Proverbs 23:20

Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:


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America is a land of plenty. There is extreme abundance of everything, especially to eat and drink. Never has a nation had such affordable quantity and variety. And most nations have a greater quantity and variety of food and drink than ever before. While this degree of plenty is a blessing, it is also a temptation for two sins – drunkenness and gluttony.

Here is wisdom for all, but especially for young men. King Solomon warned his son about the importance of being wise and guiding his heart through life (Pr 23:19). There is a way to live that is noble and right regarding eating and drinking, but many live in a way that is ignoble and wrong. They sin against God by eating and/or drinking too much.

Both wine and food are gifts from God, but like any good thing, too much of either becomes a sin. God made bread for man’s strength, oil to provide essential fatty acids within and without, and wine to make his heart glad (Ps 104:14-15; Pr 31:6-7; Ec 10:19). But too much bread and oil lead to gluttony, and too much wine leads to drunkenness.

Young men, filled with the folly and vanity of youth, abuse things created for their profit (Pr 22:15; Ps 25:7; Eccl 11:10; II Tim 2:22). They have drinking contests and habits that promote drunkenness, and they have eating contests and habits that promote gluttony. They cannot see the shame, sin, or perversity of their actions. They need this proverb. They need parents, pastors, and teachers that will condemn their foolish practices.

The proverb is broader than condemning drunkenness and gluttony – Solomon wrote it to condemn associating with drunkards and gluttons. A wise man that wants to be noble and virtuous in life will not choose friends that are gluttons or drunkards. He knows that choosing wise friends is essential to his own success (Pr 13:20; Ps 1:1-3; I Cor 15:33). He will search out sober and temperate young men that live disciplined lives at all times.

Two vices of young men are drunkenness and gluttony, and they have consequences, even if they are thought to be lesser sins than murder or adultery. They will destroy a man and bring him to poverty (Pr 23:21). Here is wise advice to young men. The party animals exalted among youth today, which see drunkenness and gluttony as harmless sports and rites of passage, are a sure symptom of the moral depravity of a sick society.

What is a winebibber? A person who drinks too much wine; a drunkard! The parallelism identifies a drunkard (Pr 23:21). Young men should reject any companions who drink to drunkenness, and wise parents must help them do so. Jesus was falsely accused of being a winebibber, or drunkard (Matt 11:19; Luke 7:34), because He drank wine moderately, different from John the Baptist, who drank none (Mark 14:25; Luke 1:15; John 2:1-11).

What is a riotous eater of flesh? A person who eats too much meat; a glutton! The context indicates by parallelism that a glutton is under consideration (Pr 23:21). Young men should reject any companions who eat foolishly or excessively, and wise parents will help them reject such fools. Jesus was falsely accused of being a glutton (Matt 11:19; Luke 7:34), because Jesus ate ordinary food that John the Baptist did not eat (Matt 3:4).

Drunkenness and gluttony are common sins in America. When was the last time you heard a sermon against gluttony? Never? How can you from a 300-pound pastor, with his 300-pound wife sitting in the choir? These types often rail long and loud against wine, while they eat another cherry pie topped with whipped cream and wash it down with a quart of sugared soda. It would be better to read Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions, looking for those about ruling his eating, which he wrote to himself while he was a late teenager.

College fraternities are notorious for eating and drinking parties – called drunkenness, excess of wine, revellings, rioting, surfeiting, and banquetings in the Bible (Luke 21:34; Rom 13:13; I Pet 4:3). America is drowning in the deep end of the moral cesspool when her institutions of higher learning allow or promote both vices, contrary to Scripture and reason. The princes of the earth that know their God will have nothing to do with them.

It is not the food, and it is not the wine, that causes the sins. It is a matter of the heart. Observe again that Solomon opened this warning about drunkenness and gluttony and those that commit these sins by referring to his son’s heart (Pr 23:19). You must purpose in your heart that you will not sin in these ways or associate with those who do, just as Daniel purposed in his heart to avoid the defiling food of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 1:8).

Wine does not cause drunkenness any more than food causes gluttony. Drunkenness is caused by a sinful human heart, not by wine. Gluttony is caused by a sinful human heart, not by food. God made both wine and food, and He made them both good when used for their intended purposes within constraints He gave. It is a sinful heart that rebelliously chooses to drink enough wine to get drunk or eat enough food to be a glutton.

A character trait of righteous and wise young men is temperance, a duty of Christians that is little understood today and even less practiced. It means self-discipline, a rule of life of the best athletes and something required to please God (Acts 24:25; I Cor 9:24-25; Gal 5:23; Titus 2:2; II Pet 1:6). It does not mean abstinence, as the Temperance Movement, which required total abstinence from alcohol in any form, tried to make the word mean.

God is holy; life is sober. Food is for strength; wine is for relaxation (Ps 104:14-15; Eccl 10:16-17). Food is not for gorging; wine is not for chugging. Drinking and eating contests are the marks of fools. Godly young men avoid such perverse excess, no matter what ridicule they endure, for they know God is coming in judgment for such sins (I Pet 4:4-5). They also reject any crowds or persons guilty of these sins to avoid their evil influence. Drunkards and gluttons, alongside sodomites, will not be in heaven (I Cor 6:9-11).