Yesterday we discussed wine and strong drink. The chief concern of Solomon and the wise men was not the substance we call alcohol, but addiction to alcohol or the compulsion to drink it. The same concern exists for any other substance on which someone becomes dependent. Mind-altering drugs, of course, create similar problems, only quicker and more intensely. They cause “drunkenness” almost immediately, and many of these powerful chemicals cause physical addiction with just one use. For many years, illegal drugs claimed thousands of new addicts each year; now, prescription drugs pose an even greater problem.
While I certainly don’t advocate the “responsible use” of cocaine or heroin—physicians declare there is no such thing—we must accept that addiction isn’t driven by any particular substance; the problem doesn’t lie outside the addict. The source of addiction is actually within the addict. Take one drug away from an addict, and that person will find another to replace it. Remove alcohol from the home of an alcoholic and she’ll find another source. Addicts crave something they lack within. Note how Solomon depicted this craving in the lines of his poetic proverb.
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has contentions? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who linger long over wine,
Those who go to taste mixed wine.
Do not look on the wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the cup,
When it goes down smoothly;
At the last it bites like a serpent
And stings like a viper. (23:29–32)
These first four lines describe the internal pain experienced by everyone but no one more so than the addict. While everyone has sorrows, interpersonal conflicts, issues prompting complaints, and deep emotional wounds, these are intensified by an addiction. Addicts look for comfort in a substance, but they find only temporary distraction followed by unpleasant physical consequences. The “redness of eyes” refers not only to crying but to the telltale bloodshot appearance of a person suffering from a hangover.
Healthy people suffer sorrows, contentions, struggles, and wounds without seeking alcohol or drugs, but addicts crave the distraction a substance offers. Note how addicts linger over wine and “mixed wine.” They obsess over the appearance of the drink, becoming lost in the physical experience. Instead of finding relief from problems, addicts suffer ever deepening pain and sorrow. The “bite” of the serpent isn’t merely a poisonous strike; the expression depicts a snake paralyzing its prey before consuming it whole.
From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In Embraced by the Spirit, we step away from the heat of theological battle that analyzes and criticizes and move quietly and closely to the One who has been sent alongside to help.