A Sensitive Subject
This is a sensitive subject for some. I grew up in a Christian culture where use of alcohol of any type was taboo. In fact, some of my current friends and circles may find it curious that we did not have any alcohol at our wedding, nor did we use real wine for communion at church. This idea of never drinking “spirits” of any sort is foreign to many people.
While I disagree with some of the biblical arguments used by those who lead and taught me growing up, I respect those individuals. They were not abstaining from alcohol out of selfish motivation – but what they thought was a true biblical stance. They did it out of respect and reverence for God. While I believe they unknowingly misinterpreted Scripture, I want to say that I still respect them.
If you are in that group, I hope this will not cause you angst. In fact, I hope that you will take your high view of Scripture, and loving and obeying God and do your own study to see what God’s Word says on this subject.
Why Address It?
Why address it, and why now? I had my first drink at the age of 25. Alcohol literally never touched my lips until then. I was pastoring at the time. We were having in-home Bible studies, and almost every person in the church had alcohol in their homes. This was new for me because of my background. I realized if God was truly for abstinence in drinking, I would have to address it. I also realized if God allowed it, and I forbid it, I could do theological and spiritual damage to others.
I’ve always wanted to be a person that held fast to true biblical conviction, and not to some denominational standard. So Shannon and I spent time studying Scripture on the subject … for three months. We didn’t have a drink first, and then study. We studied first and then had a drink. In clear conscience a friend brought over a Yuengling (the oldest brewery in America mind you) lager. I remember saying something like, “This is what all the hype is about? This is what I think cold pee would taste like if I ever tasted cold pee.” My taste buds changed in time, of course.
You may wonder why I am addressing this at the age of 38. The real question should be, why haven’t I addressed it until now? This goes back to respect – respecting those I grew up with, those who helped our church over the years, and my alma mater. While some falsely see me as some Wild West blogger, those closest to me know it’s really not who I am. There are great times when I am enjoying God’s gift of alcohol with my wife, or a friend, and I’d love to post about it. I believe writing this allows me to do that – not recklessly – but responsibly.
Warning of Drunkenness
Let’s understand the Bible condemns drunkenness, and rightly so. Scripture gives many warnings of what drunkenness can lead to: debauchery (Ephesians 5:18), physical accidents (Proverbs 23:29), certain diseases (Prov. 23:32), and delusions and bad decision making (Prov 23:33).
I know people who died in car accidents, lost jobs, and slept with people they weren’t married to because of drunkenness. Let’s be honest, great decisions are not made by drunks.
As Christians we are first and foremost to be led by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 is telling us that we will not produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit and live life to God’s glory if we are drunk. Copious amounts of alcohol consumption leads us to be led not by God, but by alcohol itself.
Some have used the verses about drunkenness to say no one should have any alcohol. If you don’t have one drink, you will not be drunk. But we also must note that while Scripture speaks against drunkenness, it also speaks to the blessings of alcohol when used the way God intended us to use this gift. If it was totally forbidden, why would I Timothy 3:8 say that deacons are not to be “addicted to much wine.”
Psalm 104 speaks about how God created everything in our cosmos for a purpose. Verse 15 says that wine is given to us to gladden human hearts. There are times when we have had a rough day at work, stress of a relationship, and a glass of something can relax us, and even bring joy.
Proverbs 31:6-7 says that someone can have a drink to relax their heavy heart (again, not falling into drunkenness because pain is not solved permanently by having a drink). Ecclesiastes 9:7 says we can drink wine because we are joyful. There are other verses which talk about the proper use of alcohol.
Drinking to the Glory of God
Whether or not you’re a Christian, you may not understand this concept. First, let me define glory. To glorify is to make known or famous. So, as a Christian, everything I do, in every aspect of my life (not just my worship), I seek to make God known and make Him famous.
How in the world can someone drink to God’s glory? It almost sounds blasphemous. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “so, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So drinking (not specifically alcohol, but any beverage) can be done in a way that makes God known or famous. The negative is also true. You can bring disgrace or poorly misrepresent God through drunkenness. You can make God hidden, or make yourself known through every activity.
We could write a book on this subject, but let me be a little practical. How can someone drink a beer, glass of wine, or a dram of whiskey to God’s glory? First, you can drink to celebrate God’s goodness in your life. Even if it is something you accomplished, it is really God who gave you the strength and sustains you for that task. Enjoy a drink in commemoration of what great things He has done in your life.
Second, you can drink to God’s glory by enjoying life. Your life is a gift. He has given it to you to enjoy. When you enjoy it, you glorify Him. It’s like when a parent or grandparent gives a great gift and the child enjoys the gift and tells others about the gift. The gift giver receives glory. God wants to see us enjoying His gifts, within the boundaries of what He gave us to enjoy that gift.
John Piper has famously said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” When we enjoy God’s gifts, He will be glorified. He loves watching His children enjoying the gifts He has given them.
Your Own Conscience
If you are a Christian, and you truly have studied the Scripture – I mean you are not living by tradition, but believe you are living by God’s Word – and come to a different conclusion, don’t have a drink. Romans 14 talks about how those who have studied the Word and come to conclusions should follow those. Although, I would like to give the caveat that God has clearly spoken on these subjects. But my warning is, for those who are in the abstinence camp, don’t have a drink just because Tim said so. Do so because you believe God permits you to be able to, or even wants you to.
The Problem with Forbidding Others
Here is a basic problem in forbidding others from drinking. What I have seen many times is that Christians are raised being told certain things are forbidden by God which are not. As they study Scripture, they will find some of the things they believe are not true. Then I have seen people “throw the baby Jesus out with the holy water.”
I am not saying that all of the culpability belongs to the one forbidding. I’m just saying that choices have consequences. When we don’t stick to the strictness of Scripture, we then become god. This is a dangerous place to put ourselves. This is why the apostle Paul warns Timothy (I Timothy 4:3) that those who make others abstain from things God has blessed are not doing God’s work. This, according to verse one, is not godly but actually demonic.
The Stumbling Block
One of the big questions that always comes up when we talk about alcohol within Christianity is, “Shouldn’t we abstain from alcohol altogether so we don’t cause others to stumble into drunkenness?” I agree that there are times to abstain. I’ve gone to parties without having a drink because someone there struggles with alcoholism.
This, however, does not mean that we give it up altogether. If we gave up everything that people abused we would do nothing. Martin Luther once said something to the effect of, “You want me to give up drinking because men abuse it, should we forbid marrying because of abusive husbands?”
There are many questions regarding the use of alcohol by Christians. I will attempt to address those in the future as well.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.