April 13, Titus 2:3

wine

“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands . . . ”

Rachel already did a post on this verse, but there’s something else in here that I’d like to stop and notice – that little phrase, “not given to much wine.” This section in Titus is addressed to the older women, and it is directly related to how they interact with and teach the younger women. The younger women are obviously meant to be learning from the older women in these things, and the goal is that they too will grow into wise and godly older women who can instruct and give examples to the younger women coming up behind them. No matter how old you are, there are always younger women behind you. They may be your own younger sisters, younger women in your church, or your own daughters and granddaughters. You can’t put off the teaching of this verse, thinking that when you’re 65 or 75 then it will apply to you. The obvious implication here is that the older women are not to be given to much wine, and they are to be teaching and modeling this to the younger women – who are supposed to learn by example and also not be given to much wine.

So. What does it mean to not be given to much wine? Obviously this verse would exclude drunkenness – that’s kind of the big “E” on the eye chart. But if that’s all that Paul was talking about, he could have just said that. This is a broader command – that you not be “devoted to” much wine. That’s a little more vague, and obviously that’s why it takes wisdom to figure out how to apply it

Let me pause for a moment to just establish my “street cred” on this subject, lest anyone think I’ve launched the Women’s Temperance League 2.0. I personally can’t abide beer, but I do love a nice wine and at our house we frequently drink it. For Christmas this year I gave Ben a trip down to Walla Walla to tour the wineries etc. (Despite the un-promising name, there are some fantastic wines coming out of Walla Walla. It’s true. I’m not making that up.) We went down last month and had a really terrific time doing wine tastings, touring the wineries, seeing the vineyards, and learning lots. We came back with a nice case of wine and I scored an awesome old wine barrel. So this post should not be taken as me on a crusade against enjoying wine.

However. Comma. It seems to me that there are a lot of Christian women being extremely un-cautious in their approach to wine (and alcohol in general), in a way that I think violates the spirit of this verse. Do you joke with your girlfriends about how you’ve trained your husband to just know when he shouldn’t open his mouth – he should just hand you a glass of wine? Do you joke about drinking too much or being tipsy? Do you laugh about relying on several glasses of wine every night after the kids are in bed to keep you from going insane? There are lots of little memes floating around the internet that say things like, “Wine is to women what duct tape is to men: it fixes everything.” Is that the kind of thing that you comment “hahahaha – so true!!!” under and re-post on your pinterest page? If so then it’s possible you need to ask yourself whether you’re living in the spirit of Titus 2.

One thing to keep in mind is that drunkenness is a sin – not a joke. But for some reason it seems like a sin that lots of Christian women love to laugh about together. I doubt that those same women would laugh and joke about – to take an instance at random – their husbands going to a strip club or cheating on them. Somehow the consequences of that kind of sin are too obvious and too painful and too tasteless to make into a little funny jest.

And yet, how many homes has drunkenness destroyed? How many families have been shattered by it? How many marriages wrecked? Lives ruined? I’m sure that many of you have first-hand experience with the tragedy, the violence, the lies, and the heartbreak that come with drunkenness. How many children live in constant fear of their mom or their dad opening that bottle? My grandmother was, after her conversion at 16, a lifelong teetotaler. Her mother had died when she was very young and she was raised by an alcoholic father and drunk older brothers. Can you imagine why she might want to have nothing to do with alcohol ever again after that? In my opinion, jokes about it are fully as tasteless as jokes about adultery.

Just to be clear – I don’t think that everyone who jokes about being drunk actually is a drunk. But there are two distinct sins here which sometimes overlap and sometimes don’t. One sin is drunkenness, the other sin is being foolish. Sometimes people are drunks, sometimes people are foolish and laugh about being drunks, and sometimes they do both. It’s possible to be given to much wine, and it’s possible to just talk about it in such a way that you lead everyone to think that you are.

It’s possible that you should take a hard look at how much your rely on wine. Are you given to it? Is it a crutch that you depend on? Do you excuse how much you drink by saying that you would never actually get drunk? It’s fully possible to be “given to much wine” without ever getting sloppy drunk, and entirely conceivable that even if you’ve never been “drunk” in your entire life you still need to cut back.

It’s also possible that you never drink too much, but you should take a hard look at how you talk about wine. Maybe you need to work on handling the subject like a mature Christian woman and not like a foolish woman. Is the way you talk and laugh and joke about wine modeling Christian wisdom to the younger women? If a younger woman (your daughter for instance, or one of the high school girls in your church) listened to how you talk – and then acted exactly like that – would you have led her into wisdom or into folly?

Drunkenness is an ugly sin against God. And wine is a fantastic blessing from him, one that he chose to be the picture of his redemption, his grace, and our forgiveness. He’s given it to us to enjoy, not to abuse, not to flirt with abusing, and not to laugh about abusing.

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23 thoughts on “April 13, Titus 2:3

  1. I am going to disagree with you in a public forum. Try not to rip me over any internet coles, okay.

    What you say here in regard to foolish speech is good. What you say about needing to check ourselves is also good. The lifestyle of drunkenness is a sad and damaging tale. Drunks are ruled by alcohol and the self rotting, rots everything around them. And yes, we should be more careful with our jokes about being drunks, whether we are or not. As it really isn’t funny.

    But as far as your perspective on the actual drinking of alcohol and recommended uses, you are a ways off from what the bible counsels as a whole on the subject.

    The truth is that God tells us that He has given different people alcohols for different reasons. And that it is a blessing for more than just a good tasting single glass of wine at dinner like a good moral, self-controlled Christian.

    Proverbs 31 says this about alcohol-

    “It is not for kings, Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink; lest they drink and forget the law and pervert the justice of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

    That is a lot of alcohol, if he is going to remember his misery no more. Of course we also have wine to make glad the heart of man in Psalms. So, how much wine does it take to make glad the heart of man. Or how about Noah- when he got drunk- was he rebuked for this behavior-no he wasn’t.

    Two different men will “forget” when they drink the recommended amount of alcohol here (which sounds like a lot.) For one man this is wrong, but for the other it is not. The difference is that one man should not forget (the king should not forget the law) and one man should (his misery and poverty). Which is why some men should not drink, and others should. More specifically, some men, at some times should not drink. But at other time, that same man should drink. And this is where the wisdom comes into play.

    Who are you? Where are you in life? Who is relying on you for a sober mind. Who needs you to drink some wine so that your moment in sorrow does not swallow up the whole household.

    We would be much better served to obey God, trust Him, and drink that wine when His word says it is a time of need, and refrain from it when it says it is a time for restraint.

    And not to mention that for general consumption, wine is used to make glad the heart of man. How much does it take to give you gladness. Well, this will depend on what is going on in your life.

    I am not trying to say that all of what you have said is unwise. Not being given to much wine is also clear instructions. But you are stepping beyond what is said when you try to say what much wine is. As if God gave a meter stick like the one for our skirts. ; )

    There is a lot of wisdom in what you say above, but it’s limited. Handling alcohol with more maturity, and less flippancy about the sin the drunk is living in is good. But, big BUT, the women who’s husband knows when what she needs is a drink is wise (The comment about training, is altogether a different sin of disrespect.) And some people would be greatly blessed by a bottle of wine in deep trials. To say otherwise it to ignore your bible.

    And just for the sake of considering, there’s always Noah and his drunkenness that God did not rebuke Him for….Just sayin. Makes me wonder.

    Cheers,
    Crystal

  2. Just a thought on wine for kings. In the NT we are all kings and so the Proverbs are applied to believers altogether. Just a thought to add to the discussion.

  3. It’s always interesting to see which turn the topic takes in the comments, isn’t it? I agree with you post Rebekah, I would have written it in the similar tone and way.

    Proverbs are wisdom literature and I have never seen in NT the command to use wine to make you glad. Actually, this year I am focusing in how to be really joyful and have found that joy and gladness in Bible is always connected to how close you are to Jesus and God. Jesus and His redemptive work is the source of my joy. I rejoice that my name is written in the Book of Life!

    I have never heard that I should like to encourage someone with wine…or to try to find my joy in it…
    Interesting…

  4. Hi Crystal,

    Thanks for the comment – just a couple quick responses about the exegetical stuff.

    First of all, you’re citing the advice from King Lemuel’s mother to him, telling how to rule righteously. She tells him to stay away from intoxicating drink . . . he should leave that to the winos – the guys on the other team. She describes the other team as “those who are perishing and bitter of heart” – neither of which sound like descriptions of God’s saved and forgiven people, nor an endorsement of their behavior. She’s not saying that people who are sad should go ahead and drink themselves into oblivion – she’s saying that’s what they already do . . . and don’t be like that. Sort of the same way a mother could tell her kids, “you may not watch that skanky movie – leave that to the bad kids.” That kind of advice should not be taken as an endorsement of the bad kids watching it – she’s actually telling her kids to not be like that, setting them apart, and drawing a distinction between how they are to act and how the world acts.

    Secondly, on the Noah question. You’re right – there’s no direct rebuke from God on that incident. But there’s no direct rebuke from God when Samson went to visit a prostitute either. That doesn’t mean it was ok. It’s a historical description of what happened, not an example for us to follow. There’s enough broader teaching on fornication and harlotry in the Scriptures that we know how to interpret that story. Samson shouldn’t have done that. And there’s enough direct teaching on drunkenness in Scripture (for instance, “do not be drunk with wine” in Ephesians 5) that we know how we should interpret the Noah incident. He was in sin.

    Also – one last quick thing. I actually never said anywhere in there how much was too much. Paul didn’t give a fluid ounces limit and so I would never presume to do so either. But we certainly learn from the Titus passage and other places that there is such a thing as too much – and we are to stay away from it.

    Thanks again for the comment! Cheers!

  5. I saw the Mommy’s Time Out wine at the grocery store a few weeks ago. I think there were even free samples. At 10:30 am. I feel like marketing strategies like this, that are pretending to wink at all of us “beleaguered moms” (in it together–CLINK!) are condescending. Maybe dangerous? The whole “you NEED this, you DESERVE this” mentality is a trap, of course. That as we trudge through our days, we must have something to look forward to (to numb us like Lemuel’s mom’s example?) to help us escape.

    As usual, I am probably over thinking it. I have realized that the practice of thoughtful moderation when it comes to good things that become bad things if we are neither thoughtful or moderate, is a tricky one. It’s probably why certain denominations still advocate total abstinence when it comes to alcohol. But I am also realizing that life is not as rich without the nuance. Or the Malbec.

    Thanks for the timely reminders to seek wisdom always.

  6. Great post Bekah! The ugliness if severe alcohol misuse is something most of us are spared from knowing first-hand.
    I’ve been reading through Rachel’s, “Fit to Burst”, and your post here made me think back to great words about how through the giving of ourselves we are able to give more. Like the lamp that only fills when pouring.
    The temptation to relax after a day keeping ahead or simply up with the kids can easily become a pity party ‘I earned this treat’ or productive–a bowl of ice cream/glass of wine, verses fold the laundry watching P&P, etc.
    Thanks so much!

  7. Thank you so much for this post and also to Crystal for her comments and questions and especially to Bekah for her very insightful answers. I just recently found this blog after my dear friend gave me all of Nancy’s books to read. Thank you again for all the encouragement and insight! I look forward to reading this blog each week.

  8. I liked this post so much I just wanted to be convicted by it. However, I’ve been breast feeding for the last five years pretty much non stop, so wine is on hold. I’ve always found this verse odd, so thanks for opening it up here. And I hate it when women think they’re being sassy and cute by talking in ways that would be frankly sleezy in a man.

  9. I agree with Crystal. Rebekah has laid out here for us what she needs to watch out for, what she needs to steer clear of, what she needs to not give into, what she needs to be careful of being overly judgemental of.

    The big “E” on the eye chart is sometimes all God gives us in His word so that each person can work things out in her own unique, individual life before God.

    We serve a dangerous God and He didn’t include with the Bible a red Solo cup with measurement lines for “holiness,” “veering towards not Christian behavior.” And isn’t that great!? He lets each one of us figure that out in our own life, in a particular time, at a particular occasion. And we all know when we’ve messed up.

  10. Hello again! I know it has been a few days, but a busy Sabbath with the family has kept me away from the internet. I will go ahead and give a quick response.

    I want to make it clear that I am not trying to give the lush an excuse to drink. But I do think that a drunk is specifically a lifestyle, and getting drunk is a moment of sin. And then there is a whole realm of other possible situations that don’t cross into sin.

    Bekah has so much to say here which shows a practice of honor in how she advises us to drink. We should act thoughtfully when we are playing with gifts that also have the power to destroy. God has set up biblical boundaries for things like sex and alcohol for our protection. Not to ruin our fun.

    That said, I also think that there are ideas in this post that are trying to draw a fine line with a fat Sharpy. It is hard to put a fine point on which of these act is actually getting too close to the line of sin, and which are just a matter of a difference of opinion and wisdom in personal circumstance.

    Henna-Maria this passage I refer to that speaks of God giving wine to make glad the heart of man is found in Psalm 104 where the Psalmist is giving glory to God for all He has done and given. Verse 14 specifically praises God as follows-

    Psalm 104:14 And wine that makes glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.
    Check it out. It is always better to read it in it’s context.

    Hey Bekah,
    Hope you had a great weekend dear.
    So for Proverbs 31 you say “he should leave that to the winos – the guys on the other team. She describes the other team as “those who are perishing and bitter of heart”
    But unless you are referring to some other passage of scripture that refers back to Proverbs 31 with insight as to Lamuel’s mother speaking of someone else, the actual context of the passage is counseling Lemual that he needs to be sure that his judgments are not perverted toward the afflicted. Verse 9 specifically says “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and the needy.” But I don’t see the reference to these needy people being the enemies of Lemuel.

    You also say “She’s not saying that people who are sad should go ahead and drink themselves into oblivion – she’s saying that’s what they already do . . . and don’t be like that.” And I don’t see that in the text either.

    Here is what the passage says in the KJV
    Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
    Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
    Open your mouth for the dumb, for the cause of all who are left desolate.
    Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

    So again, unless you have some other passage of scripture that gives insight into this passage-this passage itself seems to be telling Lamuel to plead for the poor, needy, dumb, desolate and heavy hearted. And those are exactly what some of God’s people are. But I think this passage is more about all the people Lamuel will rule over.

    As for the Noah comment, though I would agree with you on the fact that righteous people sin, I do think that we Christians place sin on acts in God’s word that are not always sinful. I realize that there is wisdom in being able to read and interpret the moral of the story, by having a good knowledge of the rest of God’s word. But we don’t always do this well. We often let our modern Christian perfectionistic tendencies dictate how we read the scriptures. I think that we do this particularly in the areas of drinking, sex, food, and the tongue.

    Let me end with this- This is a needed conversation with Christians. We need to challenge ourselves, and each other, to dig through our bibles and gain the sight God has over these matters. We are often lazy and thoughtless about how we act and each of us is called to the life of active faithfulness, not ignorance. But God is no where near as up tight as we are. He is dramatic, yes, but Jesus was not who they thought he would be for a reason. He loved wine much more than most Christians think He should have. And we should consider these things more when making our conclusions about this subject.

    Thanks for going back and forth with me on this. I really enjoy the discussion. It challenges me to grow, I hope it does the same for you.

    Matthew 11:19
    The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” But wisdom is justified of her children.

    Blessings,
    Crystal

  11. 1 Cor. 8:7-13. It is pretty sobering to know that ones interaction with wine or any alcohol can cause a brother to stumble. Is anything worth doing for our own enjoyment, even if we do feel it is not a sin to say drink a glass of wine, that might cause a brother or sister to stumble? Are we motivated by pleasing Christ and serving Him? What if an adult is not sinning by drinking, but there are children around perhaps getting the wrong message? Should we not, out of love for Christ, be very careful?

    If we do have difficulties and problems and turn to wine or food, or whatever to relax, are we not turning our back on Christ who can alone comfort, give peace and help in our time of need? For me, to not turn to Christ would be idolatry and in need of godly sorrow that would lead to repentance. As far as Noah, much shame came from his drinking and is a very sad story in Scripture to take warning from and not endorsement of drinking.

    What was the purpose of Jesus’s life? It surely was not to prove a point about our freedom to drink wine or alcohol, but to be wholly devoted to the will of the Father. John 6:38 We should not judge others, but we should seek to honor God in everything.

    Lastly, alcohol affects a person’s self-control. Self-control is listed in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22,23. Why would we want to partake of something that takes away self-control? It is not edifying to those around us, we are not alert to minister and care for others, we are not occupied with God’s interests at that time but our own. Something to at least consider.

    Thank you, Rebekah, for your post. I am in the same camp as your grandmother and consider her not weak but wise.

  12. One of the greatest kindnesses given to me when my lady died was a mature woman offering me a glass of wine with Proverbs 31 in her mouth as she did it as a means to offer me comfort. Even after eight years, as I write this, I can still feel that moment. Crystal has a point.

  13. This interaction has been really helpful for me. I’m really glad these kinds of conversations can happen here, whereas most other places on the Internet, any disagreement is immediately shot down. Thank you ladies.

  14. I have also noticed the Facebook memes and internet conversations joking about moms needing wine and I am so grateful Bekah went after that here. I love it all: wine, beer, whiskey, tequila, and even my homegrown bootleg stuff (let’s call it “artisan liquor”). However, the spirit of those posts have bothered me for a while, and this exact verse was what sprang to mind. When Christian ladies start talking about their drinking habits in the same way the miners and loggers I went to college with do, multiple mental flags get thrown into the air.

  15. Kris- you wrote: “As far as Noah, much shame came from his drinking and is a very sad story in Scripture to take warning from and not endorsement of drinking.”

    If you would just exchange the word “drunkenness” for the word “drinking”, your point would be much more biblical.

    “As far as Noah, much shame came from his drunkenness and is a very sad story in Scripture to take warning from and not endorsement of drunkenness.”

    There- that’s better!

    My wife and I have trained our children in this area, and as a result their perspective is balanced and biblical as well. “Ix-nay on the unkenness-dray”, and please- do enjoy God’s gifts to His glory.

  16. I appreciate the caution, it is a good one. Just some rambling thoughts of mine on the original posts and some responses.

    My experience with “let him drink and remember his misery no more” does not include drinking to oblivion. Wine, for the believer with a biblical appreciation of it, is a great giver of perspective. One does not have to drink much to “forget” one’s sorrows. A few sips and the magic of God’s creation does its wonderful work, gratitude and the elusive shalom settle in and life is right once more.

    When my husband says to me, “Looks like you could use a glass of wine,” I must check myself. Is he seeing some irritability, some sin, am I being a brat? Or does he see that my day has been the kind that is best finished off by the red miracle? If the first, I am chagrined and repent and tell him thanks, but no thanks. If the second, I happily accept the relief and enjoy a glass, either in solitude or with my wise man.

    Wine is one of the means by which Christ gives peace. It is also the stuff of our eucharistic life. When Paul says “given to much wine” I think it’s safe to say he means “drinks too much too often.” Just like when Jesus said, “fruit of the vine” he meant wine. Not sure we need to parse the poetry.

  17. Thank you for your comment, Tim. Yes, drinking and drunkenness is are two different things, I agree. One cannot get drunk, however, without taking a first drink. This is the struggle for many.

    It is interesting that King Solomon in Proverbs 23 describes lingering long over wine which would lead to drunkenness, yet he also warns the reader to not look upon wine when it is not in excess (before it bites like a serpent). He warns the one gazing on the rich color and enjoying the smooth, relaxing way it travels innocently down the throat:

    “Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
    Who has contentions? Who has complaining?
    Who has wounds without cause?
    Who has redness of eyes?

    Those who linger long over wine…”

    It warns, “Do not look on the wine when it is red,
    When it sparkles in the cup,
    When it goes down smoothly;

    At the last it bites like a serpent
    And stings like a viper.” Prov. 23:19-32

    Do I think it is a sin to have a glass of wine? For some it is. For some it isn’t. I hope my children see me turn to Christ and His Word for peace, relaxation, or help in time of need and not a glass of wine.

  18. Thanks Bekah, for showing me how this verse is applicable to my generation. I previously thought of “older women” as anyone about my own mother’s age (say, 50+), not even noticing the whole slew of high school and college women a good number of years behind me!

  19. I appreciate the original post and some of the comments as well. I wanted to say to Crystal, if you ever start your own blog, I’d like to read it! Susan

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