A Balanced View of Alcohol (Part 2)

by May 19, 2010

Alcohol is a gift from God, given to “gladden the hearts of men” (Psalm 1o4:14). But since we are fallen creatures, we have a tendency to turn the good gifts of God into perverted idols.

About Idols

Sex is a gift from God, but it can be turned into an idol marked by lust and power.

Money is a gift from God, but it can be turned into an idol marked by greed and pride.

Alcohol is a gift from God, but it can be turned into an idol marked by drunkenness.

That’s why Paul says in Romans 13:

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Some Christians might need to abstain completely from alcohol in order to make sure they don’t walk in the darkness, and instead put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Putting on Christ means putting on his hope, as Peter reminds us: “Being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). We can either look to God’s grace for our hope, or we can look to other idols to provide it.

Where Is Your Hope?

Drunkenness is only for people who have no hope. They have no hope that life will get better, so they need a substance to make life seem better. Or they have no hope that their personality will be enough to make people like them, so they need a chemical boost to get them through a social gathering.

There are some Christians who would never think of getting fall-down drunk, but they really love the low-level buzz of alcohol, and they depend on it to get them through the week.

That’s why Paul needs to warn us against depending on substances instead of the Spirit: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). In response to the Corinthians’ flaunting of their newfound liberty in Christ through wine-soaked parties held at church, Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.” (1 Cor 6:12).

He warns them against even associating with others who call themselves Christians but are enslaved by alcohol: “I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11).

The possibility for sin doesn’t equal sin

Christians who are ruled by their desires rather than the Spirit are a danger to the body of Christ, that’s clear enough. But in this list, Paul makes some important connections. Drunkenness, sexual immorality, and greed are perversions of good things God has given us. But we would never tell a married couple they should stop having sex just because it’s possible for sex to be corrupted. We would never tell a Christian businessman that he shouldn’t make money just because it’s possible for money to lead to greed.

So how can we take that approach with alcohol alone, just because it’s possible for people to abuse it?

We are free to enjoy God’s good gifts as long as we are able to glorify God rather than worshiping the gift. But still, we need to be sensitive around people who don’t yet have that ability. That’s what we’ll explore in the next post.