The Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Consume Any Strong Drink… Except Coffee

“A promise made, is a promise to be kept”
~ Mother of Princess, in one of many versions of Frog Prince ~

About a year ago, or so, I promised a friend I would write a blog post about wine and strong drink, from a biblical world view, as I understand my Bible in plain English, minus any constitutions, opinions, condemnations or endorsements. Just the simple reading of God’s Word on the topic.

I went to great lengths and eventually had what I thought was a post worthy of sharing. And that’s when it happened, and I still don’t know how or why, but it all disappeared without a trace of it. I have around 100 drafts saved–some that will never see the public space, and some that I will return to eventually–but I can’t recall many times when a post simply disappeared into thin air, besides the one I mentioned in my previous post, and this one.

Of course some would declare it was God’s intervention, that the post was not meant to be published, while others would be as confident that the devil did it, not wanting people to know the freedom that comes with truth. I think it just happened, with neither angels or demons interfering, because technology is quirky and I am human. Be that as it may, after all that writing and it disappearing, I couldn’t bring myself to rewrite the whole thing, at least not right away, because my brain tries hard to recreate what I just wrote and it gets too frustrating.

Now, a year or so later, I am thinking about this topic again and remembering my promise to a friend… To be honest, in a way I am not in the mood to open this can of worms right now, with such strong views on both sides of the argument; both backed by Bible verses and well-meaning arguments, but I recognize that as me wanting to be in everyone’s good books…. And playing in my mind are the words of Princess’s mother, in Frog Prince,  “A promise made, is a promise to be kept”….

wine and coffee

I will start by sharing from two well-written blogs on the topic–one with which I disagree, and the other which expresses my views well. In the case of the former, I appreciate the gentleman’s ‘tone’ and the heart that comes through.

In his post, ” A Caution for Every Christian That Drinks Alcohol”, Nathan Rouse is careful not to blast Christians who choose to consume alcohol, and he doesn’t call having a drink sin. In this he shows grace. His tone, all around, comes across as compassionate, while encouraging believers to think twice about where and how they drink. He condemns drunkenness as sin, as the Bible also states, and with which I also agree. However, he goes on to challenge drinking in public and joking about it carelessly.

Nathan writes: “The often overlooked sin that is rearing its ugly head are Christians displaying their love and consumption of alcohol to those around them in public and on social media, when there are many around them that struggle with this temptation and addiction.”

And a bit later he writes, “We sin against other Christians and “wound their conscience” (as well as sin against Christ) when we openly act in a way that would cause them to stumble.”

With no desire to be critical–especially since Nathan’s heart is not on the attack–I can’t agree with this view that it is okay to drink, but not in public. My struggle with this presentation of ‘right and wrong’ about drinking is that it collides with the example of Christ. Jesus did not drink in hidden and private places; He was who He was, everywhere He went, and people saw Him drink. Otherwise He would not have been labelled as a’glutton and winebibber’ for ‘eating and drinking’, in contrast with John the Baptist who ‘did not eat’ and ‘did not drink’ and was said to have a devil. The problem in the minds of people, it seemed, was that neither John (through abstinence) nor Jesus (through moderate consumption) met their ‘standard’ and therefore they didn’t measure up. (Sound familiar?) But clearly Jesus didn’t hide His glass of wine. If no one had seen Him drink, He would not have been compared in contrast with John the Bapstist, and He also would not have endorsed their claims by saying that He did, indeed, come ‘eating and drinking’.

Luke 7:33-35 (NKJV) 33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating (bread) and drinking (wine), and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is justified by all her children.”

To say that in this area we cannot trust the example and behaviour of Christ doesn’t sit right with me. Jesus went further and made wine at a wedding. And, no, it wasn’t grape juice. That’s a silly argument that requires a fair bit of religious acrobatics to support. So I’m not buying it. In John 2:10 the Master of the wedding–or the wedding planner–calls the bridegroom apart and says, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” It’s an obvious statement that ‘when the guests have well drunk’ they will be too inebriated to realize they are being served the cheaper wine. Grape juice doesn’t require having had a lot to drink in order to miss the detail of it now being ‘no name brand and watered down grape juice’ versus Welch’s. These are common sense realities, not something that requires much explaining or studying or twisting the Bible. Jesus drank wine. And Jesus made wine. In public.

The second article is What Does the Bible Really Say About Alcohol?, by Preston Sprinkle, is also a worthy read. In it the author writes from a very ‘unadulterated, take the bible at face value’ view and incorporates some common sense to the reasoning:

“If Christians want to forbid all alcohol consumption to avoid drunkenness, then to be consistent, they should also avoid making a lot of money to guard against the crushing sin of materialism and the misuse of wealth.”

And, might I add, we should then also forbid the eating of food, seeing as gluttony is a rather substantial problem in the church. And, to fully understand gluttony, do a word study on it–in biblical terms–or simply look up a dictionary definition. Gluttony isn’t just about overeating. We have created, in some cases, entire societies and cultures of gluttony while carefully avoiding and even religiously condemning the consumption of alcohol. Religious leaders, addicted to food, slowly kill themselves over a period of years and die ‘saved’, with no worry for their souls from those around them. A few young people make dreadful choices one night, drink too much, crash and die on the way home, and their salvation is not only questioned; they are openly condemned to hell with no room for a possibility of their salvation. There is something wrong with this way of thinking. But that’s another blog post. Or book.

I am against drunkenness. I don’t see how that is godly and Christlike any more than the worship of ‘perfect food’ and living on ‘2o course meals’, or otherwise living materialistic lives. I also don’t see how drunkenness is less godly than these aforementioned sins. In all things, my Bible tells me, we are to live temperate lives. In all things we are to walk in love and grace. Yes, we are to be careful not to offend the weaker brother, but there’s a whole lot of ‘bully big brothers’ (and sisters) out there crying ‘protect me from stumbling… don’t have that wine… don’t wear that dress… don’t do anything that makes me stumble… take care of me… me… me.”

That’s manipulation, plain and simple, and selfish to boot. And it isn’t about struggling or stumbling; it is about religious control and immaturity. Become a man deeply rooted in Christ, and a woman so lost in Him that you don’t need babysitting any longer. Abstain if that is your desire, but be mature enough to not judge everyone around you. My husband has not had a swallow of alcohol in his life, and yet he reminds me to have my half glass of red wine, from time to time, when my I have digestive issues, because he has seen the difference it makes in my gastric health. (What’s that verse by Apostle Paul again? Something about a little wine to help with digestion, or something like that?) For my husband abstinence is a quiet and personal conviction that requires no pampering from fellow believers. And our second son made the same ‘vow’ of his own accord, as a young man of about 12. Yet neither one feels the need to judge others for having a drink, or for others to abstain to accommodate their convictions.

On the other hand, to those genuinely struggling, I am sorry that alcohol has become the thing you turned to in order to self medicate and get through life. I think we both know that your problem is not alcohol, but a deep vacancy and terror of looking inside at the loneliness, rejection, failure, wounds and whatever all resides deep in your spirit. I have friends who have been in your place of struggle and it is hard. They say alcohol was never their problem; it was their escape. Like my friends, you can be free. And if the presence of wine or strong drink causes you offence or struggle, good friends will be sensitive to you; just ask. True friends will respect your struggle and honour you when you come to dinner.

But don’t stop there. Find someone who is willing to (figuratively) hold your hand while you look deep inside your wounded soul, and find healing. You may never be okay around any form of alcohol, and that’s not the end of the world. But to simply remove it, and find ways to ‘overcome’ or ‘resist’ without finding deeper purpose and hope, robs you of full life.  Jesus came to give you abundant life and being a slave to something–whether actively indulging, or spending every day avoiding it–is not abundant life; that is bondage.

Heaping man-made rules on people that trump the example of Christ, is not also bondage, and is adamantly condemned by Jesus in Matthew 23. We are not more holy than Christ, and to tell anyone that His example was not godly is a sad day in the world of Christianity. We are called to authentic living, representing the Gospel of Jesus, not religious excellence and image. It is the same Apostle Paul who challenges us to not offend the stumbling brother, confronts an unauthentic Peter in Galations 2: 11-14, because that lack of authenticity misrepresent Jesus and the Gospel.

Finally, lest anyone should walk away saying “Trudy promotes drunkenness”…  I don’t. I promote temperance, Christ-likeness, and holy living. As Christ followers we need to care for those who truly are weaker, and be mindful of our bodies as a place where the Holy Spirit dwells. This is done through relationship with God and people, and through transparency,  not through hiding in the closet with a glass of wine–or a bottle, as the case may be–while presenting as an abstainer, or (alternatively) making a list of rules and judging the Christ-likeness of fellow believers by them, rather than by the example of Christ.

Whether you walk away with a strengthened resolve to never touch wine, or whether you are sipping the final drops from the glass you had in your hand while reading, give God the glory and honour Him with your choices. Extend grace to your brothers and sisters in Christ with differing views. And love all like Jesus did.

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger