"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled..." ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands..." ~ II Tim. 1:6

Maintaining a “Sober” Mind In A Spiritually Intoxicated World

“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.

Read next:  FOMO:  How to Derail Your Relationship With God

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.

And while it’s hard to see this in ourselves, we can usually spot when other people are intoxicated.  You can usually tell by how they walk or talk.  Some of them are super cheerful, seeing everything as good and exciting.  Others go the opposite direction, becoming more angry and volatile, picking fights.  Again, the metaphors for our spiritual state are pretty clear.

This society affects all of us in some way, no matter how hard we try to stay “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).  But it’s worth asking yourself, what do my spiritual walk and speech tell others about me? 

Do I let myself get consumed by world events, easily inflamed (Is. 5:11), caught up in the cares of this world?  Am I unstable and weaving from side to side rather than walking the narrow, difficult path that leads to eternal life (Matt. 7:14)?  Am I quick to get into arguments, whether with brethren, family, or on social media (Rom. 13:13)?

There’s an interesting passage in Proverbs 23:29-35 that is a bit convoluted due to the poetic language, so I’d recommend reading it yourself and then I’ll summarize it here.

To put it in plain English, when we allow ourselves to become affected by the mental, emotional, and spiritual intoxicants of this world, a whole host of symptoms emerge:

  • Dwelling on woes and sorrows
  • Focusing on and exacerbating relationship issues
  • A skewed vision and perspective, inability to see clearly
  • We lose our sense of what’s appropriate or safe, causing us to do reckless things (who among us has not had “that friend” who climbs on things or lays down in the worst places when drunk??)
  • Lack of sensitivity to pain or dangerous situations, a numbness or dullness of heart and mind

How this shows up in any particular person will vary depending on their past experiences and personality tendencies.  Some may be more inclined toward emotional reactions, others to anger and quarrels, some toward reckless consumption and activity, and others will have a numbness and distance from God.

Sometimes I see things on social, am told a new restriction of my personal liberties, or sit and think about what I hear on the news…and I get so worked up!  It consumes so much mental space and emotional energy, leads me to irrational reactions, and hampers my ability to focus on the most important thing—that God is in control.

What consumes you?  What are the thoughts, emotions, and reactions that occupy your mental space?  So often we let this happen almost subconsciously and don’t even realize what is consuming our hearts and minds, or take active control of the content of our thoughts.

What SHOULD we be consumed by, instead?  In Psalms we’re told that “zeal for Your house has consumed me” (Ps. 69:9).  Paul exhorts us not to be “drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

We are meant to be living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), utterly consumed by God’s spirit and focused on His word (like a sacrifice is completely consumed by the fire).  And to achieve that, we must start by remaining sober.

Read next:  Eyes on the Horizon: Tips For Navigating This Life

What the bible says about being sober-minded

So HOW can we avoid the consequences of intoxication?

When I hear the word “sober,” I tend to think of being serious or no fun.  But that’s not what we mean here.

Webster’s defines sober as literally “not intoxicated” (LOL), showing no excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice.  In other words, clearheaded.

There are several related words that are translated as “sober” in the New Testament, and they are mostly similar but with small nuances.  Ultimately it indicates being of sound mind, moderate, disciplined, and showing self-control.

Peter had a LOT to say about the need for God’s people to be sober:

“Therefore gird up [protect, fortify] the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:13)

“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (I Pet. 4:7-9)

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brethren around the world” (I Pet. 5:8)

Peter clearly connects this idea of being sober with the need to strengthen our minds and stay close to God in prayer, in order to resist Satan’s deceptions.  You can see that there is a sense of active alertness and presence of mind—being vigilant and watchful, fully aware of our own personal situation, condition, and environment.

We must be able to discern what we’re seeing, be able to apply what we’ve learned from the bible, and show clear judgment without being emotionally swayed by things we see or hear in the world (whether in the news, something a friend tells us, etc.).  It’s the opposite of being irrational.

Paul tells us that as the time of the end draws near, even many of God’s people will be overtaken by “strong delusion” because they didn’t stay grounded in His way and truth (II Thes. 2:10-11).

And this will only get worse.  We’re told that the influence of the end-time Babylon causes the whole world to be drunk with her wine (Rev. 17:2), that mankind allows itself to become intoxicated by what this rising world power offers.

This state of the world impacts God’s people more than we’d like to think, or more than we often recognize.  The prophet Isaiah cautions us about the consequences:

“Pause and wonder!  Blind yourselves and be blind!  They are drunk, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with intoxicating drink.  For the Lord has poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes…the whole vision [God’s word] has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed…Therefore the Lord has said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me’” (Is. 29:9-11, 13)

God says that, though their outward religious rituals, lives, and speech seemed to point to God, their actual hearts and minds had drifted far away.  And as a result, He allowed them to drift into a stupor and lose sight of His truth.  But Paul gives us advice on how to combat this:

“Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.  But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (I Thes. 5:6-9).

Faith and love protect our hearts, while the hope (firm expectation) of our salvation protects our minds.  These are parts of the armor of God further detailed in Ephesians 6, which help us “stand against the wiles of the devil”—in other words, to resist the intoxicating influence he has on the rest of the world (Eph. 6:11).

We should make sure we are staying watchful regarding the state of our own lives, and examine our hearts to see if we are “under the influence” of worldly intoxicants.

These are a few thought starter questions that can help with that examination:

  • Have we allowed ourselves to become intoxicated by something in this world?
  • Am I weighed down or sluggish in my response to God as a result of allowing the cares of the world to monopolize my time and thoughts?
  • Where might my inhibitions or resistance to Satan’s tactics be lowered?
  • What do my spiritual walk and speech say about me?

We read in Luke that the intoxications and worries of this life can weigh us down and ensnare us (Luke 21:34).  They cause us to become distracted, sleepy, or overly-confident, and to lose sight of what God wants us to be focused on—living His way and vigilantly looking toward the return of Jesus Christ.

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race which is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2)

This sermon is a great complement to this study, if you’re looking for additional learning!

Being Sober-Minded in a Spiritually Drunk World | What the bible says about spiritual drunkenness or intoxication & being spiritually sober, bible verses about sober, Luke 21:34 about not to get weighed down...examining what this means for God's people.

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1 Comment

  1. ttej

    Thanks for this, I’m blessed

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