At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise (KJV).
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise (NKJV).Proverbs 20:1
For over a century, the evangelical church in North America was overwhelmingly dry—that is, they had adopted the temperance approach that had begun to gain traction in the 19th century. This movement culminated in Prohibition, a 13 year ban on alcohol in the United States (1920-1933). In truth Prohibition was a spectacular failure, but sometimes people mistakenly imagine that the problem it was seeking to address was therefore an imaginary problem. But that was not the case—drunkenness was a significant social problem prior to Prohibition. Perhaps we could think of those thirteen years as America’s time in rehab.
Now “temperance” was actually a misnomer because the word should refer to moderate use of alcohol, not to an absolute requirement to abstain from it. The word temperance did not originally bring teetotalism to mind. But the period after Prohibition actually was pretty temperate.
Something similar happened with the gradual relaxation of attitudes toward alcohol among evangelicals. At first, alcohol is approached carefully, gingerly, like it might bite. This is all to the good because Scripture teaches us that alcohol does bite, like an adder (Prov. 23:32).
But we live in a time when substance abuse of various kinds is increasingly common, whether pot, or opioids, or prescription pills, or alcohol. Christians there need to make sure they don’t let down their guard simply because the outside culture is giving way to dissipation. A good check on our spirits is to remember the words of this proverb—wine has an attitude problem; it mocks. Whiskey is violent; it is a brawler, and can beat you up. Both of them together are liars, telling you that you are far more temperate than you actually are.
When people ask for my advice on this, I have a pretty simple rule of thumb—only one.