In Proverbs 23, God asks a series of generic questions that are basically directed at all of mankind. The questions are rhetorical. A certain answer is expected. He doesn’t usually spell out the answer, but He does in this case. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” (Proverbs 23:29-35 NIV)
I wish that the Bible contained a verse that says pointblank, straight out, that drinking alcohol is absolutely wrong, a sin against man, and a sin against God. But it doesn’t. I don’t know why it doesn’t. I can only guess (note the danger in guessing) that God intends its use in moderation to somehow be a blessing to us. Wine is used in many places in the Bible as symbolic of joy. However, Proverbs 9, 20, 21, 23, Leviticus 10, Romans 14, etc. point out the dangers of drinking alcoholic beverages especially in excess. My observations, as a former public school teacher and as a pastor, lead me to the obvious conclusion that intoxicating agents (alcohol and other drugs) are a terrible blight on society. Without a doubt intoxicants lead to much crime. Intoxicants are contributing factors in many murders, car wrecks, child abuse cases, spousal abuse cases, accidental deaths, etc. A desire/need to purchase intoxicants leads many to a life of thievery. Often they steal from people they know, family members, friends, co-workers, employers, etc. Thus they destroy relationships, ostracizing themselves from the only people who have a reasonable chance of helping them to deal with their real problem. As I think back over my lifetime, I do not remember ever seeing a situation where intoxicants were a blessing to anyone directly or indirectly involved. I do, however, recall multitudes of times where intoxicants were the direct cause of tragedies.
In 2009, I wrote these words: “In a few minutes, I will leave this keyboard and head to a local hospital. I will visit a man much younger than myself. He is in intensive care, close to death, unable to communicate, unable to eat. He has no injury or sickness other than that caused by excessive alcohol consumption. He is following in the footsteps of his father. What shall I say to his mother or his 5 year old daughter? Will I be able to give any comfort? What should I have said to another young father with whom I studied the Bible one evening last week, who told me that he had drunk a couple of beers right before our meeting? What should I have said in the past; what shall I say week after week as the needy come into our food pantry, when it is obvious that the use of intoxicants has brought them to this lowest of all levels of poverty? What can I say to the man whose use of intoxicants in moderation leads his child to use in excess? What can I say to the man whose child was killed by a drunk driver?”
It seems to me that the Scriptures make it plain that we ought to treat intoxicants as they would a poisonous snake.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at email@example.com.