Sobriety: Knowing When to Say No

November 17, 2002

SOBRIETY KNOWING WHEN TO SAY NO “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1 There are a great many references to wine, strong drink, and drunkenness scattered throughout the Bible. The earliest reference is in Genesis, the last in Revelation. The total number of verses would run up into the hundreds. However, there is no binding rule, i.e. “Thou shalt not drink.” In one place the Bible says “Do not get drunk on wine” (Ephesians 5:18). In another place, the Bible speaks of “wine that gladdens the heart of man” (Psalm 104:15). In one place, Paul says no drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:10). In another place, he advises Timothy to “use a little wine because of your stomach” (I Timothy 5:23). Because there is no universal rule, each believer must make his own decision guided by the larger teachings of Scripture, his own situation, the counsel of others, and common sense. However, to put the matter that way does not exactly settle the issue, does it? A quick check of the concordance under the word “wine” shows that many of the references warn the reader of the negative affects of alcohol. Consider the following examples: Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler.” Isaiah 24:9 “The beer is bitter to its drinkers.” I Corinthians 6:10 “No drunkardswill inherit the kingdom of God.” Ephesians 5:18 “Do not get drunk on wine.” Galatians 5:19 “The acts of the sinful nature are obviousdrunkenness.” I Peter 4:3 “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” The Bible warns us repeatedly of the dangers of alcohol. Proverbs 23:29-35 reminds us that wine goes down smoothly but “in the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper” (verse 32). What is the Bible telling us? That we cannot drink? No. That it’s a sin to take a drink? No, not necessarily. It’s telling us there’s danger ahead. Think twice before you take the first drink. Suppose you are traveling through the mountains and come to a fork in the road. One fork says “Safe for all travelers.” The other is labeled, “Dangerous road. Watch out for falling rocks. Soft shoulders. Landslides possible. Sharp curves, no guard rails. Travel at your own risk.” Both roads are open, both offer scenic views, you see cars going both ways. Which way are you going to go? I suppose it depends on how ready you are to risk your own life. Either way, you’ve got a choice to make. Lord, give me wisdom in my personal decisions, knowing that others are influenced by the choices I make. Amen.

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