“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life…” (Luke 21:34)
“Go home, world, you’re drunk…”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to say that (or at least have thought it) in the past few years. Maybe you have too, but yours had less snark: “The world has gone crazy”…“It seems like everyone has lost their damn minds.”
Now let’s be real—this world has always been crazy, and God’s people through every generation and permutation of society have thought that things can’t get crazier.
But in looking at how both individual people and society-at-large have responded to things over the past three to four years, it does feel like there is an elevated level of frenzied, “drunken” reactiveness within humanity…to what they read in the media or online, to “social justice” cries, to everything around COVID, politics, and even recently to the news from the Middle East.
I’m not talking about physical alcoholic drunkenness, but rather an emotional, mental, and spiritual intoxication spoken of throughout the bible, particularly in the New Testament.
What does the bible say about spiritual drunkenness or intoxication?
We’ll start with the study’s anchor verse from Luke 21, including a different translation that helps deepen our understanding. Jesus tells His disciples:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all the earth” (Luke 21:34, NKJV)
“But keep watch on yourselves, or your hearts will become dulled by carousing, drunkenness and the worries of everyday living, and that Day will be sprung upon you suddenly like a trap!” (Luke 21:34, CJB)
Most of the other translations I often look at (NLT, ESV, NIV, etc.) are pretty similar to the CJB. There’s the “watch yourself!” component and then an admonition about the impact of carousing, drunkenness, and everyday worries on our vulnerable hearts.
The “cares of this life” seem pretty straightforward, but it’s helpful to take a closer look at a few of the other words in this verse since they’re important components of teasing out aspects of mental and spiritual intoxication. (Interestingly, this verse is the only time many of these Greek words are used in the New Testament.)
This word translated “weighed down” or “dulled” is baruno (G925), which means to be burdened or overloaded. An almost literal translation is “to be made heavy”, which makes sense when you think about how you feel when you’ve eaten or drank too much. When we’re in this condition we’re in a stupor of sorts, sluggish, slow to respond.
Next we’ll take “carousing”. When I hear that word it’s easy for me to think, “Nope, I’m old and boring, no carousing here!” and move on. The word (kraipale, G2897) implies the results from indulging your appetites excessively, leading to ruin or straying. I thought this explanation from The Berean newsletter explained it nicely:
“It could be food or drink or many other things. This world, especially in its advertising, is pushing the overuse [and indulgence] of our appetites all the time. We cannot turn on the television without them pushing automobiles, foods, toys, jewelry, drugs, insurance, appliances, travel, housewares, clothing, tools, movies, and other television programs. Advertisers are constantly and repetitiously urging us, “Do this.” “Try this.” “Use your time this way.” We can feel pressured, “under the gun”, stressed from resisting their products, their way of life, and their attitudes.”
Well…if that’s “carousing”, that sure sounds a bit more familiar and relevant to me in our consumption-mindset world.
And now we look at “drunkenness”, where I want to spend some extra time. The word used is methe (G3178; also used in Rom. 13:13 and Gal. 5:21), and a related version is methuo (G3184). It means an intoxicant, to drink to intoxication or get drunk.
But it has a broader meaning than just actual alcohol drunkenness. It means to be filled or saturated with an intoxicant—literally or figuratively.
What does mental & spiritual intoxication look like in God’s people?
First, it’s probably helpful to define intoxication. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “the condition of having physical or mental control markedly diminished by the effects of alcohol or drugs”, as well “a high excitement of mind; an elation which rises to enthusiasm, frenzy, or madness”.
What does alcohol do to us if not carefully moderated? (And this is not a knock on alcohol, which I quite enjoy.)
- It heightens our emotions, lowers our inhibitions. We’re easier to manipulate, lacking control and prone to out-of-proportion emotional reactions.
- It removes our presence of mind and skews our judgment, distorting our perception of reality (think about how it feels wearing beer goggles).
- It gives us a false sense of security and confidence. People do silly and senseless things or make dumb decisions, then regret them, along with the hangover.
- It slows our reactions. It makes us sleepy, fuzzy, off-balance, and unfocused. We’re not alert and are unprepared to respond.
It’s very easy to see the spiritual parallels here. When we allow ourselves to be weighed down and our senses dulled by intoxicants, worries, and overindulging our physical cravings, it has a MASSIVE impact on our ability to maintain a Godly perspective and see ourselves clearly.