abuse of alcohol. Alcohol abuse is equal opportunity and a steamroller of life. Moderate and considerate use of alcohol is the goal, yet for some this is playing with fire…
For a long time, North American Christians were governed by the practice of abstinence when it came to alcohol (and other things). I think it was an easy-to-say compartmentalization of life to separate saints from sinners. And it was part of a larger picture of emphasizing the wrong message to the detriment of the gospel. Are Christians defined by what they don’t do or by following what Jesus did and taught?
Now the pendulum has swung for many Christians back into the middle to where we try to balance use and enjoyment of alcohol with prudence and restraint. And you know where that leaves us? Desperately needing Solomon’s advice. Solomon knows, having pursued every enjoyment and vanity of life, that something is going to lead us astray if we aren’t careful. Alcohol is competing hard for that prize.
Paul comments on this in his letter to the Ephesian church, contrasting the overuse and abuse of alcohol with the surrender to the Spirit:
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.
The use of spirits should always be under the authority of the Spirit, who is indwelling us and leading us every day. Can a moderate and prudent balance be struck? Yup. Does this take constant self-reflection and care? Yup. The Holy Spirit is an ever-present guide in this and all things…