Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. Proverbs 20:1 (NRSV)
Many of you know that I had the privilege of meeting The French Chef, the late Julia Child, in 1976. I had followed her PBS television series, which really contributed to my love of cooking and French food, in particular. It was a great thrill for me to see her do some food demonstrations in Washington, D.C., to have my photograph taken with her, to have two of her cookbooks autographed and to enjoy some conversation with her. Two of my favorite recipes are Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin. Wine may very well be a mocker, but where would those two dishes be without wine? Considerably less flavorful, if water was used instead of wine!
Likewise strong drink may very well be a brawler, but I know of one spirit that adds so much more flavor to a barbecue sauce and quite frankly you cannot make a Derby Pie without it! With the recipes using the wine as well as those requiring the strong drink as an ingredient, the alcohol is cooked out. The alcohol content of wines and strong drinks varies, but generally it would take less wine than the strong drink to intoxicate someone … to lead them astray. Nevertheless wines as well as strong drinks have the power to inebriate someone depending on how much the person drinks. For some people the best way not to be led astray is not to imbibe.
At the first reading of Proverbs 20:1, we might decide that all wines and strong drinks are bad. Their consumption leads to intoxication of people and leading them astray. The writer of Proverbs 20 is correct that the person led astray by it is not wise. Moderation seems to be the secret and in this day and time any amount of alcoholic beverages consumed can impair the person’s vision, thinking, judgment and reflexes.
Elsewhere in the scriptures we read that wine can be good for us. In Psalm 104:15 the Psalmist praises the goodness of God. He writes, “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the human heart.” In I Timothy 5:23, the Apostle Paul advises his young colleague about the medicinal qualities of wine. “No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”
When wine and strong drinks are consumed as libations, then extreme care must be exercised so that one is not led astray by becoming intoxicated. Consuming wine or strong drink in foods and as beverages should be done in moderation and always responsibly. As the French would say, Sante’ and Bon Appetit!
O God, we give You thanks for the gift of wine that gladdens the heart and that can be a good medicine for the body. Guard us from misusing this good gift. Help us to be wise when we consume and drink so that we are not led astray. In the name of Jesus’ we pray. Amen.