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The Bite and Sting of Alcohol

The Bite and Sting of Alcohol March 1, 2006

The Bite and Sting of Alcohol

Who has woe?

Who has sorrow?

Who has contentions?

Who has complaints?

Who has wounds without cause?

Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine,

Those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red,

When it sparkles in the cup,

When it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent,

And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things,

And your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,

Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: “They have struck me, but I was not hurt;

They have beaten me, but I did not feel it.

When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

(Proverbs 23:29-35 NKJV)

Having been in Germany for four years now, one of the first things I noticed was the remarkably different approach to the use and misuse of alcohol. As a Christian in the US, especially coming from Texas, I was taught to completely avoid alcohol. Alcohol was “the devil’s drink” I was told.

When I came to Germany, the approach to alcohol from other Christians amazed me. I was told on arrival “Don’t tell the Germans that Baptists don’t drink, because in Germany they do.” I was surprised to see the different view toward alcohol. For example, in Bavaria, beer is considered water. Germany was the first place I saw that a beer was sold with a picture of a monk as its label. Astounding.

Because of this cultural difference, I was also surprised to hear many unique ways of justifying the use of wine and beer. I have heard that alcohol can be drunk in moderation. I have heard that the Bible only prohibits “drunkenness”. I have heard that it is ok to drink alcohol because Paul prescribed it to Timothy. I have heard that because Jesus turned water into wine, that alcohol is permitted for the Christian.

Of course, the Bible as a whole does not prohibit the use of alcohol. There is a spectrum for the use/misuse of alcohol.

ABSTINENCE is on the left side of this spectrum. Proverbs 23, while not completely prohibiting alcohol, cautions strongly against the misuse of alcohol. Proverbs 23 shows us that the main side effect of alcohol is the loss of control. Abstinence from alcohol completely, would keep you in complete control.

DRUNKENNESS is on the right side of this spectrum. This is when alcohol has total control over your mind and your body. Provers 23 illustrates this graphically.

At the last it bites like a serpent,

And stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things,

And your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,

Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: “They have struck me, but I was not hurt;

They have beaten me, but I did not feel it.

When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?

Does this sound like someone you know? Have you known someone who has been bit by the serpent of drunkenness? Have you seen what happens when someone has been stung by the effects of alcohol?

I have seen many times. I have watched people, who let alcohol control their lives, die a long and slow death. I have seen families ruined because the father or the husband spent more time in the bar overnight, coming in late to the breakfast table. Alcohol does this like no other drug, and like no other pleasure. Money that is spent to down the drink goes down the drain.

The pain of a sting from a viper or a bite of a serpent lingers in the body for a long time. The pain of the sting and bite of alcohol lingers in relationships for a lifetime.


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