In Proverbs 23:29 Solomon writes, “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?” If Solomon had stopped at the third question, many answers could have been given, but his final two questions narrow the options and so he answers himself in verse 30: “Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.”
Notice that Solomon focuses our attention not on those who drink, but on those who “tarry long over wine” and “who go to try mixed wine,” which was probably some form of hard liquor. In other words, he’s narrowly focusing on drunks, not broadly on all who drink. With this in mind, Solomon urges his readers not to be drawn in by the allure of alcohol.
“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’” (23:31-35).
Like many other things, alcohol can appear like an angel of light. It can present us with a lopsided, false, and deceitful vision of itself and what it can offer to us. Or rather than blaming alcohol itself, perhaps we should finger those who manufacture and market it. The next time you see a beer commercial, take the time to analyze what you’re seeing and what the marketing experts are trying to say. If you will do this, you’ll see that they’re trying to suck you in by promising you a better life without warning you of the potential dangers of this path to that life. Alcohol in itself is not evil, and neither is the controlled consumption of it, but the abuse of alcohol is idolatry and certain segments of society are doing all they can to call us into it.
We would do well to heed Solomon’s words, for in the end that sparkling beauty is a deadly serpent. The thing we thought would satisfy us, in the end destroys us. It causes us to see things that are not there, to say things we wouldn’t normally say, to lose control of our physical bodies, to lose the ability to interpret biological cues that are usually clear and obvious, to want more and more of the poison that’s killing us.
Solomon is here addressing the abuse of alcohol, but this is just one example of many he could offer to reveal what all pleasure-based idols do to us. Alcohol, food, money, power, sex, laziness, or many other things can produce similar results in our lives, and hence Solomon’s wise warning. His train of thought leads us back to something he said in verse 23. “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.” In other words, if we’ll seek to obtain the right treasure, we’ll gain control over lesser pleasures. If we’ll feast our souls on the things of God, we’ll lose our taste for things that are not pleasing to God.
So, my friends, let us beware of the allure of false pleasures, and do everything we can to make Christ our only treasure. To the degree that he captures our hearts, other things will lose hold of our hearts. May the Lord help us as we seek to treasure him above all things.