Proverbs 21 is especially devoted to making subtle or fine distinctions. Establishing balance.
This is the passage I gave to my grandson Sam on his dedication in Dec. of 2K10. It was my prayer and intent then as now, that in studying it for himself I time, it may guide him in insight to his own disposition, and keep his eyes ever fixed in his Redeemer.
In the whole of it, we come away with the needed warning to not be fooled. Even those things made for us by our God can be misused and abused. We must beware the tendency of ANYTHING made, to be harmful when not kept within its proper bounds. We must not be led astray into letting such things run without being governed by wisdom.
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1, ESV)
Even those things which God in His infinite goodness has appointed for our enjoyment like wine (See: Psalm 104:15) – can be turned to ill and great sin. It is our part in wisdom to see such possibilities, and use what God has granted carefully and in accordance with His purpose in giving them.
This can happen with substances like wine or the poppy plant or the marijuana plant. But it can also happen with virtually anything in life. Families can become idols, as can career or any other ambition. Church life can become an escape from conflict at home and an unwillingness to deal properly with the relationships there. Seeking out and articulating sound doctrine can become a bludgeon and a weapon of aggression against those who know Christ but may not hold identical views in all areas of theology. Grace can be turned into licentiousness and church attendance and other spiritual exercises turned into attempts to bribe or bind the arm of the Lord to do our bidding.
But in this example in particular, what a contrast it is to Ephesians 5:18-21. Wine is a mocker, the Holy Spirit inspires praise. Strong drink brings brawling, while the Spirit incites peace. Drunkenness dulls the senses, being filled with the Spirit heightens and sharpens them especially as they focus upon Christ and Biblical truth. Wine distorts the vision, the Spirit gives true insight and understanding into Christ and His glory. Inebriation lowers inhibitions and promotes foolishness and proper decorum – the Spirit binds the heart with love and leads us take up Christ’s sweet and blessed course on a clear path toward Heaven and being conformed to His likeness.
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17, ESV)
What we have been given to enjoy, let us guard lest they bind us and make us slaves to them, rather than servants to us.
“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” (Proverbs 20:3, ESV)
It takes no skill to get into arguments. Any idiot can bicker, fight argue and quarrel. This is the domain of fools. To avoid these or end them once they’ve begun, this takes wisdom, courage, self-control and uprightness. It is sad to see how many who bear the name of Christian are noted almost exclusively for their ability to enter into one conflict after another. They seem to be on endless crusades against others. Oh that we would expend the same energy fighting our own sinfulness. Would we follow the Prince of Peace who sought always to avoid extended argument and instead to make known the Heavenly Father to all who would hear Him. Heavenly Father, make it so in my life.