Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
Alcohol, by relaxing the central nervous system, reduces human judgment. Those in authority must use it very prudently. While the relaxing effect is excellent for men in physical or emotional pain (Pr 31:6-7), it is dangerous for kings, princes, or other rulers, who must strictly control their thoughts and words to protect others (Pr 31:4-5). King Lemuel’s mother warned him about wine and strong drink in his ruling position (Pr 31:1).
The other half of this proverb reads, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink” (Pr 31:4). Lemuel’s mother warned that the duties of leadership limit the use of wine and strong drink, even if both are liberally allowed to others (Pr 31:6-7). Kings and princes must apply laws consistently and fairly and make just and right judgments. Too much wine could hinder them in those duties.
Wine can alter awareness, control, judgment, and sobriety. Solomon told its sinful effect on sight, heart, and speech (Pr 23:33). Noah was naked while drunk (Gen 9:21). Lot committed incest with his daughters while drunk (Gen 19:30-38). Nabal might have been more civil to David without wine (I Sam 25:36). Men have used it for date rape (Hab 2:15). David used it to tempt his friend Uriah to sleep with his wife (II Sam 11:6-13).
This effect is called being under the influence. Alcohol impairs the judgment of drivers, leading to many fatal accidents, so driving in such a condition is punished. Anyone who must make quick and intelligent decisions, whether a boss, a judge, or a pilot, is strictly warned against the use of alcohol while on the job. Many children have also suffered from imprudent fathers, who made terrible decisions while under the influence of alcohol.
A man in authority must use all his wits, heart, and soul to give righteous judgment and avoid judging merely by appearance (Ex 18:21; II Chr 19:5-10; John 7:24). Rulers were ordained by God to punish evildoers and reward good behavior (Rom 13:1-4; I Pet 2:13-14). But this high and honorable intent will be destroyed, if the ruler is intoxicated and thereby angry, blinded, confused, distracted, emotional, hasty, impulsive, or partial.
Yet, the rule is limited. The Bible hides truth from the foolish, proud, or self-righteous; it reveals truth to the diligent, humble, and wise (Matt 11:25-26; II Pet 3:16). God-called men are to read the Bible distinctly, give the sense, and cause others to understand it (Neh 8:8; Mal 2:7). By rightly dividing scripture, the man of God declares pure truth from God’s words (Pr 22:17-21; Ps 119:18; II Tim 2:15; 3:16-17). Giving an interpretation is not corrupting His words: it is giving them the correct sense to avoid errors on either side.
Kings and other rulers may drink wine, but they are to be very prudent about it. How can you know this? By comparing scripture with scripture (I Cor 2:13). Melchisedec, King of Jerusalem, drank wine (Gen 14:18-20). And his antitype, the Lord Jesus, drank wine often enough to be called a winebibber (Luke 7:33-34). The proverb’s teetotalish words confuse Pharisees, who think they are more righteous than those enjoying God’s mercies.
Bible moderation is to drink the right amount at the right time for the right reasons. The right amount differs from person to person, but it can be learned just as the right amount of food is learned. The right time should factor in any leadership duties, use of dangerous things like an automobile, or the example provided to others. The right reasons are comfort, gladness, and relaxation as God intended without any moral compromise.
Consider the Spirit’s hierarchy of duty. Church members may drink short of drunkenness (Eph 5:18). Deacons and aged women cannot be addicted or greedy drinkers of much wine (I Tim 3:8; Titus 2:3). But a bishop or pastor, the chief ruler and teacher, cannot be addicted or greedy of wine in general (I Tim 3:3; Titus 1:7). The O.T. priests never drank when directing worship (Lev 10:8-11), though they did drink at other times (Num 18:12).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect King. Though He appreciated wine as the gift of God (Ps 104:14-15; Luke 7:33-34; John 2:1-11), He never compromised righteousness, mercy, or truth (John 7:46; 8:29; Heb 1:9; 7:26). If you are in a position of authority or leadership, make sure you restrain your use of wine and strong drink, lest you pervert your privileged position. Let the high King of heaven be your holy example and guide.