The abuse of alcohol is one of the greatest risks among young people today, oftentimes leading to a pattern that lingers for decades. However, this is nothing new. Three thousand years ago, Solomon included insights about the dangers of drunkenness in his Thirty Sayings of the Wise:
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on the top of the rigging. ‘They hit me,’ you will say, ‘but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?'” (Proverbs 23:29-35).
Solomon observed the deception of fermented drink. It might look good, taste good, and feel good, temporarily numbing emotional or physical pain, but it can engulf a person’s life for the moment in the stupor of drunkenness or for a lifetime via addiction. Choices made while under the influence of alcohol can sting, not only ourselves, but everyone around us, negatively affecting our words and actions to the point of committing illegal acts of violence.
Why does the Bible seem to speak highly of wine? It was an agricultural commodity, a symbol of God’s blessings, consumed for daily health, and used as part of the Seder meal ritual, followed by Jesus at the Last Supper. The rabbinical mixture of wine was three-parts water to one-part wine mix, which was necessary in Palestine because wine was safer to keep and drink than unfiltered water. Following this recipe, someone could almost drown in the wine before getting drunk. While this helps us to better understand the positive statements about wine in the Scriptures, drunkenness remains outside God’s design.
Decide your approach to alcohol consumption before any peer pressure occurs, keeping in mind Proverbs cautions leaders on consuming alcohol (see Proverbs 31:4-5). If you are a parent of young children, give careful thought to whether you drink beer, wine, or mixed drinks in front of them. Statistics demonstrate that doing so just twice a week can dramatically lead to your children having a problem with alcohol. If you parent a high school or college student, speak clearly and frequently about the temptations and risks of drinking alcohol, including causing another person to stumble (see Romans 14:13). One poor choice can lead to a lifetime of pain, suffering, and regrets, including the loss of scholarships, internships, career opportunities, leadership positions, credibility, virginity, and life. Ask your adult children to talk with you about their invitations to parties before they drink. Your authentic investment in your family can positively alter their lives to advance God’s kingdom in their hearts and the hearts of those they encounter.