Proverbs 23:34

Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.

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What is it like to be very drunk? Solomon compared it to lying down in a ship in a storm. Rather than being on deck, where his eyes could assist his balance, this man lies in the hold of the tossing ship, feeling as if he will soon be turned inside out. His head swims; his stomach retches! Better than that, drunkenness is like lying on the top of a ship’s mast, where the ship’s rolling motions are compounded greatly by the length of the mast.

The context is Solomon’s warning to his son about the terrible effects of drunkenness (Pr 23:29-35). He described a list of physical consequences (Pr 23:29), the enticing attraction of alcoholic beverages (Pr 23:30-31), the painful results being similar to a snake bite (Pr 23:32), the attendant breakdown of moral inhibitions (Pr 23:33), and the addicting nature of drunkenness (Pr 23:35). Here are plain warnings against getting drunk.

Drunkenness is a sin, but it is also stupid! Drunks lose self-control, their balance, the food in their stomachs, and their reputations. They voluntarily choose to pursue nausea in the belly and confusion of the mind; drunkards are great fools. Why in the world would a person drink too much of a thing that he knows will make him very sick and cause him much misery? Ignorance! A foolish heart! Peer pressure! Bad habits! Addiction!

What is the cure? Do not get infatuated with alcohol (Pr 23:30-31). Recognize and admit wine and strong drink are deceiving (Pr 20:1). Remember that a moderate amount can give the benefits God intended (Pr 31:6-7; Ps 104:14-15; I Tim 5:23). The sin of drunkenness occurs when a person drinks to excess, which is condemned (Eph 5:18).

Wine itself is no more sinful than bread. Drunkenness and gluttony are both sins of the human heart. Wine and strong drink are sources of drunkenness, but only when they are abused by consuming too much of them against God’s word. Bread, pizza, and donuts are sources of gluttony, but only when they are abused by consuming too much of them against God’s word. The sin is in the human heart’s choice to overeat or over drink.

Wisdom is the power of right judgment – knowing what to do in any situation to please God and good men. Wise men use wine or strong drink cautiously, especially if they are in authority (Pr 31:4-5; Eccl 10:16-17; I Tim 3:8; Titus 2:3). They want full control of their faculties, and they will not give it away for the momentary foolishness of drinking too much. They recognize wine’s value, use it only moderately, and hate drunkenness.

No matter what the world says, drunkenness is a sin (Luke 21:34; I Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21). And it is stupid, as the proverb declares metaphorically. Those who desire to be wise in the sight of God will use wine with great caution. They will rule their spirits and circumstances to keep from drinking too much. Such prudence will save them from the foolish sin of drunkenness, and it will save them from the gut-wrenching and mind-confusing consequences of drunkenness. Only fools will drink on without careful regard.