KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD & EVIL


Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: ‘They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?’ Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; For their heart devises violence, and their lips talk of troublemaking. Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” (Prov 23: 29 – 24: 4)

What a reading we have today, from Proverbs! Here we have an ancient description of active alcoholism, which, apparently, looked back then exactly as it looks today: It brings “wounds without cause,” “redness of eyes,” and an all-consuming obsession with the next drink (“When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”). On the other hand, we also have here a description of the blessings of “wisdom,” “understanding,” and “knowledge.” So the author of Proverbs displays a profound knowledge both of “the dark side” of human existence, and of the way of light, of sober-mindedness.

By stretching toward light, toward God, on a daily basis, we come to know more not only about the good in ourselves, but also about the evil. “When a man is getting better,” C. S. Lewis observed, “he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less… You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.” Thank You, God, for teaching us, in Your light, through both the bad and the good on our cross-carrying journeys. “Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Your grace!”

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