Selected Proverbs: April 27—Alchohol and drug abuse
Apr 20, 2014
By MARK A. RATHEL

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
Among contemporary evangelical Christians, the use of alcohol is on the upswing. This alarming trend is intergenerational, yet young adult Christians increasingly are abandoning the position of total abstinence. Is total abstinence a relic of well-meaning Christians from a by-gone era? How should Christians socially drink? Israelite culture differs greatly from our culture in terms of the issue of alcohol. Yet, the principles of God’s Word are applicable to Christians living in the twenty-first century.

Alcohol is a drug. Technically, alcohol is a depressant rather than a stimulant. The Bible’s teaching about alcohol, then, applies to modern recreational drug use.

Proverbs, God’s Wisdom book, discussed both the allure of alcohol and the dangers of alcohol. At several points, Proverbs links the dangers of alcohol use with adultery. What does Proverbs teach about alcohol?

First, alcohol deceives people into making unwise choices (Prov. 20:1; 23:19-21). Proverbs 19 closes with several proverbs on the theme of mockery. Proverbs 20:1 personifies wine and beer, ascribing negative characteristics to the pair. Proverbs personifies wine as a mocker (scorner in some translations). Proverbs describes characteristics of a mocker: incapable of wisdom (14.6), proud (21.24), refuse correction (9:7), and detestable to humanity (24.9). Grain drinks lead to a to mean-spirited brawling. A former Christian Southern Baptist ethicist described alcohol as a lubricant for violence. Alcohol leads to unsteady staggering steps and moral error (the meaning of the Hebrew term “stagger”.) 

One of my favorite commentators labeled Proverbs 23:19-21 as a discussion “From revelry to rags.” Alcohol causes people to neglect the important issues of life and may lead to poverty. Isaiah 65:11 associates mixed wine (wine mixed with honey, an early form of cocktail) with abandoning God and the worship of Fortune (gambling).

Second, alcohol destroys individuals and society (Prov. 23.29-30). Alcohol provides devastating consequences: emotional (woe and sorrow), social (conflict and complaints), and physical (bruises and bloodshot eyes). 

The preceding proverbs deal with warnings against sexual immorality (Prov. 23:26-28). Proverbs intertwines alcohol abuse and sexual immorality. Sexual immorality leads to a deep pit; alcohol produces destructive behavior.

Third, alcohol appears alluring even though it is destructive and addictive (Prov. 23:31-35). Advertisers spend billions portraying the allure of alcohol. Proverbs 29:31 affirms the allure of alcohol in color, gleam in the cup, and taste. Yet, I have never observed an alcohol advertisement set forth the other side of alcohol, namely alcohol is like poisonousness snakebite (v. 32). The snake­bite of alcohol destroys brain cells and the liver. According to a leading nutrition magazine, alcohol traumatizes nearly every cell of the human body. Alcohol functions as a toxin on the heart muscle. The kidneys are the only organ not affected. Even moderate amounts of alcohol can be harmful over long periods. In addition to self-destruction, alcohol destroys families. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol caused 31 percent of vehicular traffic fatalities in 2012. 

Proverb 23:31-35 describes a critique of the effects of alcohol. Alcohol provides strange visions, the inability to see straight (v. 32), and causes an individual to say absurd things. Drunkenness is like sleeping at the top of a ship’s mast in a tossing sea. In a tossing sea, the ship’s mast is the location on the ship at which the rocking movement is the greatest. Drunkenness is comparable to seasickness. Poor drunk! The drunk does not remember being beaten or his or her attacker. Most sadly, the one addicted to alcohol refuses to learn from the debilitating effects of alcohol. The start of a new day begins the search for another drink.

The Bible does not prohibit the use of alcohol. it provides strong warnings about the dangers of alcohol. Abstinence is the best position. If one never drinks, one will never become addicted. 

 

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