In my last three posts, I’ve been pushing pretty hard against some common misconceptions about what the Bible says and doesn’t say about the consumption of alcohol. On the whole, I’ve advocated a fairly positive view of beer and wine, trying my best to stick closely to the biblical text. Loads of other issues of application have been set aside to focus our energies more on what the Bible says and means. After all, before we can apply the text, we need to interpret it, and sound interpretation reveals that alcoholic beverages are a blessing to be enjoyed in moderation and drunkenness is condemned as a sin.
In this post, I’d like to swing my emphasis in the other direction and drive home that last part: drunkenness is a sin.
I’ve seen a growing tendency among younger evangelicals to celebrate their freedom without discipline or a cool fear of alcohol abuse. This young, restless, and slightly inebriated pack of passionate libertines are doing some great things to further the kingdom. They’re feeding the poor, challenging tradition, and planting authentic churches—I mean, missional communities—in inner cities. There are many things I love about this crowd. Therefore, in love, let me challenge you: don’t rape God’s good creation haphazardly and belittle the name of Jesus you’re seeking to promote. Yes, the Bible says more about the misuse of wealth than the misuse of alcohol, but don’t be idiotic and think therefore that God doesn’t care about the latter. He does. Read Isaiah 5:11-12 and 22; study Isaiah 28:1-8. God cares about the poor (Isaiah 1:17-18, 23; 5:8); He cares about the misuse of wealth (Ezek 16:49). He also cares about your sobriety. And those poor people you’re trying to reach could use a bit of that cash you’re blowing on cases of Mendocino Ale to quench your liberty.
Again, I’m convinced that the Bible promotes the consumption of alcohol (and food, and cars, and clothes, and…) in moderation. But enjoying alcohol in moderation takes discipline, and if you’re young, there’s a good chance you don’t have it. Sorry to be blunt, but I’m dumbfounded by the lack of self-control among younger people, including Christians. If I had a nickel for every student that showed up late to class, I’d be a rich man and could actually afford Chimay instead of Coors Light in a can. Late assignments are ubiquitous, excuses bloat my inbox like spam, and getting students to stay awake in an 8 o’clock class is like pulling teeth with slippery pliers. Pornography is rampant, video games are mastered (a rare but misplaced instance of disciplined activity), and movies are consumed like sunflower seeds at a ballpark. This next generation of Christians has many things going for it. You care about people, less about money, and you’re eager to go to the hard places to bring people to Christ. You’re authentic, zealous, and love Jesus—but you’re undisciplined. Yes, this is a broad-brushed statement and intentionally so. Surely there are plenty of older undisciplined Christians out there, and perhaps a few disciplined twenty somethings. Regardless of age or stage or theological persuasion, if anything in this paragraph has hit home, then stay away from alcohol. It’ll destroy you. Only people with self-discipline should consume it.
And then there’s the trendiness of drinking. Few things annoy me more than Christian trends. Enjoy a drink; it’s okay. But don’t act like some 15 year-old homeschooled kid who got invited to his first high-school party. “Dude, I had too much last night after Bible study” isn’t funny. It’s immature, and it’s sin. In saying this, I’m actually advocating for a high view of alcoholic beverages. C.S. Lewis said that one of the sins of drunkenness is that it fails to appreciate the goodness of the drink. You race it down to satisfy an undisciplined craving and miss the full-bodied blessing of it. An alcoholic’s palate is dull. The addicted consumer bypasses the tongue targeting only the throat. But wine and beer are the summit of drink, the crown of food that God has created. Treat it with respect. Drink it slow and thoughtfully. Avoid drunkenness like the plague. A good glass of Pinot Noir is celebratory; it doesn’t belong in the hands of an undisciplined 25 year old playing video games in his mom’s basement. Belgium ale is strong and complex. Savor it, sanctify it, and let it meditate on your palate. Give glory to God, not just to your thirst, when enjoying the blessing of God’s rich creation.
That last line is worthy of an entire post. A few days ago I suggested that “Like marital sex, alcohol is not just allowed—as if it was a naughty thing that’s okay from time to time—but is actually promoted as a symbol of God’s blood-bought material and spiritual blessings.” Some of the feedback I received was that I should expand on that idea. So stay tuned. My next post will explore the blessing of alcohol and some theological reasons for drinking.
P.S. Plenty of caveats are in order after that post! For the record, we homeschool all of our kids and belong to a missional church plant.