Thursday, August 6, 2009

Alcohol & Drunkenness in Proverbs & Other Wisdom Literature

I gave up drinking cold turkey with the help of my friends in Alcoholics Anonymous some nearly six years ago now. I have never missed it. I was not a drop-dead, “blackout” drunk but I did binge drink[1] many a weekend evening for years and it had started to affect other areas of my life, like for instance, work (not that anyone I think knew other than me). It had some less-than-obvious-to-the-outsider family impacts as well.

Those who have a drinking problem generally have a problem with people not drinking. They mirror their own needs onto the situation and feel relieved when others share in their pastime. It validates them, for secretly they loath the fact that they’re hooked on booze.

So what does the Bible in the Wisdom tradition say about drinking? There are some Christian people I’m sure either aren’t aware or don’t seem to care about what it advises.

I found some proverbs in chapters 23 and 31 of that great book. There is also a snippet of value in Ecclesiastes. Realistically, however, Psalms and Song of Songs also are littered with allusions to drinking and drunkenness, but it is never seen as virtuous.

For starters, drunkards and gluttons become poor and their drowsiness clothes them in rags (Proverbs 23:20-21). They’re oblivious to the fact of their own beating because they care only for the next drink (v. 35). They have woes, sorrow, strife and complaining (v. 29).

People who make much ado about alcohol and events imbued by alcohol are going down into a dark pit of their own misery. In the end drink stings like a viper (v. 32).

Proverbs 31 features the instruction to King Lemuel from his mother (vs. 4-7). She censures him about the folly of drink, for it is not for a nobleman. Inebriation taints the senses of judgment and any leader (let alone a king) will do well to avoid it.

Who drinks for the pure taste of the stuff? I’m not sure anyone does. Alcohol produces infinitely more harm than the very small (anecdotal) good it’s alleged to produce. Alcohol is clearly the drug of choice for those who are already miserable; those who are poor, perishing and in anguish.
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Finally, Ecclesiastes 10:17 mentions that good fare and wine are fine for building strength, not drunkenness. And this is the test. Have a drink or two. If that can’t be your limit, give it away.

We do well to heed the instruction of the ancients. In a time of extended prosperity, the Western world is plagued with much binge drinking and its resultant abuses and neglect, the effects of which are at times catastrophic, personally and culturally.

[1] Drinking five or more [standard] drinks at a time is considered binge drinking for men. For women, this amount is four or more. (Source: http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/cmed/alcohol/glossary.htm) A standard drink is smaller than that which is normally served.

2 comments:

Amanda said...

A sobering inert, don't mind the pun :)

S.J. Wickham said...

Thanks Amanda. Bless you today.