The sermon for this morning is going to look at what Proverbs has to say about the use of alcohol. In some religious approaches, alcohol is pretty much always to be avoided and drinking is sinful in and of itself. In other approaches alcohol is basically a god, the answer to life’s problems and the item that can help make sense of the world (don’t believe that, just listen to Country Music for about ten minutes). The Gospel approach is to realize that God made everything good, and that nothing in creation is to be rejected if it is received with worship and thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Of course, there are reasons to avoid alcohol, and for some, abstaining is a personal choice. And for all of us, there are times when we should choose not to partake for the sake of the weaker brother in Christ, our own conscience, and for the purpose of our testimony. But Christians should see the consumption of alcohol as an issue of liberty and conscience, not a test of faith. That being said, the Bible has clear warnings about the danger of drink, and is clear that being drunk is a sin as is having a life controlled by anything other than Christ.
Here are Proverbs on alcohol, as well as a list of other Scriptures on the topic, with both passages celebrating the gift of drink as well as warnings about the dangers of alcohol.
Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with wine.
(Proverbs 3:9-10 ESV)
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.
(Proverbs 4:11-19 ESV)
Wisdom has built her house;
she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her young women to call
from the highest places in the town,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
To him who lacks sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”
(Proverbs 9:1-6 ESV)
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
(Proverbs 20:1 ESV)
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man;
he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
(Proverbs 21:17 ESV)
Hear, my son, and be wise,
and direct your heart in the way.
Be not among drunkards
or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
and slumber will clothe them with rags.
(Proverbs 23:19-21 ESV)
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent
and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your heart utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast.
“They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt;
they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
I must have another drink.”
(Proverbs 23:29-35 ESV)
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
(Proverbs 31:4-7 ESV)
Other Passages with Warnings and Commands about Alcohol
Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
as wine inflames them!
They have lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD,
or see the work of his hands.
(Isaiah 5:11-12 ESV)
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of his right!
(Isaiah 5:21-23 ESV)
“Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink—
you pour out your wrath and make them drunk,
in order to gaze at their nakedness!
(Habakkuk 2:15 ESV)
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.
(Luke 21:34 ESV)
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.
(Romans 13:13 ESV)
envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
(Galatians 5:21 ESV)
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
(Romans 14:20-23 ESV)
This passage is both a warning and a permission. The text tells us that consuming alcohol is not sinful in and of itself and is something to be enjoyed as part of Christian freedom, but that freedom must not be used if it causes a brother to stumble, wrecks a persons testimony, or causes division in the church.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:17-21 ESV)
For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
(1 Peter 4:3-5 ESV)
“Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.
(Leviticus 10:9 ESV)
Strict prohibition to Priests about drinking while doing their ministry in the Tabernacle. The application to ministers is simple, a pastor should not consume alcohol before preaching or serving in the church. But it is not a blanket prohibition against all consumption for religious leaders.
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
(1 Timothy 3:2-3 ESV)
Addresses the character of men who serve as elders in the church.
For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.
For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup
with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall drain it down to the dregs.
(Psalm 75:6-8 ESV)
Wine is used as a metaphor of the wrath of God, the image is of a night club where everyone walks in and drinks until they are completely drunk, which pictures the fact that we as people apart from grace will keep drinking down the very things that leave us under the just judgment of God.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”
(Revelation 17:1-2 ESV)
A reference to the final days on earth before the last judgment, where the great prostitute (a reference to kingdoms of the world ruled by the Antichrist) are seduced by sexual immorality and good wine, which has made them drunk
Other Passages celebrating the gift of drink
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for man to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine
and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
(Psalm 104:14-15 ESV)
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
(Ecclesiastes 9:7 ESV)
Bread is made for laughter,
and wine gladdens life,
and money answers everything.
(Ecclesiastes 10:19 ESV)
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
(Matthew 11:19 ESV)
We find ourselves in the company of Jesus when we enjoy drink without sinning especially in as a friend of sinners.
But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:28-31 ESV)
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
(1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
I would lead you and bring you
into the house of my mother—
she who used to teach me.
I would give you spiced wine to drink,
the juice of my pomegranate.
His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me!
(Song of Solomon 8:2-3 ESV)
The woman in Song of Solomon speaks of sharing wine with her husband in the context of romance within marriage.
And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering.
(Exodus 29:40 ESV)
In the regular sacrifices given by Priests for the people, the offerings included a meal and drink offering which included wine. The picture here is a meal with God, as His people have restored fellowship with God, they symbolically eat lamb and bread and drink wine with God, which is an act of worship.
“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.
(Deuteronomy 14:22-26 ESV)
The Old Testament people were agrarian, so their tithes were made up of produce and crops brought to God. The command here is to take some of the funds brought and trade them with people who raised other things, so that they could create a meal to share, which would include wine and strong drink. In other words, the time of bringing these offerings was to be a national party to be enjoyed by God’s people as they shared a meal with Him.
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
(John 2:1-11 ESV)
Jesus first miracle was to turn water into wine in order to keep a wedding party going.
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
(Isaiah 25:6 ESV)
A reference to the final meal with Christ, which includes well-aged wine. Joyful feasting with thanksgiving in this time is a small picture of that day when done for the glory of God.