Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Little Sins: Drunkenness

Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, pipes and timbrels and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands... Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks,
Isaiah 5:11-12, 22
Though the prophet Isaiah pronounces woe over those who drink too much wine*, our culture almost glorifies it. Our children and teens are raised watching movies that present drunken parties as the height of fun. Much of the most popular music of today centers around themes related to drinking and partying at clubs. So who is right? Why does the Bible pronounce woe on something that seems as harmless as drinking too much alcohol?
If you look at what the Bible as a whole has to say about getting drunk, it becomes clear that God pronounces woe on those who drink too much because alcohol is a hard task master. When you look at stories like that of Lot and his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38), or Noah and his sons (Genesis 9:20-27), or even the fall of Elah king of Israel (I Kings 16:8-10), it becomes clear that falling into the trap of drinking too much alcohol can cause great destruction in our lives. But certainly our culture doesn't have to read stories from the Bible to know this. Our world is replete with examples. My own extended family has a history of alcoholism including both those who were verbally and physically abusive when drunk and those who mixed drinking and driving.

These families members of mine were not bad people, they simply fell victim to the destruction that alcohol can bring. Anyone of us, including myself can be bested by alcohol. This is why Proverbs warns us so frequently about drinking in excess. It tells us that the wise man is not taken in by liquor's many charms (Proverbs 20:1). It tells us that drunkenness leads to poverty, strife, sorrow, needless bruises, and bloodshot eyes (Proverbs 23:20-21 and 23:29-35). This isn't God's best for your life. God wants so much more for you, and alcohol has the power to steal it all away from you. There is a good chance, given my family history, that if I ever began drinking alcohol I would become addicted to it and lose control.

For that reason, and because I have an adolescent brother and other teens at my church who I hope look up to me, I have chosen not to drink at all. The potential positives that could come from me drinking in moderation are so very few and the potential negatives so very great, that it simply is not worth it. I urge you to give alcohol a wide berth in your life. Perhaps Ephesians 5:18 says it best, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery [excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures]. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." Those of us who are in Christ have been set free from sin, so don't allow yourself to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). And those of you who have yet to surrender to Christ will never find what you are looking for at the bottom of a bottle. So again I urge you...find fulfillment in Christ, not in alcohol.
For further reading...
* In case you were wondering the Bible does not come right out and teach that drinking alcohol at all is a sin. In fact, it clear from Scripture that Jesus and other laudable Bible characters drank wine. Although it has often been asserted that this wine was not fermented like ours is today, I know of no textual or historical evidence to back this up. Perhaps the fermentation process was different, but it was still fermented. However, as has been demonstrated the Bible clear teaches that getting drunk is a sin, and one that has disastrous consequences. Thus, for the reasons outlined above, I encourage all Christians to consider abstaining from alcohol altogether.

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