I drink beer. Let me be more precise: I love beer. I think the quote “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” is onto something.
While I love my choice libations, I am disturbed by the Church’s lack of commentary on drinking. Alcohol, like food, is a good gift from God.
Did you catch that? Alcohol is a good gift from God, to be enjoyed appropriately.
Unfortunately, the Church has one of two damaging responses to alcohol: Either we say it’s devil’s brew or we are mute on the subject.
Just briefly, because it doesn’t need to be a long discussion, nowhere in the Bible does it say drinking alcohol is inherently bad. It may be bad for some people who recognize their inability to control themselves around it, or it may be unwise for certain people to drink in certain situations. But the Bible does not condemn moderate drinking.
However, Scripture does clearly state we should never get drunk. In early college, with no guidance on alcohol other than how “evil” it was, I began drinking, and not just the casual couple beers here and there. I pounded drink after drink trying to get drunk. Why? Because at the time it seemed fun, friends were doing it with me and it was a good escape from things I refused to deal with.
As it so happens, I was engaged to Rachel at the time and she gently, and sometimes not so gently, questioned my drinking habits. I realized I had never personally questioned what I was doing. My drinking lifestyle was a cleverly crafted system of lies that only perpetuated my bondage of self-medicating.
My fiancé was the first person to challenge that lifestyle—at the age of 21. I thank God she did, but where was the Church? Why didn’t the Church help me navigate what it meant to drink well?
Since then, I’ve discovered I’m not the only one who was never given wisdom about alcohol. Too many of my dear friends who follow Jesus have serious drinking issues. Not because they are alcoholics (though some are), but because they haven’t been shown there’s another more beautiful, life-giving way to address alcohol.
The Church needs to talk about alcohol because how we handle it often reflects how we understand God. If we never touch alcohol because “it’s evil,” then our view of God is as a mere man who tells us not to do things. He’s not looking out for our joy or pleasure, but rather making sure we do what He says.
If we are on the other extreme and drunkenness is a state we commonly find ourselves in, then we abuse creation. It’s very evident that the individual who gets drunk without repentance believes their pleasure is of highest value. This leads to the ever-present idol of self. And when we worship ourselves, we abuse all other forms of creation.
Alcohol is a good thing. A nice scotch on a cold night while reading a book is heavenly. Drinking Scottish Ale for dessert is sublime. Enjoying a great wine with a sirloin at dinner with friends is simply fantastic. And abstaining from alcohol because you can’t have just one is beautiful. Ultimately, not everyone should drink. But not everyone has to abstain.
Romans 14 says: “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
When you drink, drink for the glory of God. And when you abstain, do so for the glory of God. Enjoy His creation, but do not exploit it. This is the way of Jesus.