Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Alcohol and the Church

"Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by them is not wise."
Proverbs 20:1
This verse begins a series of proverbs at the end of this book about the abuse of alcohol. I would like to briefly look at what Proverbs says about intoxicating drink, and what is the Biblical view of drinking alcohol. In the days of the writing of the Bible, everyone drank wine, but it was mixed with a good percentage of water. Proverbs is concerned with wine and other alcoholic beverages that were unmixed. In the verse quoted above, wine and other alcohol is compared to the results they produce. Being under the influence of alcohol leads one to fights, loud and foolish words, and indiscreet behavior. Drunkenness is for fools not the wise. Proverbs 23:20-21 warns not to even be a companion to drunkards. Their evil influence will corrupt good judgement. If we follow their ways, it will lead to poverty. Later on in Proverbs 23:29-35 we are given a very detailed picture of the ill effects of over drinking. We learn that drunkenness brings sorrow, relational strife, inner strife, physical problems, and general trouble. Alcoholic drinks are seductive. The end result of drunkenness is pain and suffering like the poison of a snake. Alcohol clouds our thinking, blurs our vision, and staggers our steps. Yet even though this is the case, those addicted to alcohol will not learn from these painful consequences and return to the bottle again.
In Proverbs 31:4-7, we are taught that kings and by implication all those in authority, should stay away from wine. Wine clouds our thinking and reactions. Wine is not good for those in authority for they might forget the laws and abuse those under them. This is good reminder for church elders. Wine may have its place for some people in some situations, it should be avoided by leader who need to be self controlled and sober. This is a very brief summary of what Proverbs teaches about alcoholic drink and their effects.
There are two unbiblical approaches to alcohol that I have observed among Christians. The first approach is to ban drinking altogether. Drinking any alcohol is considered a sin. I have even come across churches that won't allow people to be members of the church unless they promise never to drink alcohol. This approach to alcohol is understandable when we see the devastating destruction that is caused by the abuse of alcohol. The problem is that this goes beyond the rules of Scripture. God never says we can't drink alcohol. In Psalm 104:14-16 it says that God causes food to grow so man can have food and wine to gladden his heart and oil to make his face shine. Now if a person wants to abstain from alcohol, they have the freedom to do so. But they do not have the right to impose their rule on any one else.
The second unbiblical approach to alcohol that I have seen is a casual approach to drinking. Drinking alcohol is a normal part of their lives. Parties and social evenings are always accompanied by some form of alcohol. The warnings of scripture about alcohol are not taken seriously. In fact it is considered uncool not to drink along with them. Often these Christians don't get very drunk, but maybe just a little tipsy. It seems to me that this casual approach to drinking leads to a casual approach to drunkenness in others. They may solemnly shake their heads when they hear of someone who was drunk but it isn't a serious concern--in fact they may even find it humorous. They stand motionless while others drink themselves silly. I knew of some people who after professing their commitment to follow Jesus Christ, they then went out to celebrate by getting drunk. Or when a group of boys went out to celebrate the birth of the Saviour by drinking in excess. I have heard countless stories of drunken parties, where animals are abused, sexual immorality is rampant, and all manner of sin is embraced.  Yet no one seems to do a whole lot about this. These people seem to be on the other side of the scale of those who forbid all drinking. This kind of  behavior is a shame and a disgrace to the name of Christ.
So what is a Biblical approach to alcohol? First, we need to take to heart the many warnings in the Bible concerning the abuse of alcohol. Second, we need to take seriously the exhortations of scripture to live with self-control and a sober mind. Alcohol can hinder us in resisting sin. Third, it should be our desire to please the Lord which should make us want to avoid drunkenness. We should not be asking how close to the line of intoxication can we come before we have sinned. We should keep a good distance from that line, so that there is no chance of drunkenness.
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

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