But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that … the older women … be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.(Tit 2:1-5)
In our text today, Paul continues his admonitions to older women and his admonition is that older women “not be given to much wine.” What does Paul’s admonition reveal to us?
It is a perennial tendency of sinful men to identify the cause of our problem as human beings as something outside ourselves, something external to our nature. Rather than correctly understand that our fundamental problem is a problem of the heart – that we are indeed corrupt and twisted, inclined to evil rather than to good – we begin to imagine that we are basically good people and that the problem is all these corrupting influences that surround us.
The fruit of this thinking is the moralistic crusade – in order to secure salvation we must abolish whatever it is that is corrupting us. And so some have insisted that that which corrupts us is sexual pleasure – the solution? Develop man made rules restricting sexual enjoyment. Others have insisted that that which corrupts us is certain foods – the solution? Develop a list of those foods which are acceptable and those which are forbidden. Still others have insisted that it is ignorance which corrupts us – the solution? Develop schools, pay teachers larger salaries, save our kids.
But among the items which have been said to be the source of our corruption, none has been more fiercely condemned in the last 100 years than the demon liquor. The prohibitionist movement in America and the continuing antipathy toward alcohol of any sort in many conservative Christian quarters is evidence of the hold this notion has had and continues to have upon the Christian conscience.
But here’s what I’d like you to notice in our text today – Paul does not say that older women are not to drink wine, he says that older women are not to be drunkards, not to be given to much wine. Despite much conservative Christian thought to the contrary, alcohol is not in itself sinful. What is sinful is the abuse of alcohol – drunkenness is a sin. And what this means is that the fundamental problem is not with the alcohol, the fundamental problem is with us. As sinners we continually abuse the good gifts that God has given us, using them not for the glory of God but in sinful ways.
You see the same Bible which condemns drunkenness in the most emphatic terms, also tells us that God gave wine to gladden the heart of men. The problem is not the wine – the problem is us. We take a gift from God and corrupt it. And so Paul insists that older women are not to be drunkards, not to be given to much wine. And if women aren’t to be drunkards then neither are the rest of us.
Reminded that the primary problem in the world is our sinfulness and not the objects in the world, let us kneel and confess our misuse and abuse of His gifts.