Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath complaining? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; They that go to seek out mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, When it sparkleth in the cup, When it goeth down smoothly: At the last it biteth like a serpent, And stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange things, And thy heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, Or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
“They have stricken me,” shalt thou say, “and I was not hurt; They have beaten me, and I felt it not: When shall I awake? I will seek it yet again” (Proverbs 23:29-35).
The Scriptures are filled with the wisdom of God. It is not as if His creation can “pull one over” on Him. He understands the actions of men and their consequences all too well. This understanding is fully on display as Solomon addresses the matter of men and their conduct with alcohol.
I have never understood the appeal of the night of drunkenness. One goes and drinks beverages that do not really taste good in order to receive a buzz that leads to regrettable actions and words, some of which may even be remembered, and then terrible feelings of nausea and pain the next day. And many then look forward to the next time that they can go and get drunk!
It does not make a lot of sense– but it is irrational behavior; we should not expect it to make sense. Many, no doubt, do so because of peer pressure. Others have become addicted. For too many, however, it is simply a way to have fun, to escape the cares of this world for a while, and/or to numb the pain of life.
Yet, as Solomon indicates, there are good reasons why drunkenness is sinful and a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). Woes, sorrow, contentions, complaints, wounds, and physical difficulties come to those who drink too much. Many a drunken brawl has led to injury. Vision is impaired. Foolish things are said, either entirely in jest or because the one drinking has let down his or her guard. Foolish games and adventures are attempted. Injury, shame, illness, and even death can result from the folly of alcohol!
It is disconcerting how accurately Solomon portrays the hopeless drinker in Proverbs 23:35. He suffered abuse and yet did not feel anything; he has experienced all the things which Solomon mentions; and yet his first impulse it to seek the drink again, as if somehow that will solve everything. Such is folly. Alcohol does not make one better and it does not make life any easier– it is truly and literally an escape, and it is always far better to resolve whatever challenges life may pose than it is to attempt to wash it all away in some alcohol. Alcohol can only make problems worse, not better!
Drinking affects a lot more than just the person drinking. His or her entire family could be terribly impacted. Not a few girls get drunk and are pregnant before they are sober. Many parents, spouses, and even (God forbid!) children must find ways to get a drunken relative out of jail. Those who start down the path of alcohol often find that they lose everything that is really important, and all just to get that next drink! And this says nothing about other families and people impacted by alcohol– all of the families grieving for lost loved ones who died because a drunkard got behind the wheel of a car and got into an accident.
Solomon well compares drinking to “serpents” and “adders.” Yes, wine may go down smoothly, but it comes with a “bite”! We can profitably extend the image a little further. What happens to those who hold snakes and work with snakes? There likely are many who are more proficient at it than others and who are better able to handle them, but everyone at some point who handles them will almost certainly get bitten. So it is with alcohol– even if we think we could “handle it responsibly,” at some point we will almost certainly cross the line and get “bitten” and be drunk and sin.
The folly of alcohol, therefore, is like the folly of handling poisonous snakes. It is simply most profitable to avoid both! Let us avoid getting burned and bitten and abstain from alcohol!
Ethan R. Longhenry