By Alan Hitchen
Good men and women with wisdom instinctively fear alcohol. They fear it because it is a portal, a pathway into realms that godly people dare not tread. Considering where it took Lot (Gen. 19: 30-38), and where it takes millions today, the pure both fear and detest what it has the ability to do. It makes fools of the righteous, steals the reason and stalks the inhibition and conscience. Alcohol leads to temptation while decreasing the ability to resist and flee it. Like the serpent in the garden, it makes lying promises. Those deceived by it are led into slavery, misery, and the ruin of their souls.
Yet in spite of clear and compel-ling evidence, there are still some who advocate recreational and social drinking. We hear: “The Bible only condemns drunkenness.” “The Bible doesn’t say anything negative against drinking.” “The problem is not alcohol, it is the weakness of those who drink it.” “Strong Christians can drink alcohol, only the weak need to fear it.”
But neither Scripture nor life validate these supposed “proofs.” They are based on a mixture of prejudice, ignorance, and/or deception. The Bible has much to say about “wine.”
But it is the ambiguity of the term that has created much of the problem. Sometimes God uses the term “wine” to de-scribe fresh or preserved grape juice with no alcohol in it. Sometimes God uses the same term to refer to grape juice that contains alcohol. Some passages extol wine as a wonderful blessing, and others condemn it as a curse. A careful study reveals that alcohol is the determining factor. Wine is a blessing without alcohol and a curse with it. Unfortunately, this unclear distinction makes the passages on wine difficult enough for ignorant and unstable souls to twist (2 Pet. 3:16). A careful methodical study of God’s word reveals a consistent condemnation of alcoholic beverages of all sorts. It also makes it very clear that there is nothing in Scripture to justify social or recreational drinking.
Alcohol is of the world. It is an unfruitful work of darkness. Christians who drink are dimming the light of their influence and losing the salty savor of integrity and honor. True Christianity and alcohol do not, cannot and never will peacefully co-exist. The more Christianity takes root in a good and honest heart the less likely one is to drink alcohol. The more alcohol takes root in the heart the less likely one is to become or remain a faithful Christian. They are paths to entirely different destinations. One who tries to do both is torn in two different directions. Sooner or later they must go one way or the other. God states this very clearly in the Proverbs.
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and who-ever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1). Wine (Yayin): Grape juice (fresh or fermented) Isa. 16:10; Jer. 48:33; Gen. 19:32-35; Mocker: To make mouths at, i.e. to scoff; Strong Drink: An intoxicant; in-tensely alcoholic; rawler: To rage, to roar, to make a great noise; Led Astray: To stray, mislead, to mistake, to transgress; Wise: To be or become wise. Denotes the acquisition of the habit of wisdom.
The Holy Spirit here warns the saints that wine (and the context demands alcoholic content!) makes mouths at us! It scoffs, mocks and scorns us! When the mask is torn from this supposed friend, it has the hideous face of malicious deception. It bids us drink, then mocks us behind our back for our senseless folly! In classic Hebrew poetry the second thought of the couplet elaborates on the first. Not only does wine mock and scorn us, but intoxicants (of all forms) rage, growl, and roar at us. Like a cunning animal hiding its intentions until some-thing is close enough to strike! The Spirit concludes by stressing that all who begin drinking alcoholic beverages have been led astray and have entered a path leading them further and further from wisdom. The farther down the path of alcohol consumption one walks, the further from the habit of wisdom they get. The Spirit is too clear to misunderstand! The only way to gain wisdom is to stay off the path of alcohol.
This Proverb strips away the deception of alcohol and shows those who trust God and don’t lean on their own understanding (Prov. 3:5-7) what it really is. Though it appears friendly, it sticks its tongue out at and sneers at us when we’re not looking. It appears kind, but mocks, scorns, and derides us if we use it. Like a cunning dog it wags the tail until we are close enough to bite. Alcohol is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the friend who loves us when present and ridicules and seeks to destroy when absent.
This one verse takes away any desire on the part of God’s people to touch it. It is too close to the warning not to touch the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God warns that using alcohol will keep us from becoming wise. Satan tells us it is a safe, sophisticated, and enjoyable practice. Who will you believe? Ask the same questions today that the Holy Spirit bade them ask then. Has anything really changed?
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind will utter perverse things (Prov. 23:29-33).
Wine (with alcohol) always begins red and sparkling in a cup, going down smoothly, looking friendly and safe. To this day, alcohol is portrayed and advertised like this: The sophisticated friend that brings popularity and success. The alcohol industry spends millions annually to portray it like this. God freely admits that this is how it begins, but tells the wise and godly to look deeper than the surface. How does it end? What are the fruits of a long term relationship with it? God warns that woe, sorrow, contentions, complaining, wounds, and red eyes will result if you make alcoholic beverages your friend! At the last, alcohol bites like serpent and stings like an adder. The bite and sting of alcohol is drunkenness. Here we reach the very depths of the deceptive nature of alcohol and the arguments used to defend it. Medical science and public safety agencies now tell us that the first effects of alcohol occur after the first or second drink. It affects the inhibitions. Things godly people would never do sober, they will do after one or two drinks. The first sip often makes the impossible frighteningly possible! Those who refuse the sparkling cup insulate and protect themselves against a masked deadly enemy. Those who make alcohol their friend don’t need enemies!
Thousands of years later in a different culture, America still validates God’s wisdom. Alcohol still leads to woe, sorrow, etc.! About one of ten sipping this sparkling red cup become problem drinkers. This cup is responsible for nearly 50% of all traffic fatalities, murders, divorces, crimes,etc. Alcohol is a close companion to nearly all the misery on earth. We would be staggered if the woe, sorrow, fighting, complaining and wounds caused by alcohol could actually be tabulated. Promising lives cut off, shattered homes, children crying themselves to sleep, lost jobs, ruined health, and wasted youth are what this friend offers. We can’t add it up, but we can we trust God! He warns us to look at alcohol as a biting adder and stinging viper!
These two verses in Proverbs undermine and remove one of the strongest arguments put forth by defenders of alcohol consumption by faithful Christians. That Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast is an established fact. But did it have alcohol in it? The text in John leaves the issue completely alone, but Jesus was born under the Law (Gal. 4:4)! The Proverbs directed his conduct. He would not break Scripture! Since these Proverbs reveal alcohol as a biting serpent, stinging viper, and growling mocker, Jesus did not make it! Wine with alcohol is a curse! Wine without it is a blessing! Did Jesus create a blessing or a curse? What a question!
There is so much more that could be written on this theme. The ambiguity of “wine” may allow some to twist Scripture, but humble submissive servants seeking to please the Lord will not be fooled! Don’t be fooled and deceived by worldliness. Alcohol is an unfruitful work of darkness.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 13, p. 8-9
July 4, 1996