Saturday, January 4, 2014

Alcohol: sinful or a gift from God?

(This post is not encouraging abusing alcohol in any fashion. It does address the legalism that attributes ideas to the Bible, that simply aren't in the Scripture -- namely that 100% abstinence from alcohol is supposedly ordained by God. Some people simply shouldn't drink period, but not becasue drinking is forbidden, but because for some individuals drinking is harmful)

About 10 years ago, when we lived in Illinois, during a unity meeting for the 3 branches of the Restoration Movement, Dr. Dull told me a personal story from his youth in Wisconsin:  When the revival preachers from TX would come to hold a gospel meeting, they would always preach against social drinking among Christians.  (Since Dr. Dull was used to seeing the Christians he knew have a bratwurst and a beer, this was of particular interest to him.)  The Wisconsin preachers in his home congregations always condemned the sin of smoking.  The TX revival preachers seemed to always have a pack of smokes in the front pocket every year they came to hold their Gospel meetings.

I'm comfortable saying, not everyone should drink alcohol.  For example, people who are under age.  Underage drinking is illegal, and young people are not mature enough; that’s common sense.
Plus, there are people with family histories/genetic dispositions, and addictive personalities that would be better off avoiding all alcohol.  That being said, to drink alcohol is never condemned in Scripture.  Drunkenness and drinking are not synonymous.  

There are ample and appropriate warnings on the dangers of drunkenness in Scriptures:  Prov 20:1 & 31:6, Isa 5:22, I Cor 6:9-10 and several more on the topic of forbidding the lifestyle of drunkenness. 

I've heard this question raised, "Isn’t one drink equal to being 1/10 drunk, therefore I’m a little drunk?"  With that reductionist mentality, don’t merely eat a flake of cracker at communion or take a sip of juice from a thimble, because then you only have obeyed with a marginal fraction.  Jesus said eat the bread and drink the cup, not nibble & sip. Also, you should avoid all cough syrups then, or morphine, or any painkillers that your doctor prescribes.  If I have an argument with my wife or another member at Church... (who hasn't) then am I violating II Tim 2:24 where we're told not to be "quarrelsome"?  Is even the hint of disagreeing 1/10th of being quarrelsome?

But, if we drink in front of non-believers won’t they reject the Faith? Or, if we drink in front of other believers, won’t they lose their faith? Jesus obviously wasn’t worried about His "testimony" being hurt by alcohol: “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Luke 7:34, ESV)

Passages in your Bible where alcohol is deemed appropriate:

Deut 14:22-27 is interesting. It says if tithing is not convenient, trade in your gifts for cash and purchase "strong drink" to celebrate: “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you. (Deuteronomy 14:22-27, ESV) “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart.” (Psalm 104:14-15, ESV)

“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” (Eccl 5:18-20)

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” (Eccl 9:7)

“Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything.” (Eccl 10:19)

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”” (Matt 11:18-19)

Also, remember, the Passover feast Jesus participated in, it used four separate glasses of wine to mark each part of the feast.

JN 2:1-11 (Jesus changed the water in to “oinos” which is the Greek word for fermented wine. John could have used the word for unfermented juice, "truxi" from the Greek word "trugao," if John intended to communicate Jesus turned the water into simple grape juice...)

“No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (I Tim 5:23)

Two things to keep in mind as we finish up:
#1. If you choose not to drink, then don’t judge those who do. Rom 14 & 15.
I’m pretty sure what hurts our “testimony” more than enjoying a glass of wine is the rampant gossip and judgmentalism many Christians are guilty of. The overreaction of some believers to abuses of drinking, or the awkwardness of not knowing how to balance this topic, leaves alcohol worthy of complete abstinence in some circles -- this is close to the same mentality behind wearing burkas.

#2ndly, over consumption, THAT, is the sin listed in the Bible. I Cor 6:9-11, Gal 5:20-21, etc.  So, don’t get drunk. When we are drunk we do hurt our testimony, and we do some pretty stupid things.

Just like any other sin, drunkenness is the misuse of something that is good.
Ha, bet you didn’t expect drinking to be in the category of good, did you?

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