Steve Ellison: Who Has Sorrow?

Saturday, June 3, 2017 - by Steve Ellison
Reading through Proverbs monthly for three consecutive months has been a blessing.  Proverbs 23:29-35 is a very appropriate passage for the church today.  Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.   Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!  In 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'm not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?" (NIV)
I wish that the Bible contained a verse that says pointblank, straight out, that drinking alcohol is absolutely wrong, a sin against man, and a sin against God.  But it doesn’t.  I don’t know why it doesn’t.  I can only guess (please note my danger in guessing) that God intends our dealings with alcohol to somehow facilitate our growth.  Wine is used in many places in the Bible as symbolic of joy.   However, Proverbs 9, 20, 21, 23, Leviticus 10, Romans 14, etc. point out the dangers of drinking alcoholic beverages especially in excess.  My observations, as a public school teacher, pastor, food pantry worker, etc. lead me to the obvious conclusion that intoxicating agents (alcohol and other drugs) are a terrible blight on individuals and society.  Without a doubt, use of intoxicants leads to much crime.  Intoxicants are contributing factors in many burglaries, murders, car wrecks, child abuse cases, spousal abuse cases, accidental deaths, etc.  Addictive desire to purchase intoxicants leads many to a life of stealing.  Oftentimes they steal from people they know, family members, friends, co-workers, bosses, etc.  Thus they destroy relationships, ostracizing themselves from the only people who have a reasonable chance of helping them to deal with their real problem. As I think back over my lifetime, I do not remember ever seeing a situation where intoxicants were a blessing to anyone involved.  I do, however, recall multitudes of times where intoxicants were the direct cause of many tragedies.
Seven years ago, I visited a man in a local hospital who was many years younger than me.  He was in intensive care, close to death, unable to communicate, unable to eat. He had no injury or sickness other than that caused by excessive alcohol consumption. He was following in the footsteps of his father. Words of comfort to his mother and his daughter were impossible to find.   Preaching his funeral was a tough task. That same week, I met with another young father for a Bible study in an effort to mentor him. He arrived with the smell of beer on his breath and admitted to drinking prior to driving to the church. Confronting that situation was necessary but difficult.
What should I have said each week as the needy came into the food pantry, when it was obvious that their use of intoxicants had brought them to the lowest levels of poverty? What can I say to the man whose use of intoxicants in moderation is not a problem for him but leads his child to use in excess? It seems to me that Proverbs 23, etc. make it plain that a man or a woman ought to treat intoxicants as they would a poisonous snake.

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