“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink, they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed.” – Proverbs 31:4-5 NET
There is no other day more associated with drinking and alcohol consumption than New Year's Day, and as we stand on the cusp of yet another year-end celebration, it's interesting that our Proverb for today carries a warning against the consumption of alcohol.
While the Scriptures do not completely prohibit the use of alcohol, there are plenty of verses that warn against it. Yes, there are some religious groups that abuse and misinterpret those verses, but there are just as many that ignore them altogether. In our desire to justify our use of alcohol, we tend to portray the Scriptures as seemingly silent on the topic. But repeatedly in the Book of Proverbs we have seen Solomon warn his sons, and vicariously, us as well, about the inherent dangers of alcohol consumption. In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel is warned against the guzzling of wine. This passage isn't prohibiting the use of alcohol, but the abuse of it. To deny the use of alcohol in the court of a king in those days would have been unheard of. It would have been absurd. But excessive use of alcohol should be avoided at all times, especially by those who hold positions of responsibility and authority over the lives of others. The problem is that alcohol distorts the senses, muddies the mind and can lead to poor decision making. Whether you're a king, national leader, company president, or parent, the last thing you should want is to have your mind clouded by alcohol, rendering your judgment impaired and your ability to perform your responsibilities diminished.
I have had far too many conversations with the wives of husbands who have a drinking problem. These men, while in most cases, hard workers and loving husbands and fathers, allow alcohol to destroy their ability to lead and protect as they should. As Lemuel is warned, when they drink, "they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed." They lose their moral bearings, their sense of right and wrong, their understanding of justice. In the end, they make unwise decisions and put their families at risk – financially, emotionally and even physically. Alcohol in all its forms can be deadly and deadening. Solomon warns us, "Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise" (Proverbs 20:1 NLT). Here are a few of the other admonitions about wine and alcohol in the Book of Proverbs:
"Those who love pleasure become poor; those who love wine and luxury will never be rich." – Proverbs 21:17 NLT
"Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise." – Proverbs 20:1 NLT
"Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper." – Proverbs 23:30-32 NLT
In Proverbs, wine and mixed drinks are closely associated with the wicked and with the immoral woman. It is almost always used in the sense of excess and over-indulgence. It appeals to the senses and the sensual side of man. It can dull our senses and feed the sinful side of our sensual nature. There is a need for wisdom when it comes to the use of alcohol. We must be fully aware of its dangers. We must acknowledge its ability to impact and impair our judgment. It is a mind-altering, mood-enhancing substance that, if used wisely and appropriately, can have positive benefits. But it can also be misused and abused. It can destroy and divide. It can be used to escape reality and avoid responsibility. It can bring pleasure but it can also produce immoral behavior.
As we get ready to celebrate another New Year, alcohol will be a major player in many of the parties we attend. There will be the temptation to drink, and with it will come the risk of getting drunk. As a result, under the influence of alcohol, things will be said and done that would normally never take place. Guards will be let down, inhibitions will be let go of, and regrets will be many when it is all said and done. "Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise" (Proverbs 20:1 NLT). Be careful out there! And Happy New Year!
Father, we need wisdom. Give us insight and understanding that we might make wise decisions when it comes to the use of alcohol in all its forms. Open our eyes to its uses and abuses. Don't let us think we can escape its dangers or that we are above its negative influences. We see the destructive nature of it in our society on a daily basis – lives ruined and even ended. In our pursuit of personal rights and pleasure, we tend to lose sight of reality and jettison our need for wisdom and understanding. Protect us from ourselves. Amen.