Touch not; taste not; handle not - These are forms of expression very frequent among the Jews. In Maccoth, fol. xxi. 1: "If they say to a Nazarite, Don't drink, don't drink; and he, notwithstanding, drinks; he is guilty. If they say, Don't shave, don't shave; and he shaves, notwithstanding; he is guilty. If they say, Don't put on these clothes, don't put on these clothes; and he, notwithstanding, puts on heterogeneous garments; he is guilty." See more in Schoettgen.
Tough not; taste not; handle not - These words seem intended as a specimen of the kind of ordinances which the apostle refers to, or an imitation of the language of the Jewish teachers in regard to various kinds of food and drink. “Why are ye subject to ordinances of various kinds, such as this - Touch not, taste not, handle not?” That is, such as prohibit you from even touching certain kinds of food, or tasting certain kinds of drink, or handling certain prohibited things. The rapid succession of the words here, without any connecting particle, is supposed to denote the eagerness of the persons who imposed this injunction, and their earnestness in warning others from contaminating themselves with the prohibited things. Many injunctions of this kind are found in the writings of the Jewish rabbis; and the ancient Jewish sect of the Essenes (Notes, Matthew 3:7) abounded in precepts of this kind.
See Schoetgen, and Pict. Bib. in loc. “They allowed themselves no food that was pleasant to the taste, but ate dry, coarse bread, and drank only water. Many of them ate nothing until sunset, and, if anyone touched them who did not belong to their sect, they washed themselves as if they had been most deeply defiled. Perhaps there was at Colossae a society of this kind, as there were in many other places out of Judea; and, if there was, it is not improbable that many Christians imitated them in the uniqueness of their rules and observances;” compare Jenning‘s Jew. Ant. i. 471, and Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. If this be the correct interpretation, then these are not the words of the apostle, forbidding Christians to have anything to do with these ordinances, but are introduced as a specimen of the manner in which they who enjoined the observance of those ordinances pressed the subject on others.
There were certain things which they prohibited, in conformity with what they understood to be the law of Moses; and they were constantly saying, in regard to them, “do not touch them, taste them, handle them.” These words are often used as a kind of motto in reference to the use of intoxicating drinks. They express very well what is held by the friends of total abstinence; but it is obvious that they had no such reference as used by the apostle, nor should they be alleged as an authority, or as an argument, in the question about the propriety or impropriety of the use of spirituous liquors. They may as well be employed in reference to anything else as that, and would have no authority in either case. Intoxicating drinks should be abstained from; but the obligation to do it should be made to rest on solid arguments, and not on passages of Scripture like this. This passage could with more plausibility be pressed into the service of the enemies of the total abstinence societies, than into their support; but it really has nothing to do with the subject, one way or the other.
It must be kept before the people that the right balance of the mental and moral powers depends in a great degree on the right condition of the physical system. All narcotics and unnatural stimulants that enfeeble and degrade the physical nature tend to lower the tone of the intellect and morals. Intemperance lies at the foundation of the moral depravity of the world. By the indulgence of perverted appetite, man loses his power to resist temptation. MH 335.1
Temperance reformers have a work to do in educating the people in these lines. Teach them that health, character, and even life, are endangered by the use of stimulants, which excite the exhausted energies to unnatural, spasmodic action. MH 335.2
In relation to tea, coffee, tobacco, and alcoholic drinks, the only safe course is to touch not, taste not, handle not. The tendency of tea, coffee, and similar drinks is in the same direction as that of alcoholic liquor and tobacco, and in some cases the habit is as difficult to break as it is for the drunkard to give up intoxicants. Those who attempt to leave off these stimulants will for a time feel a loss and will suffer without them. But by persistence they will overcome the craving and cease to feel the lack. Nature may require a little time to recover from the abuse she has suffered; but give her a chance, and she will again rally and perform her work nobly and well. MH 335.3Read in context »
As a people we profess to be reformers, to be light bearers in the world, to be faithful sentinels for God, guarding every avenue whereby Satan could come in with his temptations to pervert the appetite. Our example and influence must be a power on the side of reform. We must abstain from any practice which will blunt the conscience or encourage temptation. We must open no door that will give Satan access to the mind of one human being formed in the image of God. If all would be vigilant and faithful in guarding the little openings made by the moderate use of the so-called harmless wine and cider, the highway to drunkenness would be closed up. What is needed in every community is firm purpose, and a will to touch not, taste not, handle not; then the temperance reformation will be strong, permanent, and thorough. 5T 360.1
The love of money will lead men to violate conscience. Perhaps that very money may be brought to the Lord's treasury, but He will not accept any such offering; it is an offense to Him. It was obtained by transgressing His law, which requires that a man love his neighbor as himself. It is no excuse for the transgressor to say that if he had not made wine or cider, somebody else would, and his neighbor might have become a drunkard just the same. Because some will place the bottle to their neighbor's lips, will Christians venture to stain their garments with the blood of souls,—to incur the curse pronounced upon these who place this temptation in the way of erring men? Jesus calls upon His followers to stand under His banner and aid in destroying the works of the devil. 5T 360.2
The world's Redeemer, who knows well the state of society in the last days, represents eating and drinking as the sins that condemn this age. He tells us that as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of man is revealed. “They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the Flood came, and took them all away.” Just such a state of things will exist in the last days, and those who believe these warnings will use the utmost caution not to take a course that will bring them under condemnation. 5T 361.1Read in context »