Proverbs Thematic Sermon: Gluttony, Drunkenness, and the Grace of God (Erik Veerman)

Feb 25, 2024    Erik Veerman

Gluttony, Drunkenness, and the Grace of God

This morning our Proverbs topic is gluttony and drunkenness. Neither are a primary emphases in Proverbs, but there are several verses that speak to the issues.

While gluttony and drunkenness are related, they are also different. Gluttony is essentially indulgence in matters of food, but it does not lead to a mental impairment, so in that sense it is different than drunkenness, which does.

Also, I want to expand the topic beyond alcohol to include substance abuse. If we compare ancient Israel at the time of Proverbs with today, there’s a big difference in the quantity and availability of drugs. Opium was certainly available 3000 years ago, but today, as you know, there are many many more drugs on the streets. So, I think it’s important to apply these verses to include substance abuse and drug addictions.

One thing we will not consider this morning is pornography addiction. Although there are some similarities, if you were here in the fall, we spent time working through lust and pornography, as we worked through chapters 5 to 7. If you missed those, I really encourage you to go back and listen to them.

Please take out and open your Proverbs bulletin insert.



Gluttony and Drunkenness

Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,

     and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.


Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat,

    for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,

     and slumber will clothe them with rags.


    29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining?

             Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?

    30 Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.

    31 Do not look at wine when it is red,

              when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.

    32 In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.

    33     Your eyes will see strange things,

              and your heart utter perverse things.

    34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,

              like one who lies on the top of a mast.

    35 “They struck me,” you will say,

               “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it.

              When shall I awake? I must have another drink.”

25:16 If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.

28:7 The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.


    4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel,

             it is not for kings to drink wine,

             or for rulers to take strong drink,

    5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed

             and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.

    6 Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,

             and wine to those in bitter distress;

    7 let them drink and forget their poverty

         and remember their misery no more. 



These are sensitive topics. The reason I titled my sermon “Gluttony, Drunkenness, and the Grace of God” is because we need the grace of God in these struggles. To be sure, we need God’s grace in all of life, but I think with matters of addiction it is especially important to begin there given the shame that often comes with them… and how often recovery is a journey.

If you are a believer in Christ, let me remind you that you are his, forever. Just like in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, God the Father has given you his robe which indicates his blessing and honor. He has given you his signet ring indicating you are his son or daughter and will share in his inheritance. God has forgiven you and will forgive you in Christ. And he will never leave you or forsake you. And if the things that we are working through today are your struggles, know that God has given you the church to come alongside and help.

As we go through this, we are going to work out what that grace looks like in more detail, but I wanted remind you up front because God’s grace is at the heart of recovery from our sin and struggles.

The other thing I want to say up front is that you are not alone. It’s easy to come to church and look around and think that everyone else has it all together. The truth is: none of us has it all together. On our podcast this week, Amy quoted a friend of hers. This friend said, “we often compare our insides to everyone else’s outsides.” That is to say, we each know our own internal heart struggles and sin, but we don’t often know what other people’s are. It’s easy to presume because we often just see the outsides of others.

So, if you struggle with drinking or substance abuse or a kind of addiction, you are not alone here. We’ll talk later about how we can support one another.

Others of you may think that you are immune to such things. If you think that, I want to caution you that it’s something to which each and every one of us is susceptible. It may be triggered by a painful event, or it may be triggered by something out of the blue.

Let me give you an example. Several years ago, I was at six-flags with my family. They used to have an old rickety roller coaster. At least, I think it’s gone now. But anyway, we rode it one time and at the end of the ride, it came to a screeching halt. It felt like it went from 60 to 0 in 1 second. And I remember getting off the ride and my neck was a little sore. Well, two days later, I could hardly move my head. And then I started feeling pain radiating down my left arm all the way to my finger. It was very painful for months. Because of the pain, the doctor prescribed me Percocet. I didn’t think anything of it. I just knew that it provided a lot of relief. Well, over the 4-5 weeks that I was taking it, my desire for the drug became unrelated to the pain I was experiencing. I began taking them even when I wasn’t in pain. It was a scary moment for me when I realized what was happening. I got rid of the remaining pills and am thankful that a cortisone shot eventually relieved the pain.

Many things cause drinking and drug abuse and let me add, gluttony. I do want to talk through those root causes in a few minutes. But before we do, let’s spend some time in these Proverbs.

We generally learn two things from the Proverbs. First, the problem and second the impact.

Let’s first look at Proverbs 23 verse 31. It’s in that middle section of verses on the left. 23:31 says, “Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.” It’s speaking of a desire to drink. The wine is desirable to your eyes. You’ve become captivated by looking at it… not because it looks pretty, but because of its effect. And as it says, “it goes down smoothly.” In other words, you have to have it. And you have to have more of it.

Now, there’s nothing in Scripture that forbids drinking alcohol. You’ve probably heard different things like “Jesus first miracle was turning water into wine.” Or you’ve heard, “the feasts in the Old Testament included drinking wine, like the Passover meal. And likewise, the Lord’s supper was celebrated with wine.”  Wine was a part of life.

But these verses are referring to something different. They’re referring to when your alcohol consumption brings you to the point of drunkenness. Look now at verse 33. “Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.”

Your drinking has brought you to the place where you are mentally and physically impaired. Verse 34 continues the problem. It describes being in the middle of the sea on the mast of a boat. You can’t think straight because it feels like your body is swaying. Notice that twice it says you lie down. In other words, you can’t even walk. Those verses continue on and end on an ominous note. You say, “I must have another drink.” You’re addicted.

Can you see why I’m including substance abuse this morning? It does similar things as being drunk in how it affects your mental faculties.

Here’s the problem: Wisdom goes out the door. Drunkenness and getting high on whatever… strips away your ability to think and speak and act with wisdom. I’m speaking about the wisdom that God has given you. Instead, it turns you into a fool. Note the very first verse listed there. Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” It steals God’s wisdom in you and replaces it with foolishness.

You will do and say things that are that are not honoring to God or others. For example, if you travel for work… and at night you go to the bar with your work friends, and you have one or two or three too many. Well, you will say and do things unbecoming of your calling in Christ.

If you then get in a car and drive, your utter foolishness may destroy your life and others made in God’s image.

In a few minutes, we’ll be digging deep into the grace of God in Christ in different ways. But let me say, God’s grace does not minimize the seriousness and foolishness of these sin struggles. Rather, by his grace, he forgives and helps us overcome them. I hope that difference makes sense. Hold on for a few more minutes until we get there.

Before that, let’s go back to the Proverbs. Let me highlight a couple of other consequences.

First, Proverbs 31:4-5. It says there in the second line, “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.” The consequences of drunkenness or addictions affect those for whom you are responsible. For a king, it’s those in his dominion. For a parent, it’s those in your family. Like Proverbs 31 here, the collateral damage of your addiction may be heavy.

But also, part of the impact is financial. Look back up at Proverbs 23 verses 20-21. In the middle there, it says, “the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty.” This is another example of wisdom going out the door. Addictions lead to a squandering of resources, which leads to self-inflicted poverty… and if you are married, poverty for you and your family.

Gluttony is included here because, as you know, good food is expensive! Over-indulging day after day will also lead down the same path.

By the way, when I read verse 25:16 about honey, it reminded me of a funny story. Our family was sitting around the kitchen table a long time ago. The kids were young, and they were talking about honey and butter… and one of them said. “when I get older, I am going to make a note to myself, ‘eat butter and drink honey’.” Well, we all have ambitions in life. I guess some are about food.

On a serious note, let me take a brief interlude to talk about gluttony. At the heart of the Hebrew word for glutton is excess. It means excessive feasting and/or partying. Drinking may be part of that or may not. It’s eating or partying often, for the pleasure of it. It’s turning something good into something you live for. Gluttony can become an addiction and at times just as debilitating as other addictions.

Two weeks ago, I quoted CS Lewis’s book Screwtape Letters about being slothful. I’m going to quote it again because he has a whole chapter on gluttony. It’s quite convicting. Screwtape, a senior demon in the devil’s army, writes this about how to tempt men. He says, “males are best turned into gluttons with the help of their vanity. They… think themselves very knowing about food, …[like] having found the only restaurant in town where steaks are really ‘properly’ cooked. What begins as vanity can then be gradually turned into habit. But, however you approach it, the [best] thing is to bring him into the state in which the denial of any one indulgence-it matters not which, champagne or tea… or cigarettes ‘puts him out,’” In modern terms, if he can’t have his favorite BBQ or craft beer, he feels robbed. Screwtape continues that at that moment… “his chastity, justice, and obedience are all at your mercy. Mere excess in food is much less valuable than delicacy.”

Maybe we should call that “sophisticated gluttony.” It’s often our kind of gluttony. And what it does is it steals your heart away from God… and away from true pleasures which are found in him.

At this point, let’s now come back and let’s talk through some of the root causes of these struggles and God’s grace. For us in this room, I don’t think that partying is what leads us down these paths. Although maybe for some. Rather, I think our struggle with alcohol and addiction including gluttony is most often caused by deeper struggles and heartaches, like depression or anxiety or grief.

The reason we’re tempted to turn to these things is because they numb the pain and heartache temporarily. They become an escape mechanism where we self-medicate to try and survive the sorrow that we carry. Instead of turning to Jesus, we turn to alcohol or drugs. That may be recreational drugs or abuse of prescription drugs.

Before exploring those root causes, I do feel a need to comment on Proverbs 31:6 It says, “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress;” Yes, it sanctions the use of alcohol to sooth physical and emotional pain, but only for extreme cases - someone dying and someone in “bitter” distress. But note also that it’s monitored. Someone is giving the drink in a medicative sort of way. That verse is not saying that alcohol is the solution.

When we self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, we are looking to those things as solutions, and we are not seeking to resolve the source of our anxiety or depression. In fact, when these things become an addiction, it often only exacerbates the heartache and pain we experience. It adds to our woe, our sorrow, our strife, and our complaining. Those are the exact words that Proverbs 23:29 uses to describe someone addicted to wine.

·      You may be here today struggling with an addiction. Maybe this is your first or second time here and the Lord brought you here for a reason. What I want you to know today is that God offers his grace and help.

·      Now, you may not struggle with alcohol or drugs (or excessive eating), but maybe today you are weighed down because of some traumatic event or pain in your life. What I want you to know today is that God offers his grace and help. Same grace, same help.

·      For many of you, perhaps at this moment in your life, you neither struggle with these addictions nor are you currently burdened with sorrow. What I want you to hold onto today is that God offers his grace and help when those times come.

In other words, God offers his grace to help free us from addictions and on the long journey to recovery. And he offers his grace and help to keep us from alcohol and substance abuse.

God’s grace ministers in different ways depending on the burdens you bear.

I have a dear friend who has been involved in Celebrate Recovery. It’s a Christ-centered ministry for any kind of addiction. He shared with me about a friend he met at CR as it’s sometimes known. His friend had been trapped by both alcoholism and a drug addiction.

By God’s grace this man has been on an amazing journey of healing. One of the things that they do at CR is drill deep into the causes so that they can apply the Gospel to the specific underlying struggles. They recognize that addiction is almost always a “fruit issue” and not a “root issue.” Fruit issues are more easily addressed once the root issues have been brought into the light… so that the Gospel of Grace may bring healing.

When this man started pealing back the layers which caused his addictions, he first realized a deep self-hatred. He had been getting high and drunk to escape from himself. As he went deeper to the source of that self-hatred, he realized that his anger was also directed at his mother. You see, she had mistreated him when he was young. He found out that his mom’s anger at him was because she had a miscarriage before this man was born. His mom had lost a baby girl and she had hoped that he would be a girl. Because of her own pain from the miscarriage and anger at him, she emotionally abandoned him.

In this man’s life, four things were instrumental in his recovery.

·      First, forgiving his mother for her anger toward and abandonment of him. His ability to forgive her came through the grace of God in Christ who had forgiven him.

·      Number 2 - knowing that even though his mom abandoned him, God will never abandon him. In Christ, God has secured his salvation for eternity. Even with setbacks, he knows he is secure in Christ forever… and he can persevere on the path of sanctification in him.

·      Third, he knows that he is loved by God because he has been redeemed by Christ. His self-hatred has been replaced by the love of God in Christ for him.

·      And fourth, a grace-oriented community of Christian brothers came alongside of him in his recovery journey.

On that last point about the church, I want to add something. My friend told me about his own journey. He said that if it hadn’t been for a family member and his pastor intervening, he would have died. But God used his family and his church family to minister God’s grace to him.

For both of these men, their journey to recovery has come through God’s love and grace in Christ. The journey is often hard and rocky, but the transforming work of the Gospel brings healing and hope.

Let me touch upon a couple of other causes of addictions and how God’s grace intervenes.

·      Feelings of insecurity or inadequacy. We all want to be able to fit in and have friends. We sometimes think we need to act in a certain way to be accepted. We may be afraid of how we’ll be treated, or we may have fears because of past relationships. Those struggles can turn someone to alcohol to either change the way he or she acts or as a coping mechanism. The truth is, if you are believer in Christ, your identity is in him. And that is a blessed reality now. You are secure in him, and you can hold on to him through all your feelings of inadequacy and failure. And those feelings can be transformed to surety and confidence in Christ.

·      Another common root cause is anxiety. Pressures at work, or in your family, or conflict with others or a move or a health condition… or a combination of those can stir up deep levels of anxiety in your heart. The problem is, when you self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, those initial feelings of relief are often followed by more intense anxiety. In fact, anxiety can accelerate an addiction because the lows get lower and you have to drink more and longer to sustain those fleeting feelings of false peace. Friends, true peace and stability and freedom from worry comes through a growing foundation of knowing the promises of God and his Gospel.

·      And the last one I want to mention: depression. Depression is a difficult one because there are so many factors that lead to depression. It may be hereditary. It may be because of grief or one of the other factors I already mentioned. It may be loneliness or caused by a difficult life situation. It may be seasonal or postpartum. Similar to anxiety, drinking or drug abuse may give you relief from the sadness, but it is only a fleeting relief. It’s a false relief. True joy and hope is found in Christ. To be sure, there are some helpful treatments available for depression. But the path to recovery needs to begin with God and the amazing hope that we have in Christ.

As Psalm 18 says, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

In closing, I know that often times addictions are stigmatized in the church. And I know that often times we feel shame for our current and past struggles in this area. But I also know that we have a Savior who knows our weakness. He is a friend and redeemer of sinners. Every single one of us needs him. We need the hope and joy and forgiveness that God the Father offers us in his Son through the grace and reconciliation of the cross.

If one of these things is your struggle, please reach out to me or one of our elders. We will not be surprised nor make you feel ashamed, but we will come alongside you… both to pray for you and to help you on the journey to be restored and healed.