Ecclesiastes 2:3 (ESV)

3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine my heart still guiding me with wisdom and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.

The Preacher continues his investigation. Now he is thinking of wine. Happiness is often connected to wine. We also read about this in the Bible. In Psalm 104:15 we read that wine gladdens the heart of man. Ecclesiastes examines whether wine can give a person lasting pleasure. It is good to remember that Solomon did not drink just one glass of wine during his investigation. He immerses himself in the cheerfulness of the wine. The wine is really starting to have an effect on him. Yet he doesn’t drink so much that he gets drunk. We read that wisdom always prevailed. The Preacher drinks so much that it loosens him up. It broadens his mind. He investigates whether this truly gives meaning to his life. We see that the Preacher is searching for the meaning of man’s existence: Till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.

You may wonder whether it was good that Solomon drank wine. Isn’t it true that wine and strong drink are prohibited for Christians? Was that not also the case with the believers in the Old Testament? Do the Bible and Christ not show us the way of abstinence on this point? Many Christians say that, as a believer, you should not drink alcohol. However, that is not the path that the Word of God shows us. We then impose a commandment on each other that binds us more than the Lord himself does. If someone says that in his personal life, he will not drink alcohol, that is not wrong. That can be good and even necessary for some people. But it goes too far if you want to impose this on someone else in Christ’s name. An example of people who imposed on themselves the obligation not to drink alcohol is the Rechabites. We can read about them in Jeremiah 35:1–19.

In Deuteronomy 14, we find a striking example of the enjoyment of wine by God’s people. There the Lord commands his people to hold a banquet at the temple once a year. We read about that feast in Deuteronomy 14:26: There you shall spend the money on whatever you desire: oxen or sheep, wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. The Israelites had God’s permission to enjoy wine and strong drink, even near the temple!

This has not changed in the time of the New Testament. Christ himself says, I tell you I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29).

The Preacher drinks wine and that is not wrong. He investigates whether drinking wine and spirits brings people happiness in life. People who seek happiness in delicious food and drinks receive this answer from the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 2:1, But behold, this also was vanity. He knows it from his own experience.

You may see wine and strong drink as good things that God has given us. You’re allowed to enjoy that as well. Yet, in the Bible, the Holy Spirit also shows the dangers of drinking. In Scripture we are warned about the wrong use of it.

We read about the excessive use of wine and strong drink, for example, in Proverbs 23:29–35, Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. They struck me, you will say, but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.

When Christ speaks about the day of God’s judgment, he says in Luke 21:34, But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.

Excessive use of wine and drink separates man from God. The drink may not dominate over you as a person. It may not control you. Paul says this in Ephesians 5:18, And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.

The meaning of our existence does not lie in wine and drink. This is the realization that the Preacher came to after he had looked into this matter.