Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is Drinking Alcohol Sin?

Several women commented on my Margarita Party post wondering how I could drink alcohol when it is forbidden in Scripture.  I responded to their comments, but it is a complicated issue so I let my husband respond to it ~

The issue of drinking alcohol is not a “yes” or “no” issue for the student of the scriptures. Many believe that the Bible clearly teaches complete abstinence and yet no place is this clearly found in the scriptures. 

What is repeated frequently in the scriptures is the admonition not to get drunk or be drunk with wine or strong drink.  Such an admonition given in various parts of the scriptures becomes proof that to drink and not be drunk, is acceptable to the believer.

Take for instance the passage in Leviticus 10:9 that forbids the priests from drinking wine or strong drink “when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die.”  If the priests were not drinking wine or strong drink at other times in their lives, God would not have forbidden imbibing at this particular time, “when you go into the tent of meeting.”  Would He not have simply said, “Do not drink wine or strong drink”?

This same proof that drinking of alcohol was a part of the practice of believers and not forbidden appears in many places within the scriptures.  The plain speaking Apostle Paul had every opportunity to clearly set the record straight for drinking alcohol by simply saying, “Do not drink,” but instead he says ~  

Elders are not to be  "given to drunkenness” I Tim. 3:3;
Deacons are not to be “given to much wine” I Tim. 3:8;

Older women are to be taught “not to be addicted to much wine” Titus 2:3. 

This makes it pretty obvious that unless the early church leaders took all of Paul’s words to the extreme,  drinking was permissible, but excess was greatly discouraged or forbidden.

Some may point to Paul’s admonition in Romans 14:21 as the reason Christians may not drink: “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.”

I like Martin Luther’s response when he says, Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”  I do not know many Christians who believe God has forbidden the eating of meat, nor banning of all sex because sex is abused.

No, instead we have taught our children to “let your moderation be known to all men” Philippians 4:5. A glass of wine, perhaps two over a couple hours of time, is not forbidden in the scriptures and is part of Christian liberty. 

With liberty comes responsibility and each believer must seek the Lord’s wisdom through the Spirit to determine how he or she may exercise such liberty or perhaps find it best to not drink.  Just because the Christian may drink wine does not make it profitable, and those with children need to be very careful that their children grow up to discern wisdom in this very important area of Christian morality.

Our family used wine sparingly and many times when wine was served we would take the opportunity to teach our kids the many facets of this important issue to our culture.  We were not afraid to tell our kids that the Bible does not forbid drinking wine, but it does forbid drunkenness.

We taught them alcohol is severely abused in our society which may be a reason in itself not to drink wine as an example to others. But most of all, we taught them that there are many areas of liberty in the scriptures which do not require a black or white, yes or no, but rather require a personal conversation with Jesus to decide when it may or may not be appropriate to drink a glass of wine.

Our conclusion, from a very careful study of the scriptures, which included a thirty page exegetical study of all of the passages of scripture that refer to the subject of the Christian’s Response to Alcohol I had to do for my conservative Christian graduate school, was that there is very little profit in drinking alcohol, but it is not forbidden to the Christian. 

A glass of wine with a meal makes the meal taste better and the conversation flow without any harm or detriment.  A glass of wine on the dance floor with my wife can be good for our romance.  (Oh no….  now do we have to deal with the issue of the Christian’s response to dance? :) 

Moderation in all things and do not make God out to be a hard schoolmaster who does not know how to have fun.  Jesus was accused of being a drunkard, because he came “eating and drinking.”

I will bet you Jesus knew exactly how to have fun without abusing food or drink, and that we who follow Him can do the same in a way that the world can say, “Those Christians know how to do it right and live an attractive life filled with truth, joy and freedom.”
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31.