-by Mark E. Shaw with T.A.C. Team
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1, ESV)
Human beings like to celebrate. We look for excuses to celebrate the “wins” and successes in life. There are all kinds of celebrations in all kinds of contexts around the world. I remember watching a wedding celebration in Egypt and smiling from ear to ear at the joy expressed in the union of those two young people! It was a special occasion that blessed me, and I was just an observer, not a participant.
Celebrations are good and not bad. Graduations, baptisms, salvations, beginning of a new year, ending another year, celebrating a vacation, getting a raise at your job, and countless other noteworthy events can be worth celebrating!
What insight does God’s Word, the Bible, have for us in celebrating the events of this life? What questions should we consider when we celebrate, especially for those who have struggled with chemical dependency issues in the past?
Celebrating Ourselves vs. Giving Glory to God
The first question to ask is: Are we celebrating ourselves and our accomplishments, or are we giving glory to God for enabling us to reach a milestone? Monumental times like graduation are worthy of pausing and noting what God has done in our lives. Are you celebrating your “smarts” in your graduation or are you celebrating God’s gift of your “smarts” that enabled you to graduate? There is a difference!
God had His children celebrate the Passover and other special holidays like Purim which is now observed usually in March. Those events were celebrating God and His divine intervention. They are intended to point the celebrator to think, praise, and honor the LORD for who He is and what He has done.
In Joshua 4:1-7, God commanded the Israelites to commemorate the miracle of passing over of the Jordan River during its flood stage by erecting 12 stones as a memorial. This celebration was meant to last—it was to remind them of what God did in that miraculous event, and to be shared with future generations so that God would be glorified for years to come.
You Don’t have to Celebrate in Unrighteousness
Each of us has the freedom in this country to make personal choices; however, if our personal choice negatively impacts another person such as a drunk driving accident that takes another person’s life, then freedoms can be lost (i.e. jail or prison).
I have friends who have decided not to drink, smoke dope, or celebrate with chemicals that are mind-altering. I am in that crowd of friends, too, as a personal choice. In The Addiction Connection, many of us have decided to draw a line here in how we celebrate, staying away from the use of wine, alcohol, and strong drink. Our decision comes from listening to the wisdom from verse one of chapter 20 of Proverbs. Let’s read it again.
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (ESV)
Strong drink has been called “Liquid Courage” for a reason! The one who drinks to a state of drunkenness want to fight, wants to share an opinion, wants everyone to know their thoughts with gusto, will take on a few big guys looking for a fight, and just generally thinks of himself or herself as the King of the world sometimes! When this is the case, loving God and loving others goes out the window (Matthew 22:37-40). That’s one danger of the power of strong drink.
Wisdom from God’s Word About Alcohol
God tells us in Proverbs 20:1 that whoever is led astray by wine and strong drink is not wise. How would you like to be known as unwise, or maybe even stupid? None of us truly want that type of reputation but that’s what happens when someone is led by their idolatrous pursuit of wine.
Now please let me clarify. I am NOT saying don’t drink at all ever! It would be wrong for me to say that God says, ‘Don’t ever use alcohol.’ That would be wrong because that is not what the Bible says. So that is not what I am saying here.
Again, don’t hear me saying that all alcohol is wrong at all times. However, I am sharing wisdom from God’s Word, which clearly says here in Proverbs that when certain substances are taken into the body you can be led astray very easily by them. Alcohol is a mind-altering drug once used to treat mental illnesses years ago in the same way that Valium and other benzodiazepines are used today.
Knowing Your Heart
You yourself know what that heart motive is inside you before you ever take the first sip at that celebration. Or do you?
The Bible also tells us that we can deceive ourselves because our heart motives lead us astray. Proverbs 16:25 clearly says: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (ESV) If we are not careful, we can suppress the truth and tell ourselves our motives are for one thing good, when in reality they are not. Deceiving ourselves is something the Bible often warns us about (Prov. 3:5-6).
For example, when we say, “I’m just trying to relax from a stressful week,” the reality might be that our heart desires are truly wanting the following: “Get outta my way, I’m getting loaded.”
“The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable — who can understand it? I, the LORD, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, CSB) 
 Taken from https://www.blueletterbible.org/csb/jer/17/1/p1/s_762001
God knows your heart better than you do!
For practical help in identifying your heart’s desires, Pastor Brad Bigney, who will be speaking at T.A.C.’s 7th Annual Leadership Summit on August 3, 2023, preached this sermon entitled “How Do I Look for Idols in My Heart?” (video and notes) and also found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my2SHBY–XE
The Consequences of Drunkenness Can Be Devastating
If you want to give yourself the best opportunity to be wise, do not drink wine or have strong drink. In other words, don’t allow your desire for it to overcome you and influence you to sin and make idolatrous choices. When overpowered by the desire for strong drink and becoming drunk by it, you will likely hurt yourself and/or others. Being influenced in your mind and decisions is when it becomes dangerous, and you will be led astray. Do not allow it to overcome you; don’t let your heart take you to a place of celebration where you will make a huge wrong choice.
Driving under the influence, for example, will hurt yourself and others. Do you know where that line is for you? It is not necessarily the line that our social constructs and law enforcement say it is. It may be a lot less than that!
The link above tells the horrible story of one man’s choice that took lives. He survived, but he and many others wish he would have chosen to heed the wisdom of God’s Word that night which turned into a nightmare for him and 67 people on the bus that night, 27 of whom died.
He made an unwise decision, and it took the lives of many children and adults.
I grew up in that town where those children were from. Our family could have known those people very well. I could have gone to school with them. I could have ended up at that church. I could have befriended those people; I could have ended up on that bus—speculation, of course—but that was the same May of my high school graduation. I certainly would have known those people had my family stayed in that area instead of moving to another state long before that day.
We currently live nearby the place where this incident occurred. A green roadside highway sign memorializing the accident has been placed on Interstate 71 toward Louisville, KY. A survivor has also permanently memorialized the tragedy in a shopping center lot located in the town where those children were from—a replica bus with the names of those who perished reminds everyone what happened that night. And when I think about that accident, and every single time that I see that sign – every single time I go down there and see that sign—I think about how we all are living by God’s grace.
The second we think we are better than the driver that night who caused the crash, is the second we are wrong. We are no better. We make unwise choices ourselves. I am thankful the Word of God gives us wisdom.
Celebrating the Right Things the Right Way
Again, alcohol and strong drinks change your behavior and thinking. Some get sassy and loud and become a brawler; others exhibit selfishness in other ways. And you are led astray and you are not wise. That’s what the Word of God is warning us about.
Therefore, be wise and careful in your celebration. You don’t have to have wine and other alcohol products in your celebration of events in life. You can righteously commemorate and celebrate life in Christ with friends. Have people over. Enjoy people. And most importantly, enjoy your relationship with Christ by celebrating Him in what He’s done in your heart and life! Eternal life is to be celebrated!
Mark E. Shaw, D.Min., CABC, ACBC, IABC, CADAC II, is a biblical counselor, ordained minister, speaker, and author of over 26 books and booklets of hope and help. Dr. Shaw has been involved in counseling since the early 90’s. He served in residential care and medication assisted treatment centers (methadone), but Biblical Counseling became his passion in 2001. Dr. Shaw’s resources (including Fentanyl– the first release in The Transformation series) are found at Focus Publishing for discounted purchase in bulk quantities, or at amazon.com/author/markeshaw
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