Proverbs 20:1; 23:20–21, 29–33; Romans 14:19–21; Ephesians 5:15–18
Exercise Wisdom (Prov. 20:1)
The Bible is very clear on the subject of abusing alcohol. To get drunk is to sin, and sin and the addiction to it have grave consequences, both temporal and eternal. The same principle can be applied to the use of illegal drugs. The book of Proverbs contrasts the wise and foolish ones. The foolish people abuse alcohol while the wise people don’t. The expressions “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,” are meant to show the conduct of a drunk person.
In his Proverbs commentary, Allen Ross writes, “The excessive use of intoxicants excites the drinker to boisterous behavior and aggressive and belligerent attitudes; it confuses the senses so that he is out of control.” While the use of alcohol was not prohibited in the Old Testament, intoxication was considered sinful for the member of the covenant community. If one abuses alcohol or takes illegal drugs, he or she is foolish and his or her behavior is unacceptable before God.
Watch Out! (Prov. 23:20–21, 29–33)
The Bible tells us that any abuse of our body is sinful. The ones who do not control their eating are gluttons, and they are placed on the same level with the drunkards. Verse 21 tells us that the sin of abusing food and/or alcohol has practical and immediate repercussions on those who practice them. The drunkard and the glutton represent the epitome of the lack of discipline. Excessive eating and drinking are usually symptoms of deeper problems (Ross, Proverbs).
Verses 29–33 point to the fact that those who abuse alcohol are guilty of laziness and wasting time. The consequences of alcohol abuse are the dulling of senses: the eyesight, the thought process and the physical act of walking. Alcoholism is first a spiritual problem and then a medical condition, not the other way around. It is a spiritual problem because it involves choices that put others in danger’s way.
Consider Others (Rom. 14:19–21)
I’ve heard many people say, “I am mature, and I can control my drinking.” This attitude is rooted in pride and does not consider one’s brothers and sisters. If you are a stumbling block through your drinking, then you need to give up your “controlled” drinking for the sake of peace.
Suppose a “mature” person drinks wine, and a youngster sees that person drink and then says, “If so-and-so drinks, then I can drink as well.” The youngster then gets drunk, gets into a car and dies in a car accident. The rhetorical question then must be asked, “Is the ‘mature’ person in part responsible for the death of a youngster who looked up to him or her?”
I am reminded of the story told long ago by a man who walked to the local pub, even though it had just snowed outside. As he was drinking, his little daughter surprised him by tugging on his coat. “How did you get here?” he protested. “I followed in your footsteps,” was the innocent answer. The following statistic should also make us think. If there’s an alcoholic parent in the family, there’s a 50 percent chance one of the children will become an alcoholic. If there are two alcoholic parents, it’s an 85 percent chance.
Submit to the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:15–18)
Drug and alcohol abuse take over one’s senses and control him or her. The apostle Paul uses the same wise vs. foolish language in introducing the subject of alcohol abuse. Instead of being filled with wine, as Christians we are to be filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit. One cannot be controlled 25 percent with wine and 75 percent with the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t want 75 percent of us, He wants the entire person. One who is controlled by alcohol says and does shameful and demeaning things.
Those controlled by the Holy Spirit speak in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing to the Lord. The Spirit-filled are also grateful, submissive and live in the fear of the Lord, an indication that they are wise.
(Editor’s Note: Dr. Tiberius Rata is professor of Old Testament Studies and chair of the Department of Biblical Studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Ind. This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist and is used with permission.)