Powerful People Shouldn’t Drink

by Jan 25, 2024Christian living, Culture, Government, Leadership, Proverbs, Wisdom0 comments

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” – Proverbs 31:4-5

Does drinking or staying dry say anything about your character, class, or intelligence? A contemporary or historical study will confound any attempt to make such a definitive conclusion. Alcohol appears to be an equal opportunist. It does not discriminate in wreaking havoc, or in showering mirth.

The book of Proverbs is weighted more heavily in warnings against abuse of alcohol (Prov 23:29-35) than endorsements of its good (Ecc 10:19). But that should be expected with any gift people abuse such as sex, money, or power. The real question is why are kings singled out for prohibition?

This final chapter of Proverbs begins with King Lemuel (no one knows who he is) remembering some pearls of wisdom from his mom. She advised him against drinking, but then recommends alcohol for the down and out, so they can forget their troubles. That’s because this proverb has in view not adult beverages, but one’s status and concern for the poor. She prescribes temperance for kings to guard against becoming desensitized to the plight and rights of the poor.

My wife worked for many years as a teacher. As she and other colleagues tried to implement the revolving door of “data-driven educational strategies,” she observed that it might do some good for principals, every now and then, to return to a classroom and teach again.

The higher up you rise in life or in work, the harder it becomes to remember and understand how the other half lives. The gap isn’t imaginary. The longer you live as a C-Suite executive, the harder it is to empathize with the lifestyle and motivations of an hourly worker. You’re not actually a different class of human being, but it can be tempting to think so. You lose connection with those it is your job to care for and protect.

Alcohol is a numbing agent. Many other substances and activities produce the same effect. God warns the privileged of the danger of blindness to a responsibility that naturally grows dim. That’s why Jesus refused wine on the cross (Mt 27:34). He didn’t want to numb out. He didn’t want to lose touch. His mission was to taste, experience, and satisfy the suffering that we deserve because of our sin.

Jesus had to be made like us in every respect so that he could be our merciful intermediary (Heb 2:17). He had to inhabit our mess to its depths so he could bring the rescue we need. If you want to be of service to other people, particularly those who face harder conditions, be mindful of the gap. Lasting solutions do not come from the top-down, sprinkled like patronizing pennies from a parade float. They come by imitating Jesus—personally bearing burdens and walking alongside others.

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