A Warning Against Drinking Alcohol
Hear the wise words of king Lemuel’s mother as dictated by the Holy Spirit. It is not for kings and princes to consume alcohol. But why? Her warning about drinking alcohol is against the backdrop of preserving justice. Our text is followed by these words, “…Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.” What a dreadful thing to forget the very thing you are charged with maintaining or preserving. To whom much is given, much will be required, so to those who have a greater stock entrusted to them, more is expected.
One of the most elite military special operations forces on the planet, the U.S. Navy SEALS, are the subject of legend. Immortalized by Hollywood as a result of documented news stories, membership into this elite group often becomes the aspiration of boys world-wide. They are tasked with duties outside of ordinary military operations and as such require a caliber of man noticeably distinguishable from the majority. Their tasks are so important and the training so rigorous that the attrition rate is approximately 75%. Most who attempt to join, fail. In a story that broke on July 24, 2019, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Eric Hill ordered an entire Navy SEAL platoon sent home from Iraq,
…due to a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline within the team during non-operational periods.”
Why was the “deterioration of good order and discipline” perceived? Drinking alcohol. During an Independence Day celebration, among other debauched activity, a female service member was allegedly sexually assaulted. The weight of the responsibility entrusted to this group only added to the disappointment of the event. If it is a shame for the general enlisted man to be drunk, how much more the members of such an elite force?
Experience has readily dictated to most that detrimental decisions are the inevitable result of drinking alcohol immoderately. The bible, far from encouraging drinking, is replete with warnings about the activity even to people who are not kings or princes. Proverbs 23 gives us a very blunt warning about lingering long at the wine or searching for mixed drink, stating that, “Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things.” While this is a warning to all, how much more the one to whom is tasked a great responsibility? If the average person should guard against impaired judgment, then much more so one who has been tasked with preserving justice in any degree. In this same proverb, some of the ailments of excessive drinking are spelled out for us:
Who has woe?
Who has sorrow?
Who has contentions?
Who has complaints?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?”
This list of 6 alone would act as a general deterrent for most against whatever would cause them. This, of course, is in the “lingering long” aspect. When drunkenness arrives, it subdues rationality with the strength of an ox and the swiftness of a flash-flood.
A most bizarre episode is described in Genesis 19, whereby the daughters of Lot seek to be (and are) impregnated by their father. They accomplish this by getting him drunk which they plotted beforehand. It appears, from this account, that this is not something Lot would have gone along with in a sober state. So it is with those who have “wounds without cause”. They are the result of actions that would have scarcely been entertained under normal circumstances.
Take Heed To Your Witness
We are admonished repeatedly in the New Testament to be “sober-minded”. Peter tells us to, “…gird up the loins of your mind, be sober.” (1 Peter 1:3). It is true that one can be technically “sober” (that is, not drunk), while not having girded up the loins of their mind, so that sobriety of mind may be thwarted by things other than alcohol. Yet, alcohol is certainly the most prominent and likely candidate to so conclusively impair one’s judgment.
From the moment one names the name of Jesus an immediate responsibility is placed upon them to represent Him well, first to other believers and also to the world. Paul says that he would not undertake any activity which would be a cause for stumbling to one weaker in the faith for, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” (Romans 14:21) Be sure then, firstly, to know whether other believers will be made to stumble or not as a result of you drinking in their presence to any degree. Know that many new converts are saved out of a life of dissipation and should, therefore, not be tempted to engage in their former conduct. This applies not only to drinking alcohol, but to all things. Those who are more mature in the faith should be constantly aware of those who may be younger or weaker in the faith than they are and do all to remove any stumbling stone from their path.
We also have a testimony to the world. Unbelievers are generally examining the conduct of professed believers in Jesus to see if there is hypocrisy in their actions that they might accuse them as a means of justifying themselves and discrediting Jesus. They may, and often do, contrive means of concluding this irrespective of our actual conduct, but we must strive not to give them unnecessary ammunition, “…that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12) Consider also the near impossibility of witnessing to people and sharing the gospel with a drink in hand. Perhaps some of you have been in such a situation, whether at a family gathering or some public event. We never know when we may be called upon to share the gospel and if an opportunity presents itself, we must be prepared. We should be looking for ways to be set apart from the world and not one with it. If you are at a restaurant and have beer on your table and some unbeliever you happen to know chances upon you, this will be a completely needless distraction from the holy things that could possibly be administered, even in passing. The world is always watching and looking to see what makes Christians different from them.
Not all are tempted to the same degree by the same things. One may be quite content to enjoy a drink with their dinner with no desire for more, while another might find it incredibly difficult to drink with moderation. If the temptation exists to indulge further, it is better to part with it altogether. Paul says that all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful and we should not allow ourselves to be brought under the bondage of anything.
I want to be very clear here: The bible does NOT command abstinence from drinking alcohol and one is quite within their Christian liberty to enjoy alcohol in moderation; yes, enjoy. The wine Jesus made at the wedding in Cana was fermented, real wine. He obviously did not intend or condone drunkenness, but some have spuriously claimed that this was merely grape juice in their attempt to be “holier” than the Bible. Drinking alcohol moderately, falls withing the spectrum of Christian liberty, but we must examine our contexts personally and culturally that the Lord would be glorified and others edified by our conduct.
This is not intended to be a call to abstinence concerning the consumption of alcohol, nor should this clarification necessarily be viewed as a deterrent from abstaining. I would rather caution against it than to encourage it, but what preceded are merely the warnings set forth in scripture so as to temper us in this area which is, for many, a great stumbling block and which has historically proven to be a potential danger. I particularly caution against drinking publicly for the reasons stated, but there is no compulsory prohibition. Those who make this a command are going beyond what scripture says, and those who do not approach this with great care are not going far enough to heed the very clear warnings set forth. Let us be balanced and aware; always mindful that we are ambassadors of Jesus and that whatever may stand to potentially misrepresent Him must be examined. Let those who are tasked with greater responsibilities caution themselves against being too cavalier in their approach to drinking alcohol, that their liberty would not be a cloak for imprudence and that justice might be preserved if it is in their hand to preserve it to any degree.
It is not for kings and princes to imbibe.