We have noted that the foundation of every form of free government is self-government. Fools and blockheads cannot build a free society. We cannot govern ourselves collectively unless we know how to govern ourselves individually. And we cannot learn self-government apart from a work of the Spirit of God.
This applies to every area where self-indulgence is a temptation, but there is a place where Paul highlights the principle while talking about wine.
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:18–19).
Notice how he reasons in a “this, not that” kind of way. Where the Spirit works, the result is joy and music. Where the Spirit is absent, or somehow grieved, the human heart wants some kind of exhilaration, and will seek out ways of buying it in a bottle.
The prohibition is not a killjoy prohibition. We are told not to be drunk with wine in the same spirit that a mother would tell her son not to eat a bag of chips a half an hour before dinner. She has been preparing a meal that she knows will be a joy to him, and she has been working on it all afternoon. She doesn’t want him to come in right before the meal to wreck it with some poor substitute. She says no, not because she loves saying no, but rather because she is offering something far better.
This is how the Lord speaks to us. He says no to drunkenness, and He does so because He is offering us something far better. The Bible teaches us a lot about the principle of delayed gratification. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, ESV). Those who are wise embrace this principle—they would much rather have great joy in the harvest than the easy pleasures of laziness in the time of plowing.