Proverbs 31:6

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.


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Strong drink and wine have their place. Though kings and other leaders must use them carefully (Pr 31:4-5), they have a good and useful purpose for others. God created and designed them, and He in this place inspired reasons for their use from a queen mother.

Strong drink – fermented or distilled alcoholic beverages other than wine – is to cheer those depressed due to poverty or misery (Pr 31:7). Wine – the fermented juice of the grape – is to cheer men whose hearts are heavy. God created and designed these drinks to produce gladness, happiness, and relaxation by their moderate use (Ps 104:14-15).

King Lemuel’s mother gave inspired advice to her son (Pr 31:1-2). She first warned him about the danger of women, for men in authority are the objects of whorish women more than other men (Pr 31:3). She then warned him about the danger of intoxication from wine or strong drink, which would impair his judgment and memory as a king (Pr 31:4-5). Wine, she taught, was more the need of his poor working class citizens (Pr 31:6-7).

Wine is always and only the fermented juice of the grape used as a beverage. Contrary to what modern Pharisee teetotalers say, wine has never been the name for nonalcoholic grape juice. Honest Bible study will reveal this simple lesson. Men teaching otherwise are lying in order to promote manmade rules over men (Matt 15:1-20). Connected in this proverb with strong drink, wine is obviously the alcoholic beverage made from grapes.

God made and ordained wine for a good purpose. He created grapes with sugary juice inside and yeast on the skins. When grapes are crushed, the sugar and yeast combine to start fermentation. When the mash gets to 8-14% alcohol, the yeast dies and fermentation ends. God created grapes and ordained this process to cheer the heart, which has been the use of wine for 6000 years (Ps 104:14-15; Eccl 10:19; Is 28:23-29; Gen 9:20).

God made and ordained strong drink for a good purpose as well. When wine was in short supply, or men wanted a change in beverage, they could ferment other fruit or grain products and/or distill them. Beer is simply cold grain soup with an alcohol level considerably less than wine. Whiskey is cold grain soup that has been distilled to an alcohol level considerably above wine. Midori from melons, various flavors of schnapps, vodka, sherry, and brandy are a few of the many other forms of modern strong drink.

Let there be no doubt about the limitations God has placed on wine and strong drink. God strongly condemns excessive drinking that leads to drunkenness, and He also strongly condemns excessive eating that leads to gluttony (Pr 20:1; 23:20-21,29-35; Is 5:11; Hab 2:15; Luke 21:34; Rom 13:13; I Cor 5:11; 6:10; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:18; I Pet 4:1-5). Let there be no doubt in any mind about the limitations God has placed on wine and bread.

But God commended wine and strong drink in this proverb. This is not strange, and only those ignorant of the Bible think it is strange. He commanded Israel to spend 10% of income on festival worship, and He commended wine and strong drink in these family religious events (Deut 14:26). Of course, teetotalers on their social gospel bandwagon of Prohibition ignore such verses. Billy Sunday and the Temperance Movement were totally wrong. Temperance is not abstinence or prohibition, but rather self-discipline.

Why did God create and ordain wine and strong drink? Because alcohol depresses the central nervous system to help a person relax, forget the negative things in his life, and feel warm with joy and contentment. He made it to put gladness in his heart (Jdgs 9:13; Ps 104:14-15; Eccl 10:19). Read the proverb again, and follow the single pronoun “him” into the next verse (Pr 31:6-7). The perishing and heavy hearts are depression. Wine and strong drink cause a man to forget his poverty and misery, even when very discouraged.

Alcohol is a mood-altering chemical, and it is for this reason that God created, ordained, and commended the use of wine and strong drink. This proverb and the one following allow for the moderate use of legal, modern mood-altering prescriptions for those that suffer from chemical, physical, or psychological problems like anxiety attacks, depression, and related maladies. The God of heaven is the God of all mercy (Matt 12:7).

Wine is also a wonderful beverage for fellowship between friends, so Jesus Christ created the best vintage ever for a wedding feast as His first miracle (John 2:1-11). Abraham and Melchisedec had bread and wine for their celebration (Gen 14:18-20). God’s true churches commune with bread and wine (I Cor 11:20-26). No wonder a simple toast can simply be, “Cheers!” No wonder some drinks are called cordials – heart-warming drinks.

King Lemuel’s mother did not prohibit all drinking for her son. She rather held him to a higher rule than his citizens. The three greatest kings in the Bible drank – Melchisedec, David, and Jesus (Gen 14:18; II Sam 6:19; Luke 7:33-34). The New Testament confirms this gradation of duty. Pastors cannot be given to wine; deacons cannot be given to much wine; and members are to avoid drunkenness (I Tim 3:3,8). God’s priests drank the best wine, but not when leading worship (Lev 10:8-11; Num 18:8-12; Ezek 44:21).

What are the lessons for you? God is good in all His creations, including wine. He made bread to make your heart strong and wine to make your heart glad (Ps 104:14-15). He is not the restrictive tyrant of modern Pharisees that limits you to grape juice, a bitter, sour, and/or sugar-laden drink. He wants you to relax at the end of a long day. He knew the staples of fine dining before modern restaurants – wine, bread, and meat (II Sam 6:19).

Wine and strong drink must be ruled, so that drunkenness is carefully avoided. God expects you to keep sufficient wits to be wise at all times and to avoid the greater vulnerability to sin that comes with drunkenness (Pr 23:33). Relaxation is good, but laxity in godliness is not good. If you have a leadership role, even as a loving and wise husband and father, you must carefully consider and guard your use of these drinks.

Drunkenness is wine to excess. Drunkenness is never right as a solution to deal with your problems. Drunkenness is only for losers (Pr 23:20-21,29-35)! If you have problems that you cannot cope with, the solution is the Holy Spirit of the living God (Eph 5:18). Humble yourself before God, beg for His Holy Spirit, and take up singing, instead of drinking (Luke 11:13; Eph 5:18-19). Let Him be the strength of your heart (Ps 73:25-26).