The Folly of Wine

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The Folly of Wine

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 2:3




          Tonight, we continue our study of Ecclesiastes. In this book we find Solomon’s search for the meaning of life.   Solomon, with wisdom from God and greater resources than everyone around, “experimented” to find true meaning and happiness while on earth. As we have already seen and will continue to see throughout this book, the pursuit of worldly pleasures is vanity and temporal at best.

In our last lesson we began exploring the various avenues that Solomon, and far too many, pursued. We addressed laughter and “mirth” – things that produce pleasure or happiness. We noted that laughter and worldly pleasures are good (provided they are not sinful), BUT they do not give life real meaning.   Solomon called them madness and fruitless (“What does it accomplish?”). In our study today, we continue our examination of the pursuit of “mirth” by turning to wine (alcohol, or other drugs – including marijuana).   We will not even address the ILLEGAL uses of such, but using such things as a source of happiness. WE will see, as Solomon concluded, that such is vanity (vs. 1, 11).

  1.   Our Context
    1. This is still Solomon’s pursuit of mirth – seeking bodily pleasure and happiness (2:1)
    2. He explored in his heart (mind) – he researched and experimented – he was seeking with a realization that true reason is found in the heart (deep within us, who we really are). We have addressed the heart continually.   It is the inner man that makes us who we really are (Proverbs 4:23).
    3. He tried wine,
      1. A Hebrews word (yǎʹ·yin) that most often has reference to fermented (alcoholic) wine.
      2. As a means to “gratify my flesh”. The KJV says, “to give myself unto…”. The NASB SAYS, “how to stimulate my body”, The ESV, “how to cheer my body” – the point is Solomon was seeking gratification through wine.
      3. “While guiding my heart with wisdom” – there is nothing to indicate Solomon sought to get drunk.   He partook of this alcohol “in moderation” and kept his wits
      4. He saw in wine, “how to lay hold of folly” (foolish behavior) – whatever his methods, we don’t know how much or how little he experimented with wine and such, but he describes it as foolishness, which seems to indicate he did not find it beneficial to his pursuit of real meaning.
    4. Till I might see what was for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives – searching for something with real and lasting meaning.   Solomon’s conclusion is wine, along with laughter and mirth, and the host of other things we will examine, do NOT give our life meaning.
    5. Solomon is NOT in this text advocating social drinking – if anything, he is declaring the vanity of such.
  2.   The Bible and Wine
    1. Alcohol and drugs do NOT produce true happiness. Whether or not one believes the consumption of mind-altering substances (drugs, including alcohol and marijuana) are not sinful in moderation or for recreational purposes (I do NOT believe this), you are lying to yourself if you believe they produce true happiness in you and possibly others.
      That is the lie spewed forth by advertisers of wines and beers, as well as the façade of bars and sellers of liquor (consider the bright colors, festive pictures, humor, etc. used to promote such).
      By altering (dulling) your mind, they may produce TEMPORARY gratification – because you forget about your problems – but they provide no real or meaningful solution.     And often produce more problems when sobriety returns.
      Solomon said so in Proverbs 31:6-7, Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his misery no more.  Some see in this justification for social drinking, but contextually it would be more comparable to medication – a doctor providing pain killers to one who is dying (for relief) OR an anti-depressant for one in misery.     Consider vs. 4-5 which deal with SOBRIETY – It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink; Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.
      Timothy was told to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake – 1 Timothy 5:23.
    2. Proverbs and wine – Here are some of Solomon’s observations about wine and strong drink
      1. Wine is a mocker – Proverbs 20:1, Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise. These recreational drugs can make a fool out of you. They often loosen one inhibitions and lead to foolish behavior and decisions.
      2. Do not mix with winebibbers – Proverbs 23:20-21 – Hear, my son, and be wise; And guide your heart in the way. Do not mix with winebibbers, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.
        The winebibber would be one who sits long at wine or as the NASB says, “heavy drinkers”. What does this say about going to the local tavern or bar to socialize?
        What does this say about our influence – 1 Corinthians 15:33, Mark 9:42 – where Jesus warned of making one of His followers stumble.
        Paul, in dealing with meats sacrificed to idols – 1 Corinthians 10:27-28 spoke of our influence to unbelievers.   The principle would apply to one drinking in a bar or night club even if he didn’t get drunk himself.
      3. Who has woe – Proverbs 23:29-35 – Solomon warns of many problems that can come from drinking. In context he is dealing with the one who lingers long at wine (drinks too much).   Wine is not viewed as a commendable activity in this text.   But we do see where it leads.
        I cannot help but think of the damage done by alcohol – often starting with social drinking or that “one drink” that “I can handle”.
        Here’s some statistics from 2010[1].   According to a study by the CDC, excessive drinking cost the US economy about $249 BILLION (72% lost workplace productivity; 11% healthcare; 10% criminal justice and 5% automobile crashes).   The state of California was the highest state with $35 BILLION.  Of these numbers, 40% is paid for by federal, state and local governments.   In California, the cost per capita (per resident) was $940.   At 40%, that means that every resident paid $376, whether you drink or not.
        No wonder Solomon associated drinking alcohol with vanity and folly.
  3. Various levels of drinking – 1 Peter 4:3 – where “drinking parties” (or banqueting) would at least include “social drinking” – occasions where liquor is freely distributed and could lead to drunkenness.
  4. The Christian and sobriety – being sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:5-7 – watch and be sober and put on the breastplate of faith and love. 1 Peter 5:8 we are called upon to be sober and vigilant.
    Question: At what point does one cease to be sober?       Is there such a thing as being a “little drunk” or a “little sober”? We’re not talking legal limits here, but God’s call for sobriety.
    Are we concerned about crossing the line?
  5. Some will still say, but the Bible doesn’t say occasional drinking is a sin.”   Not in so many words, but it is clearly questionable at best.   Consider Romans 14:22-23.   And in the society we live in (as opposed to its potency and usage in Biblical times – both OT and NT) it is unnecessary.   I still ask, is it necessary and can you say with absolute certainty that it is not sinful?   Are you willing to risk eternity on it?
    Here’s a challenge. I will give you a list of reasons – both spiritual and physical as to why you should NOT drink (or smoke marijuana, etc.) at all.   Give me a list with its virtues and why you should drink – both spiritual and physical. THEN, let’s compare our lists!

Solomon, searching for our reason for being here tried many worldly pursuits, including the controlled use of alcohol. He concluded that it, like everything else worldly, is vanity.   Let us consider these things as we determine how we are going to live our lives. And do not forget the ultimate purpose – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.

[1] Accessed 1/5/19