What does the Bible say about alcoholic drinks? That is what we face here in Proverbs 20:1. The first thing we need to do is to define what is referred to as wine and strong drink. There are some who try to make a distinction between these two words saying that wine is not alcoholic, but strong drink is. Problem with that view is that wine is referred to at least 20 times as having intoxicating properties. It is paired with the other word used here 12 times in a negative context - each time indicating that one is likely to be drunk if they drink it to excess. The word for "strong drink" is even more explicit. It means in every situation a very intoxicating substance. It is difficult to try to make a direct correlation between the levels of alcohol in these drinks and those of today. What you can say with confidence is that both wine and strong drink when not controlled properly will cause intoxication - which the Bible strictly prohibits both in the Old and New Testaments. You can also be confident in saying that one would get drunk faster when drinking strong drink rather than wine. About the only comparison you could make this way would be comparing wine to the alcohol levels of win and beer - and strong drink to stronger intoxicants like whiskey, vodka, and other higher proof drinks.
Here is what we learn though about both wine and strong drink. Wine is called a "mocker" in this passage. A mocker is one who boasts and scorns. This person is given to deriding others. Their actions lead us utter contempt toward someone. The idea therefore here is that when a person drinks wine to the point of being deceived by it (the NASB calls this decieved state the point of intoxication) he is not wise - he is a fool. Think a moment about this - when someone is intoxicated by wine - he no longer thinks clearly and can say and act in ways that he regrets later. The alcohol deceives his mind - making it stray from wisdom - wander from godliness - and to make major mistakes. Want to avoid being deceived and erring badly from the way of the Lord? Then stay away from wine. That is the implication made by this verse - this wisdom from God.
What is strong drink? It is a brawler according to Proverbs 20:1. This word is very illustrative of the drunk. It is "hamah" and means to murmur, growl, roar, or howl. When refering to the drunken fool it means to be a fighter - to be a boisterous, roaring, howling fool. We all know that many who are affected by alcohol wind up becoming more agressive. This is especially true of the "fighting" drunks who go home and beat family members when under the affect of wine and strong drink. Why should we avoid strong drink of every kind? Because the effect of this poison is to deaden our minds to kind and gracious behavior and turn us instead into a brawling, fighting fool. The wise man would avoid these things altogether.
The Christian community has those who want to preserve our ability to have a glass of wine or a social drink. They state that they have freedom in Christ to do so. While I cannot categorically say that all alcohol is utterly forbidden by Scripture, I can say that the wise person would stay away from it. I will give a couple of reasons for this. First - to drink is to place yourself in a situation where it is far more possible to sin by becoming drunk. Considering what the law considers drunken driving, the amount which a person can drink before they are considered drunk is minimal. Why put yourself in that kind of jeopardy when there are plenty of beverages that pose no danger whatsoever? Second - outside of a glass of wine with a meal at home - the usual places where drinking takes place also include a hedonistic lifestyle as well. Bars, last time I checked, have not been traditional centers of godliness and holy living. Why endanger your witness and testimony by drinking in these places? Why endanger your heart by placing yourself in such places where far more than drunkenness is the possibility?
This verse deals with being intoxicated and therefore deceived by wine and strong drink. If you get the drift of the writer of Proverbs - the wise man would avoid these things altogether. This should even more be the case in our day when the ability to purify water has led to a multitude of drinking options that do not have the danger of alcohol in them. Truly - the wise man - just stays away from this. You would be wise to do the same.