Why Should We Avoid Drunkenness? Part 1

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18

Ephesians 5:18 states clearly, “Do not get drunk on wine.” Of course, this verse does not imply that it’s fine to get drunk on other alcoholic beverages. In the first century A.D., wine was the predominant alcoholic beverage. In today’s world, with all kinds of wineries, breweries, and distilleries, we rightly understand “Do not get drunk” to apply to a wide range of beverages. (Most Christians also take this verse as forbidding the use of drugs that produce a state of intoxication.)

If Scripture says, “Don’t do something,” that is reason enough not to do it, even if an explanation is not given. But, in the case of “Do not get drunk on wine” in Ephesians 5:18, we are given one clear reason. Drunkenness “leads to debauchery.”

“Debauchery” is one of those words that is familiar, but that might be hard for us to define. We’d know debauchery if we see it, but might struggle to provide a precise definition of the word. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “debauchery” is “vicious indulgence in sensual pleasures.” The Greek word lying behind “debauchery” is asotia. If you look this word up in a lexicon, you find “reckless abandon, debauchery, dissipation, profligacy.” A related adverb appears in the parable of the Prodigal Son, who, “set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living [asotos]” (Luke 15:13). Plenty of debauchery for that young man!

Sensual pleasure isn’t always wrong, of course. Scripture teaches that God created us with the capacity for pleasure, including the pleasures of our senses. These pleasures would include eating delicious food and drink, listening to sweet music, or enjoying sexual intimacy in marriage. We are free to receive and delight in God’s gifts.

But, such gifts can be misused. We can eat so much good food that we become unhealthy. We can listen to music so loudly that we damage our hearing. We can experience sexual activity in contexts in which it is inappropriate or abusive. Sometimes, people engage in “vicious indulgence in sensual pleasures,” which we call “debauchery.” This is neither pleasing to God nor healthy for us.

According to Ephesians 5:18, drunkenness leads to such behavior. It lowers our ethical standards. It clouds our ability to make wise choices. It leaves us vulnerable to the possibility of becoming victims of inappropriate behavior perpetrated by others. There is more to be said about Ephesians 5:18. But, for now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever witnessed drunkenness leading to debauchery? Why do you think human beings abuse alcohol? How can we receive God’s gifts without misusing them?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for your good gifts, including the gift of physical pleasure. Thank you for creating us with the ability to delight in your gifts. Help us, though, to know when enough is enough. Help us to know the right contexts for enjoying your gifts. In particular, teach us to avoid the abuse of alcohol and the immoral behavior it can incite. May we live our whole lives for you, guided by your truth. Amen.