Wine and Its Evil Associates
Consider the following evils the BIBLE associates with wine and drunkenness:
- Sorrow and contention
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.” (Prov. 23:29-30)
Madison Avenue likes to paint a rosy picture of alcohol use. The advertisements invariably display happy young men and women “tarrying long at the wine” laughing, having fun, and enjoying life. The ads give the impression that apart from alcohol, one really can’t experience JOY. Could you really enjoy a football game without a Budweiser? Could a social gathering be enjoyable without Jack Daniels? According to the advertisements, those who “tarry long at the wine” are happy people. That is NOT what the Bible says. Proverbs 23:29 states that those who tarry long at the wine have woes and sorrows. The Hebrew term translated woe means a “passionate cry of grief or despair.”[i] Lingering at the wine ultimately leads to grief and despair. It would be nearly impossible to gauge just how MUCH grief and despair have resulted from alcohol over the years. How does one calculate the grief of the spouse having to live with an alcoholic? How is the shame measured in making excuses for, hiding, covering up, and pretending? Consider the very real grief of the wife who has to live day in and day out with the extra burdens that are hers because of an alcoholic husband. Think of the grief and shame that the children of an alcoholic have to endure. While the TV presents a picture of happy people lingering at the wine – the Bible and reality paint a very different picture. Spending a few weeks in the home of an alcoholic would erase the “pretty face” of alcohol use Madison Avenue portrays.
The advertisements not only display happy people lingering at the wine, but they display happy people getting along with one another. Once again, the Bible and reality paint a different picture. The Bible says that they who linger long at the wine have contentions. This term is often translated “brawling” and speaks of fighting and strife. While fighting can occur anywhere, it can easily be demonstrated that alcohol greatly increases the likelihood of a fight or strife. I have yet to see an advertisement for Budweiser or Seagram’s Seven show a barroom brawl, complete with broken bottles, men bleeding, and then being hauled off to jail in handcuffs. I have yet to see an advertisement for alcohol portray a real life scene in a home where a drunken father comes home to create havoc in the lives of his wife and children and the contention it creates in the home. Hollywood and Madison Avenue associate alcohol with fun, happiness, and people enjoying one another’s company. The Bible associates alcohol use with sorrow and contention.
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.” (Prov.23:29) Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. (Prov.23:34)
Madison Avenue advertising companies like to associate alcohol with youth, strength, vitality, and beauty. The beer ads are full of young, muscular, healthy men with beautiful young women at their side. By watching the ads one might assume that alcohol keeps the body strong and fit. The opposite is true. The Bible associates alcohol with sickness and wounds. Binge drinking often results in “wounds” – from the fights, the falls, and the foolish behavior. It results in redness of eye. Alcohol causes a man to experience nausea (room spinning effect) as one who “lieth upon the top of a mast” out at sea (vs.34).
But the temporary sickness of overdrinking is by far overshadowed by the lifelong diseases and injuries so often caused by alcohol, such as alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, swollen pancreas, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (complete memory loss), cardiomyopathy, and fetal alcohol syndrome. The long-term use of alcohol can have serious adverse affects (some life threatening) on the body.
- Perverse thoughts and utterances
“Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.” (Prov.23:33)
The Scriptures make it clear that the believer is RESPONSIBLE for his thoughts and words. The believer is commanded to think (to purposely fill his mind) thoughts that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and full of virtue and praise (Phil. 4:8). The thoughts of the righteous are right (Prov. 12:5). God expects (demands!) that the thought life of the believer be right and pure in His sight. It is the believer’s personal responsibility to be “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).
Failure to keep one’s mind pure is SIN. And yet we are warned in Scripture that alcohol CAUSES a man to think evil in his heart. Alcohol CAUSES the heart to lust and think impure thoughts. And from that evil heart, alcohol causes a man to utter perverse things.
Jesus said that out of the evil heart proceed evil thoughts (Matt. 15:19). The fallen heart of man doesn’t need a lot of encouragement to think unholy thoughts. It produces enough evil on its own. Why would a believer want to drink that which he KNOWS will excite evil thoughts? The thought of foolishness is SIN (Prov.24:9a). Have you ever listened to the conversation of someone under the influence? Their conversations are often foolish, shady, and sinful. The Bible says that neither “filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting which are not convenient” (fitting) are to be once named among the saints of God (Eph. 5:3-4). Drinking that which encourages foolish and filthy talk should be utterly abhorred by the believer who loves God and hates sin. God understands our thoughts afar off (Ps. 139:2). God also SEARCHES our thoughts (Ps.139:23). Our thoughts are not hidden from Him. Wicked thoughts are an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 15:26). God holds His children accountable for their thoughts, even if their minds are clouded by alcohol. Drinking is a choice.
The believer is also responsible for his speech. In fact, every idle word will come under Divine scrutiny (Matt. 12:36). “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc. 12:14). We must give an account for every thought and every word. We know how untamable the tongue is even apart from intoxicants. Why drink that which we KNOW will cause us to say things we will regret later?
God has revealed this aspect of the effect of alcohol to us for a purpose. If we choose to drink it KNOWING these things, we are accountable for our thoughts and for our words. The man who CHOOSES to drink and drive and ends up killing a family of four is responsible for his actions – even if he passed out at the wheel. He knew what he was doing when he poured his drinks. He knew what he was doing when he got in the car. He is legally and morally responsible for his actions. So too is the believer who drinks responsible for his thoughts and words. God TOLD us what alcohol will do to our thought life and to our speech. If we choose to ignore His warning and drink anyway, we are responsible and will give an account to Him.
“Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.” (Prov.23:20-21)
Another evil associate of alcohol is poverty and laziness. Believers are warned not to associate with winebibbers and drunkards. (It goes without saying that we should not BE one!) Those who become problem drinkers often end up poor. They become poor because they waste their money on alcohol and the foolish lifestyle that goes along with it. They become poor because they often lose their jobs and ruin their careers. Money that should have been spent paying the mortgage is often wasted on booze. Problem drinkers often spend the family food money on drink. Not only does the problem drinker become poor, but his family often suffers poverty because of his folly too.
Take a good look at the winos on Skid Row. Many of those poor fools at one time had lucrative careers, but now they are clothed in rags and begging for a quarter. Alcohol is no respecter of persons. It can bring a business executive or medical doctor to Skid Row just as easily as it can bring the poor boy brought up in the ghetto there. Every city in the country has countless living witnesses of the truth of this text: “the drunkard… shall come to poverty.”
- Lack of wisdom
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived there is not wise. (Prov.20:1)
Solomon states that anyone who is deceived by alcohol is not wise – in other words, a fool. Why is he a fool? Surely, if he was “deceived” it must not be his fault. He was tricked! How can we blame the one who is deceived? Solomon answers that question. He states right up front that alcohol IS a mocker. It is raging. God has revealed this truth and we now know it. Anyone who knows these things and is deceived by them anyway, is a fool! If construction workers are working on staging twenty floors up, and one is told that the end board is not safe, and a worker (who heard the warning but scoffed at it) steps on the loose board and falls to his death, he is a fool! He may have thought that it would hold him up, but it didn’t. He may have boasted that he was smarter than the one making the warning, but his fall proved that he wasn’t. He was TOLD of the danger and he still chose to stand on it. He is a fool – a dead fool! Solomon warns his readers that wine is a mocker and strong drink raging. Anyone who KNOWS this, ignores the warning, and is deceived (becomes a problem drinker) is not wise. He is a fool.
- Poor judgment
“But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.” (Isaiah 28:7)
“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” (Prov.31:4-5)
Alcohol causes men to “stumble in judgment” and “pervert judgment.” God’s will for the believer is that he “abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment that (ye) may approve things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:10a). God’s plan for the believer is that he grow in wisdom and discernment (Heb. 5:14). The Christian life requires good judgment which is under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual man has discernment (I Cor. 2:15). When a man is under the influence of some other “spirit” his judgment is impaired. As a result, those who are influenced by alcohol often say and do very foolish things. Hence, there is the proverbial dance on the coffee table with the lampshade on the head. Some other choices and actions are not quite so “cute.” All too often poor judgment results in auto fatalities, drunken brawls, rapes, divorces, domestic violence, and tragedies of all stripes.
Prov. 31:4-5 states that kings and others who need to exercise sound judgment should not drink wine. The New Testament states that those in leadership positions in the local church are not to be given to wine. Such men are looked to for wisdom and often have to make important decisions. It is “not for them to drink wine.” It is acceptable for the one who is perishing to USE wine as a painkiller to NUMB his senses (Prov.31:6-7). But those who need their senses are not to drink wine. It is not for them.
Doesn’t it make sense for the believer to do whatever he can to AVOID poor judgment? It could be said that the choice to drink is in itself an act of poor judgment.
- Takes away understanding
“Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.” (Hos.4:11)
Alcohol robs a man of his good sense and understanding. This passage implies that the man who at one time possessed understanding (heart) LOST what he had. Wine “took away” (seized; snatched away; took possession of) his understanding.
Matthew Henry’s comments on this verse as follows: “Their sensual pleasures have taken them off from their devotions and drowned all that is good in them… (it will) weaken and enfeeble them.”[ii] Alcohol affects one’s heart for God. It weakens and enfeebles moral sensibilities. Another commentator noted that wine and new wine “make a man devoid of spiritual understanding.”[iii] The use of alcohol takes away spiritual understanding and weakens a man. God’s desire is that the believer be strengthened with might in the inner man – not weakened (Eph. 3:16). God’s plan is that we increase in spiritual understanding – not decrease (Col.1:9-11). Since God warns us that wine can weaken us and take away our spiritual understanding, the sensible choice is to avoid it entirely.
- Lack of regard for the work of God
“Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of His hands. (Isa.5:11-12)
In this context Isaiah speaks of those who “follow” strong drink. Here he describes the mindset of “party-goers” where alcohol flows freely: “they regard not the work of the Lord.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes that such folks care nothing for the deeds of the Lord. “Their lack of respect for the work of His hands meant they abused other people made in the image of God. Caring only for their own pleasures, they had no concern for the Lord or for others.”[iv] Those who are filled with the spirit of alcohol think of themselves and their own pleasure, but they do not regard the Lord – at least not in a reverent manner.
Psalm 105:5 states that we are commanded to “Remember His marvelous works that He hath done; His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.” God warns us that those who follow strong drink do NOT regard His marvelous works. (Don’t forget – beer and wine, unless first mixed with between 3-10 parts water, is considered strong drink.)
- Lack of concern about the Lord’s coming
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” (Luke.21:34)
Of course it would be shameful to be found stone drunk at the Second Coming. Christ is also coming to rescue the church from the impending judgment which is to fall upon the earth during the Tribulation Period. Would you as a Christian feel comfortable before Him at His coming if you were found, perhaps not stone drunk, but just a bit tipsy? Note the warning the Lord gives. Surfeiting and drunkenness (excessive use of alcohol) and the cares of this life are the very tools the devil uses to cause men to be UNAWARE of spiritual realities: of Christ and His coming.
Alcohol takes away the heart, the understanding, our regard for the Lord, and takes away thoughts of His coming. Alcohol DULLS the senses and it dulls spiritual sensibilities. It is understandable why the unsaved would want to dull their senses and not think about spiritual realities. The unbeliever doesn’t WANT to think about the return of the Lord, for He is coming as their Judge. But it is beyond explanation why a believer would want to do anything that would lessen his awareness of the Lord’s imminent return. We should be “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Doesn’t it make good sense to avoid anything that would diminish our consciousness of our blessed hope?
- Forgetting God’s Law
“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” (Prov.31:4-5)
A theme is developing in the previous passages. Alcohol changes the way a man THINKS. Consider what the previous passages have said about alcohol: it leads to perverse thoughts, poor judgment, a lack of wisdom, it takes away the understanding, it causes men to have no regard for the works of the Lord or His coming. Now Solomon tells us in Proverbs 31:4-5 that alcohol also causes a man to “forget the Law” or the Word of God.
Our problem is that we are not mindful enough of God’s Word. We ought to be seeking God’s help to be more mindful of it – to THINK on things above – to THINK on things that are pure and lovely – to MEDITATE day and night in His precious Word. The godly man is one whose “delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Ps. 1:2). Our resolve ought to be like described in Psalm 119:16 – “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.” Alcohol causes men to forget God’s Word. It causes men to think on other things – usually related to pleasure or impurity. Choosing to drink alcohol is also choosing its known consequences: forgetting God’s Word. This is an extremely poor choice for a believer.
- Departing from the way of the Lord
“But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.” (Isa.28:7)
Question: What caused these men to err? Answer: Wine. Question: What caused them to go out of the way? Answer: Strong drink. Question: How did they stumble in judgment? Answer: Strong drink. God has raised and answered a lot of questions on the subject of alcohol in the Bible. That which causes men to go out of the way and causes men to err should be avoided. Wisdom demands that we ponder the path of our feet and make no provision for the flesh to lure us “out of the way.” Consider all the auto crashes on our highways caused by alcohol. In a physical sense, alcohol causes drunken drivers to swerve “out of the way” (the road) and hit a tree or an oncoming car. Consider the physical wreck and tragedy that follows. This illustrates well the many spiritual wrecks that alcohol produces. Far worse than a car going “out of the way” physically, is the fact that alcohol causes countless men to go “out of the way” spiritually!
“They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.” (Isa.24:9)
“At last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.” (Prov.23:32)
Eighteen million American alcoholics are presently being “stung” by alcohol every day. The original sweetness of wine is gone for them. How many more millions have been stung indirectly (friends; family; co workers) could never be calculated. Wine may be sweet at first, but God says it becomes bitter to them that drink it.
The believer who gets bitten by alcohol has received ample warning in the Word. Drinking alcohol is a bit like “petting” a poisonous snake. One might be able to charm that snake for a while, but in the end, the snake wins. At last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder. People with good common sense avoid dogs that bite. When someone tells you that their dog bites, he is in effect telling you to “stay away!” If you wouldn’t play with a dog that bites, why play with a serpent that bites? There are literally hundreds of good drinks and juices available on the store shelves. There is no need for a believer to seek alcohol – not with all we know about it. Poisonous serpents don’t make good pets. They bite.
“…Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Cor.6:9b-10)
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (Prov.20:1)
These passages explain WHY it is so difficult to make the point that this paper seeks to make: alcohol deceives. It appears to be harmless and nice, when in reality it is a poisonous snake. This is ever the devil’s tactic. He himself appears as an angel of light, when in reality he is the prince of darkness (II Cor. 11:13-14). The devil is a master at making that which is spiritually dangerous appear innocuous and safe. He makes wolves appear to be sheep. He makes his false apostles appear to be apostles of Christ. He makes error look like truth. He makes a hideous sin look appealing and attractive. He can make the way that leads to destruction appear to be the way to eternal life. He can even make corrupt flesh look spiritual. He is the master counterfeiter.
It is no surprise that a master forger is able to make alcohol attractive to the believer. He makes it “seem so right.” (How can it be wrong if I feel so good?) However, we are also warned that “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). It is fair to say that alcohol is such a “way.” Wine in the cup SEEMS so appealing. However, Solomon warns his readers not even to look at that outward appeal. “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright” (Prov.23:31). It is attractive, but we are not even to look, because the look leads to deception. Eve was deceived by a look (Gen. 3:6). Alcohol looks appealing BUT it bites like a serpent (vs.32). Therein lies the deception. It is NOT as it appears. Strong drink deceives those who drink it.
[i] Strongs, Hebrew # 188.
[ii] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Fleming H. Revel Company, Old Tappan, p. 1143
[iii] Charles F. Pfeiffer, Edit., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Moody Press, Chicago, 1962, p.806
[iv] John A. Martin, Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1985, p.1042