Social drinking can be defined as “casual drinking in a social setting without the intent to get drunk.” (Wikipedia) The website observed that Singaporeans are showing a growing interest in alcohol. While drinking remains a costly activity due to the high taxes imposed on alcoholic drinks, the growing prosperity of the country meant that many are able to afford the high prices of these drinks. As a result, the drinking culture in Singapore continues to grow and prosper. Many take to social drinking as a means to make friends and seal business contracts. Their arguments for adopting social drinking is that so long as they do not exhibit the signs of drunkenness, everything would be fine.

Sadly, social drinking also seems to be a growing fad among the Christian community. The contention is that drinking is fine, so long as it is not in excess.

Flee From Drinking

However, a survey of the Scriptures would reveal multiple warnings against alcohol. One such passage is Proverbs 23:29-35. “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? 30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. 31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. 32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. 33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. 34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. 35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.

The exhortation to flee from alcohol is found in verse 31. “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” Some argue that the commandment is meant only for the drunkards as verse 30 addresses those who “tarry long at wine”. However, an examination of the context reveals that Solomon addresses the command to every individual reader of the Proverbs, whom he terms affectionately as “my son” (v.26), and not just the drunkards. Moreover, while verse 30 addresses the drunkards in the plural (i.e. “they”), the command to “look not” (al tēre) in verse 31 is given in the singular (i.e. “thou”). This shows that the command not to look at alcoholic drink is meant for every Christian. The urgent exhortation is thus not one of moderation, but one of total abstinence. Don’t even set your eyes upon it, what more to drink!

The thrust of the message then is this: the best way to avoid the dangers of alcohol is to not even have a glance at it, for alcoholic drink is highly seductive. It first attacks through the eye gate with its attractive red colour. The second line “when it giveth its colour in the cup” can be rendered literally as “when it gives in the cup its eye”. It is as though the alcoholic drink is an active seducer who will not stop looking at you with its eye. Oh look how the drink sparkles in the cup! Once you are snared visually, you will proceed to taste it. When it goes down the throat, “it moveth itself aright”, appealing to all the right taste buds, leaving you hook by the aesthetic experience it gives. Before you know it, the deadly consequences kicks in, stinging like a poisonous snake (v.32), one of which includes a slavery addiction to the seductive spirit in the cup!

Danger of Drinking

The following are the dangerous consequences of one who is hooked on alcohol:

  1. Addiction (v.30). The term for “wine” (yayin) is a generic description of both unfermented (i.e. non-alcoholic grape juice) as well as fermented wine (i.e. alcoholic wine). Over here, the term refers to alcoholic drink because it is paired in parallel with “mixed wine” (mimsāk). The second term refers not only to alcoholic drink, but those which have been mixed with spices or other kinds of spirits, thereby increasing the taste and potency of the cocktail.

Verse 30 is most vivid in describing the addiction of the alcoholic. He will not just tarry at the drink, but to tarry long. He will also make an active and voluntary entrance (literally “to go in”) for the alcoholic drink. He will then not stop at just the most generic form of alcoholic wines, but his tasting variety will soon increase in taste and potency.

  1. Contention (v.29). Verse 30 begins with the interjection “woe” (wōy). It is an impassioned cry of grief and despair (BDB) due to the sorrow caused by the alcoholic wine. This sorrow is caused by the much contention that arise from drinking alcohol. The terms “contentions” and “babblings” are purposely presented in the plural, telling us that it is something that soon becomes habitual to the alcoholic. These “contentions” are not the godly contention of the faithful Christian who seeks to earnestly contend for the faith (c.f. Jude 3). Rather they arise from the “babblings” of the alcoholic. These “babblings” arise from a tormented mind which rehearses agitation within itself and soon results in an outward pouring of misery on both himself and others. How often do we hear of wives and families being abused by those who are addicted to alcohol!

The external effects of these contentions and babblings will soon be seen. First, he will receive “wounds without cause”. These are caused either by his lack of control in movement causing him to stumble into surrounding objects, or by his brawling and rancorous fights with those who are around him. Second, he will experience “redness of eyes”. This “redness” describes some sort of dullness of the eyes. Thus, it not only addresses the look of his eyes to others, but also how his vision is impaired once he is intoxicated by the wine.

  1. Riotous Conduct (v.33). The term “strange women” can either refer to prostitutes and adulteresses, or to “strange things”. Both are permissible in the context of the Proverb. Is it not true that an intoxicated man will soon see things that may not be present in reality (see v.34-35)? On the other hand, alcoholic drink is often associated with seductive women. Are not many advertisements of wine filled with such women? An alcoholic will soon find his life descended into promiscuity. If he or she is married, this may destroy the family life of the individual. Many young women are also raped after they have been rendered weak and unconscious by alcohol. Ladies beware!

In addition, a person may soon speak “perverse things”. These “perverse things” (tapucah) refers to things that has been turned upside down from reality and truth. They are things which are contrary to the Word of God. Note that these utterances begin in the heart. Because perverseness is found in the inner man, it will soon manifest itself in the speech and actions. Some of the most senseless and wicked things are said under the influence of alcohol.

  1. Twisted Perception of Reality (v.34-35). Verse 34 is a most poetic description of the drunkard who has lost all sense of control. Not only has he lost all sense of reality, but his drunkenness has caused him to be knock out just like someone floating in a boat or vessel in the midst of a violent ocean. Do we not see this effect after drunken parties such as Zouk Out in Sentosa? The picture of many men and women lying unconscious in the streets, some in a state of undress, most certainly fits what we read in verse 34.

This twisted sense of reality continues in verse 35. A drunkard can often be struck down by others, yet he thinks that he is invincible. Or perhaps he may not even know that he is struck. He simply does not feel the pain. However, after the alcoholic awakes from his drunken stupor, he is soon actively seeking (bāqash) for his next drink. It first starts with a look at the seductive wine. Now, he is fully ensnared by the alcohol!


The Scripture expressly warns against alcoholic drink. The teaching is not one of moderation, but one of total abstinence. This has been the historical and Biblical position of the Bible-Presbyterian Church. A Christian should therefore steer clear from the trending culture of social drinking. Don’t look, don’t drink!

Pr Clement Chew