Scripture reading – Proverbs 20

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You will find that Proverbs 20 is a chapter rich in spiritual truths that seem to challenge nearly every aspect of life. Spiritual principles abound, from the warning concerning wine and “strong drink” in verse 1 to the affirmation of biblical chastening described as “the blueness of a wound” in verse 30. Understanding a daily devotional gives little opportunity to address the whole chapter; I have determined to tackle one truth often overlooked, if not dismissed, by some believers. Consider the first verse:


Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Should you be willing to embrace this proverb as stated? For application, allow me to restate the same proverb with my amplification of word meanings.

Proverbs 20:1 “Wine [fermented wine] is a mocker [scorner; holds in derision], strong drink [intoxicating drink] is raging [roar; troubled]: and whosoever is deceived [led astray; mislead] thereby is not wise.”

Many in the 21st century Church argue for tolerance in the matter of alcohol, and some have embraced the imbibing of “strong drink” as a matter of liberty. Such an argument is a grave departure from the historical stance of Bible believers. Sadly, the silence of the pulpit on the matter has only perpetuated the acceptance of wine and alcohol. So, we ask:

“To drink or not to drink?” What do the Scriptures teach?

Paul challenged pastors to be sober [lit. temperate] and therefore “not given to wine” (1 Timothy 3:2-3). In his Epistle to Titus, Paul called on pastors (i.e., “bishops”) to be “blameless…not given to wine” (Titus 1:7). He also cautioned older women to be “not given to much wine” (Titus 2:3).


Historical Context

Modern societies enjoy the blessing of fresh, pure water; however, that was not the case in ancient times. There was always a risk of unsanitary, unpurified water in Solomon’s time and the apostle’s day in the first century. To kill germs and bacteria in drinking water, wine was mixed with the water, making it safe to drink (historians suggest the ratio was 8 parts water and 1 part wine).

Lacking modern refrigeration, juices back then would ferment in the heat of the Middle East. Therefore, diluting the wine was necessary to slow the fermenting process.  Today, strong wine and alcoholic beverages go through a distilling process to elevate alcohol content to a level that was unknown in Bible times. Unlike the wine in the Bible that was watered down, today’s strong drink is imbibed for its intoxicating properties.

What spiritual applications might we take from Proverbs 20:1?


A man who indulges in wine or alcohol is unfit for the pastorate.

Old Testament priests were not to “drink wine nor strong drink” (Leviticus 10:9). The New Testament Scriptures admonish pastors to be “not given to wine” (1 Timothy 3:2-3). Understanding the wine of Bible times was not nearly as intoxicating as today’s; we can be confident God has not lowered the standard for men in the ministry.


Concerning believers: Solomon admonished his son not to drink wine or strong drink (20:1) nor keep company with drunkards.

The king urged, “20Be not among winebibbers; Among riotous eaters of flesh: 21For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: And drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Proverbs 23:20–21).

 The virtuous wife and mother of Proverbs 31 warned her son who was heir to the throne: “4It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; Nor for princes strong drink: 5Lest they drink, and forget the law, And pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4–5).


Closing thoughts –

Paul admonished believers not to risk causing another believer to stumble and fall; therefore, “It is good neither to eat flesh [i.e., meat offered to idols], nor to drink wine (Romans 14:21).

Some believers will quote 1 Timothy 5:23 as grounds for taking liberty with wine and alcohol. There we read, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Timothy apparently had stomach ailments, and rather than give him liberty for wine, Paul urged him to take some wine only for medicinal purposes (in the absence of medicines we have today).

Many verses, principles, and illustrations support a total intolerance of wine and alcohol in the life of a believer (Hosea 4:11; Daniel 1:8, 10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In addition, our society abounds with examples of damages caused by alcohol use: Physical (cancer of the esophagus, mouth, pharynx, and larynx), gross immorality caused by the effect of lowering inhibitions, and spiritual failures. Lastly, in his letter to believers in Corinth, Paul warned:

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 9Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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