Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
It is singularly appropriate that we should come to the opening words of this chapter on the opening day of the new year, when the ravages of strong drink are seen in all their squalid ugliness and shame. Hogmanay is not something for Scotland to be proud of. The question that arises here is: Temperance or Abstinence? There can be little doubt, on any fair reading of Scripture, that it is temperance rather than abstinence that can be deduced from the relevant passages. But having said this, we must also go on to say something else. There are principles embedded in Scripture too, and we must recognise, firstly, that in view of the disastrous and tragic consequences that the use of alcoholic liquor has for countless lives and homes and families, and secondly, in view of the danger of setting a bad example to others, abstinence must surely be seen; not as an option, but as a bounded duty, for believers. No other vice has so cursed the world and caused such awful misery and suffering as drunkenness. Should not this fact be sufficient for people of true Christian compassion? And what of Paul's teaching in Romans 14 on the power of example, and the possibility of making a weaker brother stumble? And did not Jesus say we are to love the Lord our God with our minds as well as our hearts? If even slight alcoholic influence impairs the mind, how can we fulfil His injunction honorably? Consider the word 'mocker'. It is the deceit that alcohol practises on people that is in view, not merely in the falsity of its claim to satisfy their needs and desires, but - even more serious - in the undoubted fact that it so often betrays people into addiction. Few alcoholics ever meant to let it take such a grip on them, most are duped and deceived into their terrible plight. It is too late then for them to cry, 'What a fool I've been:' Resist beginnings - this is the only true wisdom.