“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.