Proverbs 31:4

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

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Your rank dictates how much you should drink. The holy God of the Bible commends moderate use of wine and strong drink; but He condemns drunkenness, and He warns all men in leadership positions to be careful even with drinking short of drunkenness. Rulers must have all their faculties alert and vigilant to execute their offices well (Pr 31:5).

These words are advice from a queen mother to her son, King Lemuel (Pr 31:1-3). Whether King Lemuel is Solomon and the queen mother is Bathsheba cannot be proven. But the words are inspired wisdom from God, and they were appended to Solomon’s Proverbs for the advice they have about two temptations facing kings – women and wine.

Wine and strong drink are good, when used properly (Deut 14:26; Ps 104:14-15; Eccl 10:19). The queen mother included proper uses of them in her warning (Pr 31:6-7). Wine is no more evil than food. The abuse of one is drunkenness, and the abuse of the other is gluttony. Both are sins in the sight of God. The relaxation and cheer from a moderate use of wine is a gift from God to men (Jdgs 9:13). Let God be true, but every man a liar!

A good king must rule fairly and justly, so he must be fully alert in all mental faculties (Pr 16:12; Lev 19:15; Deut 16:18-20; II Sam 23:3). Wine and strong drink, by the alcohol they contain, relax the central nervous system and can impair memory, reduce decision-making ability, or cloud moral judgment by dulling normal inhibitions (Pr 23:33). Rulers cannot allow this to occur, so they have stricter drinking limitations than others.

The text does not condemn all drinking for kings. Melchizedek and Jesus, both great kings and priests, drank wine (Gen 14:18; Luke 7:33-34). The warning is against kings drinking wine and strong drink with the same liberty as others. Due to their duties of ruling, they must practice greater self-discipline. Understand the sense of the words!

There are three levels of drinking wine in the New Testament. Church members could enjoy wine freely, but without drunkenness (Eph 5:18). Deacons were not to be given to much wine; bishops, or pastors, were not to be given to wine (I Tim 3:3,8; Tit 1:7). Older women, teachers of young women, were restricted like deacons (Tit 2:3). The word given means these leaders could not be prone or vulnerable to the specified amounts.

The Bible does indeed teach Christian liberty and personal freedom for many things that are neutral in the sight of God, such as whether a person drinks alcohol moderately or does not drink alcohol at all. However, the Bible also has many limitations and rules for Christian liberty that are taught in Romans 14 and I Corinthians chapters 6, 8, and 10.

Let every man consider his rank, and let him rule his drinking accordingly. Wise men, even simple husbands and fathers, will not allow wine to compromise their example and role in the home. Jesus Christ has also made them kings and priests unto God and His Father (Rev 1:6). As such, every man should be sober and vigilant about using alcohol.