Tag Archives: Alcohol abuse

The King’s Beverage

Proverbs 31:4-7

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:  Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.  Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”

Teetotaler?

As a life-long Baptist, I know that I am treading on thin ice when I tackle this passage. There are many within my denomination who are what we call “teetotalers,” which is a term for those who will never touch a drop of beverage alcohol. And because of this, if I say anything positive about alcohol I am likely to be censured.

On the other hand, there are whole denominations within the Christian faith that have no problem with drinking beer, wine, or whatever suits their fancy, even purchasing wineries with tithes and offerings. For the record, I don’t approve of going that far.

However, I do feel that there is more to the subject of drinking alcohol than totally abstaining or totally imbibing. Wisdom is the key. And that is why, as we look at the verses above, we can see that king Lemuel’s mother was evidently not a proponent of “teetotalism” (total abstinence), but rather a developer of wisdom in a son who was destined to lead.

Not for Kings

There are several things this godly mother warns her son about in the first part of this chapter, but much of her focus is on the use of alcohol. Why is that? Could it be that alcohol is a dangerous, mind altering, inhibition-destroying drug? Could it be that even though it may have its uses, a leader worth his salt is wise enough to avoid it?

Plenty of men and women from all walks of life have been able to drink alcohol with little or no adverse consequences. However, the gutters of history are strewn with the carcasses of leaders who drank away their kingdoms. The broken hearts and ruined lives caused by drunkeness are innumerable.

I can envision a young prince Lemuel, his mother’s hand on his shoulder, as they walked by the equivalent of a modern bar. As they peeked in on the raucous behavior brought about by the effects of wine and strong drink, she may have whispered in his ear the words he later penned: “It’s not for kings, my dear Lemuel, it’s not for kings; nor even when you’re just a prince.”

Proper Place

Even though a king, a man whose decisions carry so much weight, should avoid strong drink, king Lemuel’s mother, and thereby king Lemuel himself, knew that there was a time and place for it. You see, wine has the dangerous ability to make one “forget law” and “pervert judgment,” but it also has the ability to lift a heavy heart, to numb the pain.

Warnings against wine are plenty, but king David declares that God creates the “wine that maketh glad the heart of man” (Psa. 104:15). The key is to not only know its proper place, but the proper place of the one who must choose.

Wisdom should be the king’s beverage of choice.

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What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?

Proverbs 23:29-35 

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine 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 sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?” (NLT)

I love the clarity in the NLT translation of this passage. The reference to a sailor tossed at sea does not infer that sailors are always drunk, although the word ‘jolly’ in the nickname ‘Jolly Jack Tar’ could suggest that seafarers may take a drink or two more than they should. It is unfortunate that while alcohol can provide a temporary lift and induce happy feelings in the short term, it can often produce other less desirable effects.

Using Jack Tar as an example I can recall several unpleasant fights from my seafaring days in which alcohol played a part, some of which resulted in the hospitalization of at least one of the individuals involved. I can remember drinking games in the ships’ bars and ashore. On my first ship we sailed from Mobile, Alabama without any of the three watch-keeping engineers, all of whom were in police custody ashore after drinking too much. On my fifth trip as cadet the chief officer had such a problem with alcohol that the captain insisted he always had a cadet on watch with him. When sailing with a pilot through the Norwegian fjords the pilot asked me to call the captain as we came to a difficult area. As I went to pick up the telephone the pilot looked across at the chief officer and said to me; “hadn’t you better wake that up first?” One again the chief officer was drunk and had fallen asleep – in the pilot’s chair!

The message in this passage is not ‘don’t have a beer with a friend or a glass of wine with a meal’, but don’t drink to excess. The very clear warnings about the results of alcohol abuse shout louder than a swaying drunk as he staggers from one bar to the next. Once again the message is one of wisdom. If you can’t be a wise drinker then do not drink at all.


What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?

Proverbs 23:29-35 

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine 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 sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?” (NLT)

I love the clarity in the NLT translation of this passage. The reference to a sailor tossed at sea does not infer that sailors are always drunk, although the word ‘jolly’ in the nickname ‘Jolly Jack Tar’ could suggest that seafarers may take a drink or two more than they should. It is unfortunate that while alcohol can provide a temporary lift and induce happy feelings in the short term, it can often produce other less desirable effects.

Using Jack Tar as an example I can recall several unpleasant fights from my seafaring days in which alcohol played a part, some of which resulted in the hospitalization of at least one of the individuals involved. I can remember drinking games in the ships’ bars and ashore. On my first ship we sailed from Mobile, Alabama without any of the three watch-keeping engineers, all of whom were in police custody ashore after drinking too much. On my fifth trip as cadet the chief officer had such a problem with alcohol that the captain insisted he always had a cadet on watch with him. When sailing with a pilot through the Norwegian fjords the pilot asked me to call the captain as we came to a difficult area. As I went to pick up the telephone the pilot looked across at the chief officer and said to me; “hadn’t you better wake that up first?” One again the chief officer was drunk and had fallen asleep – in the pilot’s chair!

The message in this passage is not ‘don’t have a beer with a friend or a glass of wine with a meal’, but don’t drink to excess. The very clear warnings about the results of alcohol abuse shout louder than a swaying drunk as he staggers from one bar to the next. Once again the message is one of wisdom. If you can’t be a wise drinker then do not drink at all.