Should Christians Drink Alcohol?
Tea-totalling Texans? Them's fightin' words!
I live in a small Texas town which is probably not all that different from a small town anywhere else. Lately, much has been reported by the local media and debated at city council meetings regarding liquor licensing. When ever these types of issues are discussed, some self-appointed Christian representatives will speak up, supposedly on behalf of all the rest of us, and heatedly expound upon the awful vice of drinking alcohol and what a demon-magnet that can be.
I recently said to a young lady who told me she couldn't go anywhere where drinking took place, "You'd better leave the state of Texas...and stop attending professional baseball games while you're at it." I may as well have said, "Mother Teresa, you'd better leave Calcutta! There are lepers all over the place!" If the light of the world (you and me, according to Jesus) leaves the darkness, the darkness remains dark. My question to Christians everywhere, whenever we're confronted with a "sinful" act or attitude that we don't appreciate, is this: "When is the right time for casting that stone?"
The truth hurts. But KNOWING it will set us free.
Several years ago, a downcast young lady approached me, asking if I'd officiate her wedding. It seems that she and her mate - apparently her husband - let it leak that they'd never had a traditional wedding and had been cohabitating for about 2 years. They had a nice home, all debts were combined, and they held good jobs. In their eyes, they were married and moving along as a couple, facing the business of life. One night, the couple received a surprise visit from their church leaders, were reprimanded and told they should stop "shacking up."
Now, before we go any further, I'm not condoning that couples should live with each other outside of wedlock, nor am I condemning those who do. It is NOT recommended because, statistically, those who DO live together before marriage have a much higher incidence of divorce (let's forget the fact that 50% of all Christian marriages are ending in divorce anyway AND that, in anonymous surveys, nearly 50% of Christians admit to having had premarital sex).
Question for these church leaders: Before we point another accusing finger at a Christian couple, can we talk about YOUR sins? Doubt, unbelief, overeating, rage, criticism, gossip, plus the fact that nearly half of all ministers surveyed admit to viewing porn regularly not to mention substance abuses and adultery...all are equal in the eyes of God and required the sending of His only begotten Son to become our Savior.
Incidentally, I agreed to take this couple through 6 weeks of pre-marital counseling and officiated their lovely wedding. Later, they had a baby together. They have since moved on to become part of a different congregation.
You see, we can cast stones at those who drink alcohol - or those who do anything else that "WE" might consider to be wrong - all we want to. Who will be brow-beating us as we stuff our chubby cheeks? Who will judge us using the same measure with which they are judged themselves?
The standard is Jesus, friends. Not the unholy trinity of Me, Myself and I.
What the Good Book says
I contend that we should funnel everything through Scripture, preferably, through the teachings of Christ, allowing the many verses on a particular subject to define the one proof text, not requiring the one proof text to trump the many. Personally, I can't help but believe that all the oats, hops, barley and other grains used to produce alcohol could be put to better use feeding the hungry of planet earth. I wish it were. Maybe that will take place on the day that all swords will be beaten into plow sheers.
Speaking of beatings, when we focus upon wine, the fruit of the vine takes a severe thrashing itself within Christian circles, everyone trying to justify their viewpoint. In the Old Testament, God's Law allowed yayin (wine) and shekar (strong drink) to be purchased with the Tithe of Rejoicing and to be drunk before the Lord. "You shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or strong drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household," (Deut. 14:26). In the New Testament, all recorded prohibitions to drinking wine seem to refer to either (A) immoderate consumption or (B) to abusers: "Be not drunk with wine" (Eph. 5:18). "Do not be with heavy drinkers" (Prov. 23:20). "Do not be addicted to wine" (I Tim. 3:8; Tit.2:3). "Do not linger long over wine" (Prov. 23:30).
Some say, "But we love the sinners and hate the sin." Sadly, even when this is true, it doesn't come across that way and, after all, perception is reality. Besides, where is it written that drinking is a sin? Now, I haven't had a beer since I was 19 when I drank six straight after working at a construction site in El Paso. Wine? My Italian family sipped it often but never to excess and its been about 10 years since I had a glass of Chianti with my spaghetti. Still, I don't expect my convictions to be anyone else's. When I'm sick, I don't care if the Apostle Paul DID instruct Timothy (1 Tim 5:23) to, "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." Sorry, Paul, but I'll take Pepto-Bismal, thank you. That's my choice.
Seriously, when all is said and done, I can't help but feel that we Christians must distinguish the use of these beverages from their abuse. Sometimes in Scripture, gluttonous eating is paralleled with immoderate drinking of wine (Deut. 21:20; Prov. 23:21). But we can find nowhere in the Bible where eating food is prohibited, thank you, Jesus! At other times in Scripture, sexual perversion is paralleled with drunkenness (Rom 13:13; I Pet 4:3). Yet, if ALL sexual activity were condemned, well...you and I wouldn't be here. Wealth often becomes a snare to many as well (I Tim. 6:9-11), but the Scriptures do not make a blanket decree against its pursuit (Job 42:10-17). Let's see a Word of Faith evangelist preach AGAINST the acquisition of money! That will be a cold day in Texas. Bottom line is that each of these factors in life is intended by God to be a blessing for us, when used according to the ways that HE intended. Love one another? Jesus would drink to that!
To the surprise of many, it would seem abundantly clear that the Scriptures DO allow for the moderate partaking of alcoholic beverages - wine, beer, bourbon or whiskey. By the way, I've had many friends in ministry who hail from England and Germany. I love watching my American Christian friends as they "get their knickers in a twist" when these awesome European Christians visit the states and order a brew with their Tex-Mex or wine with their poultry. The Scriptures pull no punches in commending wine, nor do they reflect any embarrassment when illustrating stories that involve its consumption in Biblical days. Wine is set before the saints as blessing and gladness (Deut 14:26; Ps. 104:14-15), even though it may be, to the immoderate and wicked, a mocker and curse (Prov. 20:1; 23:29). It would seem to me that all the self-righteous finger-pointing we engage ourselves in today does very little in the way of making the non-Christian jealous for what we say we've found in Christ, the One who turned the water into wine, His first miracle. Despite all the sincerity of well-meaning Christians regarding this issue, every time we point a finger, there are four more pointed right back at us. These fingers are those of the Spirit in operation - the Spirit of the Pharisees.
The Great Commission, set forth by the Greatest Teacher, Jesus Christ, was to go and make disciples. As followers of Christ, are we teaching those who are watching us to condemn and even detest those who are not like us, or are we teaching them to love everybody without condition, planting all the seeds of grace necessary to make our faith attractive enough so that they will want run to Jesus at their own proper moment of harvest?
After all, He loves ALL of us, despite the deplorable things we harbor deep within the dark recesses of our hearts.
In fact, He loved us to DEATH!
Love one another.
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Pastor Michael has been broadcasting his eMail messages of Discipleship and encouragement to Christians of all denominations since 1999. These messages are literally reaching millions each week and the messages are being re-posted on other Christian sites, used as Bible studies for groups, and are being used by those in ministry as a preaching guide.
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