Wisdom for Living Well with Others
All of Proverbs 23 is a warning about gorging and gluttony whether the thing being consumed is food (vs. 1-2), riches (vs. 4-5), or land (vs. 10-11). Then, beginning in verse 19, a heartfelt appeal is made, as from a loving parent to a child, to not gorge or be a glutton of wine and strong drink. “Listen my child and be wise.”
People who love us want us to stay on a right path (vs. 19). Therefore, they genuinely warn us away from people and practices that portend trouble.
Vs. 20-21: The appeal from the wise person to those who would be wise is to stay away from the drunken party, with its excessive consuming of wine and food. The wise person has been observant of multiple stories of fortunes, families, and futures destroyed by alcohol and drugs.
Vs. 22-25, This passage is a strong parental appeal for a child to live a sober life. An appeal to love and respect for parents, along with an appeal to the virtues of truth, wisdom, discipline, and understanding beg the loved one to heed this warning. Parents make a very personal appeal to be able to have joy and gladness in the blessing of right behavior by the children they brought into the world.
Proverbs is full of positive encouragements toward good things, warnings against wicked things, proddings toward wisdom, nudges away from foolishness, praise for all that is right, and reproof of all that is unhealthy for the body, the soul and the community. Yet, there are no stronger, loving, personal appeals than this appeal against excessive drink recorded in this passage and in the mother’s cry of Proverbs 31:4-7. Nor do the wise wax more poetic than in this appeal to stay away from the danger of alcohol.
has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has bloodshot eyes?
who linger over wine, who go to sample mixed wine.
Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!
the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things.
You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging.
“They hit me,” you will say, “but I am not hurt!” They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake so I can find another drink?”
Those last lines about the hallucinations, sickly imbalance, and bruising black outs brought on by excessive drinking, yet with a desire to do it again illustrate the words of another Proverb, “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” (20:1).
Note: Psalm 104:14-15, John 2:1-11, and 1Timothy 5:23 may have other perspectives on wine. Even so, whenever a defense of wine is made, the dangers of alcohol should not be neglected.