February 6th 2010

Wine Betrays Him

5th of a series of studies from Habakkuk

“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbours, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk.”

Habakkuk 2:15 (NIV UK)

“With freedom come responsibilities”[1], said Nelson Mandela. He was talking about how nations and individuals should conduct themselves.

The same is true of the freedom that comes through faith in Christ. Living by faith involves responsible behaviour. How should believers behave while they wait faithfully for the promises of God?

The answer is that those who trust in God should live a godly life. God explains to Habakkuk that certain lifestyle choices are not acceptable. Don’t make yourself “wealthy by extortion” (2:6), and don’t make yourself prosperous “by unjust gain” (2:9). Also, crime does not pay. Why exhaust yourself in pursuing things that are not of God because one day “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (2:12-14)?

In addition, be careful about alcoholic drink. Surprisingly, there are not many comments about the misuse of alcohol in the Law of Moses.  The book of Proverbs refers to the foolishness of getting drunk. “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). Paul tells us to be filled with the Spirit, and lists drunkenness as a work of our sinful nature (Galatians 5:19). Christians should not get drunk (Ephesians 5:18). He says deacons should not overindulge and that older women should not be “addicted to much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8, Titus 2:3). Excess of “wine betrays”, God points out to Habakkuk (2:5). It brings our base instincts to the surface. Our sinful nature takes over and we become arrogant, ill at ease, greedy, insensitive and make selfish decisions.

But good behaviour is not just about what we do or do not do personally, it is also about the influence we have on others. Have you ever encouraged someone to get drunk, for example? “Have just one more for the road”? Or, “come on, you’re not driving, it does not matter if you get a little tipsy”? Don’t give your neighbour too much alcohol to drink, God says. After all, in that respect we are our brother’s keeper. And sister’s too! Let’s face it: we live in a binge drinking society it. Do you join it, or do you set an example of balance and moderation?

God is not finished with Habakkuk. He has more to say about how the believer should behave.


Our Father, lead me by your Spirit and help me to behave as Jesus would behave. Teach me not to lead others into sin. In particular help me to be responsible in my attitude to alcohol. In Jesus’ name.


Study by James Henderson

[1] Quote from “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela. 1995:759. Abacus, UK.


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