Monday marked the 16th anniversary of my abstention from alcohol.
Although I don’t crave it or constantly think about it, I sometimes wish I could have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer while watching a game. It’s been 16 years! I can handle it, right? Perhaps I could, but it’s not worth the risk of reverting to old habits.
I don’t think drinking alcohol is a sin or that it should be banned, but when it comes to me and booze, there’s no such thing as moderation. For me, drinking alcohol is a sin, because I know what it does to me. Whoever said, “One drink is too many, and a thousand drinks aren’t enough,” knew what he was talking about.
Christians have debated whether believers should drink alcohol. The substance itself isn’t evil. Alcohol is a mild antiseptic. Red wine drunk in moderation has been linked to reduced risk of death from heart disease. But for some people, alcohol, even in moderation, is as good as poison. People who can’t or won’t drink in moderation (alcoholics and “problem” drinkers) should avoid it like Black Death.
Drinking alcohol isn’t inherently sinful. The psalmist tells us that God causes vegetation to grow for us so that we “may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man.” In a demonstration of his deity, Christ turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake for his infirmities.
Drunkenness, on the other hand, is a sin. The Bible warns us not to drink too much wine or gorge ourselves on meat. Both are harmful to our health and impair our judgment. In Proverbs we read that wine is a mocker and strong drink a brawler. It leads the unwise astray:
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.”
The warnings against drunkenness have in view the need for moderation and self-control. My appetite for drink was strong, and the lack of control permeated every area of my life. My appetite controlled me, weakened my resistance, and lowered my inhibitions. As Christ’s representatives on earth, we are keenly aware that others are watching, waiting for us to fall short. I was unsaved during my drinking days, but Christians also deal with alcoholism.
We are forgiven sinners living in fallen bodies in a fallen world. It will be so until Christ returns. But as much as temptation abounds, we have control over what goes into our bodies and comes out of our mouths. God warns us to avoid gossip and strife, drunkenness and gluttony, to our benefit.