Saturday, April 14, 2012

How Biblical Principles Answer the question: Is it o.k for Christians to engage in recreational drinking?

Ephesians 5:18 "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."

An area of great debate in the Christian world is on the matter of whether or not it is o.k. for Christians to drink alcohol.  Some will say that it is flat out wrong in all situations, while others will advocate so-called "social drinking" or what I'm calling in this post - "recreational alcohol consumption". 

I'm convinced that if we consistently apply the principles of God's word from passages like Romans 14, only one clear answer will emerge on this issue of recreational alcohol consumption and the Christian.  The above text is a command to not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation (that is, it leads to excesses in one's behavior).  Rather we are to be filled, or "under the influence" of the Spirit. 

So our question is: Is it good for Christians to drink alcohol in any amount?

Principle #1 The Lordship Principle: Will recreational drinking enable me to follow the Lord consistently in obedience?  How much alcohol does it take to impair judgment, compromise moral integrity and cloud human thinking?  As soon as one takes that first drink, the effects begin immediately.  Following Jesus Christ with a sound or sober mind is emphasized repeatedly throughout scripture. (Matthew 22:37-39; 2 Cor 10:4-5; Hebrews 12:1-2) Even a little bit of "under the influence" makes me attempt to "serve two masters" - something which Jesus says can't be done. (Matthew 6:24)  Proverbs 20:1 warns - "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise."  As Ephesians 5:18 reveals, a Christian should be "under the influence" or filled with the Holy Spirit.

Principle #2 Loving your brother principle: Will such a practice lead me to express selflessness in my dealings with others or love others above myself?  If I have alcohol, and offer it to a friend, am I really looking out for their best interest?  Habakkuk 2:15 denounces any effort in inviting my neighbor or someone that I'm supposed to care about to come and drink alcohol.  Or if I am drinking it in my own home, over time, will I be able to love others selflessly? Proverbs 23:32 warns - "At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper."  If there is even a small doubt, then that is a sign not to do it. 

Principle #3 Spirit-led Principle: Will drinking alcohol enable me to be Spirit-led or will it result in becoming self led?  This particular principle is the focus of Ephesians 5:18.  People typically drink for the purpose of achieving peace, escaping the stresses of life or "coping" with life.  But the problem is, once the alcohol has worn off, you're left with a hangover or at least a sense of feeling the pain of reality.  Paul then uses the "filling" or "under the influence of the Holy Spirit" to show how the Spirit of God can give you abiding peace, enable you to deal with stress and more than cope with life - and not have a hang-over!  Frankly, any amount of recreational use tells me that I am looking to a can, or a glass, or a bottle, rather than the Holy Spirit, to grant me peace and strength. 

Principle #4 Building up principle: Will drinking alcohol enable me to build up others and God's work, or will it lead to a tearing down?  At least six places in Proverbs, the book of Wisdom, warns about the dangers and long-term destructive effects of alcohol consumption. (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20, 29, 30, 32; 31:4)  When Noah had gotten off the Ark, his experimentation with alcohol led to disastrous results.  (Genesis 9:18-24) It shocks me how Christian leaders will actually promote "social drinking" and "recreational use of alcohol" in the name of Christian freedom. It seems no consideration is given to how it so-often "tears down" the lives of others and hinders the work of God's kingdom.  Statistics tell us for every dollar spent on alcohol in a given community, between seven to eight dollars is spent in law enforcement's efforts to control the consequences brought about by its use and abuse.  As Paul says in Ephesians 5:18 - "it leads to excess". 

Principle#5 The Faith Principle: Will drinking alcohol lead to a strengthening of faith or a harming of it?  Can it truly be said that drinking of alcohol in any amount is only for the advancement of God's kingdom and Christian faith?  Studying God's Word, regular attendance with God's people and prayer are the chief means of grace ordained by God to strengthen faith. (1 Peter 2:1-2; Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25; Luke 11)  I have yet to see one example of where the strengthening of one's faith can be directly linked to alcohol.  Overwhelmingly alcohol is shown to be more detrimental than helpful.  As the context of Ephesians 5:18 demonstrates, being led by the Spirit is under the assumption that one desires to be strengthened in their faith. (Jude 20-21) 

Closing thoughts:
By sifting this question of a Christian's consumption of alcohol through the five principles that we have studied in Romans 14, it is clear that one cannot truly justify the practice of recreational drinking while holding to even one of the above principles, let alone all five. Working through principles in tandem effectively helps people arrive at the conclusion on their own. Certainly God governs our moral decisions by clear commands. Yet, there is this second method of working through an issue by way of principles that proves equally effective.