So, a few weeks ago I was picking up sticks in my yard. (This is one of my most favorite past times. It is so much fun that I don’t want to keep you from joining in, so if you are ever bored come pick up some sticks. I think Tom Sawyer did something like that.) Anyways, to what is important, I started talking with someone about church. This man does not attend my church though he has visited before. He said that when he first met me he thought I was very serious (I wonder if the Vulcan ears had anything to do with that, sorry no more distractions), but as he got to know me better he realized differently. Anyways, a few days before that, somehow in conversation I said if someone wants to drink a beer, no big deal. That stood out to my friend. By the way he is not younger guy either. He thinks of protestants as prohibiting alcohol but he thought my comment shows that I was understanding our culture. So, that is my way of introducing the topic of alcohol and culture and Christianity.
A few years ago I listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll on this subject. One thing he said was: “The question is not “is the thing pure?” the question is “Is the person doing the thing pure?” If you are married and have sex than it is pure. if you are an adult having a glass of wine with a dinner than it is pure.” (http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/proverbs/good-wine-glad-hearts March 24th 2002) But I come from a background of churches that expected pastors and church leaders to abstain from alcohol and would encourage everyone to do the same. The first few denominations that I applied for church license with I actually had to sign that I abstained from alcohol. But is that what the Bible teaches? No, not at all. So, when I came to my last church I studied this issue. I studied what the Bible says and I studied it more and more. In addition I asked Christian counselors what they thought as they have to deal with the ramifications of the abuse of alcohol. I wanted to know if as a counselor they thought it helps if Christians prohibit alcohol.
Turns out the opposite is true. According to Gary Collins’ Christian Counseling book the Southern Baptist have the highest rate of alcoholics whereas the Orthodox Jews have the lowest rate of alcoholics. Usually Southern Baptist prohibit alcohol and orthodox Jews use alcohol as part of their religious services.
I talked with one pastor whom I respect and he said that he drinks a beer in front of his kids intentionally so they know that alcohol is not the bad thing. He doesn’t want that to be what they rebel with. So, after my personal study I made a personal policy that I would not have more than one alcoholic drink, as in a serving size during a sitting. Sometimes I have jokingly said that I will not have more than one drink at a time, in each hand. But really, I know that one beer, or glass of wine will not get me intoxicated, nor even close. I have followed that policy for about six years now. But what does the Bible say about alcohol?
Observe the following:
Psalm 104:15 praises God for the wine that gladdens men’s hearts.
It is not for kings, Lemuel—
it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
6 Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
7 Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Here this Proverb is recognizing that alcohol causes the mind to alter. Here the Proverb is saying, “Kings you have a lot of responsibility, don’t drink! You’ll mess everything up!” By the way the later kings did mess everything up causing Israel to divide and later fall.
Application: We must recognize that God created things good, yet we must control these substances. Alcohol is a controlled substance and we must recognize its dangers. If you cannot control it, don’t touch it!
Know that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. (John 2)
1 Tim 5:23
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
(from New International Version)
Oh, but notice that Paul still gives Timothy a purpose for the wine which is that it is good for the stomach and Timothy has an illness. What illness? I don’t know. Chuck Swindoll made a joke about the stress Timothy might have been under.
Either way clearly alcohol had a purpose in their society. However, the alcohol was watered down. Nevertheless, it was real alcohol. This is more of an American problem. Do you know that C.S. Lewis met with his group called the Inklings in a pub?
One is in grave danger to try to make a Biblical argument against the drinking of alcohol. We can’t use the “don’t make your brother stumble argument.” We can use an extreme caution argument.
Now, having said all that, think about this: a few years ago I was reading statistics while preparing for a youth message, skim through below:
This is from Focus on the Families website: Troubledwith.com
Alcohol causes more deaths among adolescents than any other substance. Alcohol is involved in one third of all traffic deaths for young people aged 15 through 19. Overall, driving under the influence is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24. Alcohol also frequently plays a role in adolescent deaths from other causes: homicides, suicides, drownings and motorcycle and bicycle accidents.
In addition, alcohol plays an important role in adolescent crime, sexual promiscuity and date rape. According to research compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 95 percent of violent crime on college campuses is alcohol related, and 90 percent of reported campus rapes involve alcohol use by the assailant, the victim or both. In one study cited by MADD, 60 percent of college women diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection were drunk when they became infected.
Another sobering reality about drinking is the early age at which it frequently begins.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about one in five fifth-graders has already experienced alcohol intoxication. Four out of ten sixth-graders say they feel pressure from other students to drink. More than 50 percent of eighth-graders and eight out of ten twelfth-graders have tried alcohol at least once. One in four eighth-graders and half of all twelfth-graders have used alcohol within a given month.”
More alcoholic products that specifically appeal to kids are hitting the marketplace. Wine coolers are increasingly popular with younger drinkers, as are a new wave of alcoholic concoctions billed as “thirst quenchers,” often containing lemon or other fruit flavors.
Now, say I were to abstain from alcohol, which I am not, would that solve the above problems? NO! Would it help, maybe, but probably not. We are called to be stewards of our bodies as God has created us in His image and He is the owner. (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 139) We must guard against the abuse of substances that must include alcohol. Drunkenness is nothing to joke about. But we also must guard against the abuse of coffee; french fries or donuts.
Those are some thoughts.
Blessings in Christ!
I see Alliance is getting a “Pub Church” at Jupiter Studios. Sounds interesting!
Alcohol had not been much of an issue for me as I personally don’t like the taste. (Probably a good thing!) I will drink a champagne toast at weddings, and that’s about it.
I understand the underlying issue of “unncleanness” is different now than it was in the first century, but what do you think of Romans 14, especially 14:21 and 15:1, as a grounds to abstain from activities (like drinking or approving of drinking) that may cause our brothers and sisters to stumble?
Also, and this may be off-topic, what happens as marijuana becomes de-criminalized? Does it fall into the category of alcohol, which also was at one time prohibited? The world is changing. Does the Church change too? I never thought I would see the day when a cigarette is viewed with more scorn than a joint!
Hi Pastor Jon, thanks for commenting. I look forward to further discussion on Monday.
First, I do not think we can put marijuana in the same conversation since it is not endorsed in the Bible, whereas, Psalms 104:15; Proverbs 31:6; 1 Timothy 5:23 are all endorsing wine.
1 Timothy 4:1-5: Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
Certainly the last few verses of this passage are especially, meaningful. I think the stumbling block argument is only applicable with known issues and it must be applied consistently. For example: sweet foods could be a stumbling block for those on a diet. If I know someone has issue themselves or in their family with alcohol, I should abstain around them. I cannot be schizophrenic all the time that someone will see me at the store buying wine and I cause them to stumble. How many times do we have donuts, or cake at church while so many of us have been dieting. Church has caused me to stumble with dieting and gluttony for that matter. We seem to be inconsistent.
I think Christians must model good stewardship, but we cannot forbid for everyone what God does not forbid.
My thoughts, thanks, Steve