By Carl McMurray
It seems that there are always destined to be among us certain practices and “issues” which refuse to be completely conquered. Perhaps it’s because of a continued inflow of converts needing to be taught. Perhaps it’s because we must continue to live in a world dominated by darkness. More sobering, however, is the thought that these things continue to stand as stumbling blocks because those responsible for teaching people how to be lights in the world are not giving out a clear sound. One of the practices we have in mind is “drinking” (Not necessarily drunkenness mind you, but what used to be referred to as “social drinking”). When the strongest teaching that a gospel preacher does on the matter is to explain, “I’d never drink, but I don’t see that the Bible condemns it,” then we need to be doing more studying and less listening to the lovers of the world around us.
There are at least two main areas in which the Bible condemns this practice. First, there are what I refer to as the moral arguments based upon the application of valid Bible principles. Then, there are the plain scriptural arguments that address drinking directly.
Notice Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to “abstain from all appearance of evil.” The legalists among us generally will not accept any warning unless it is absolutely nailed into the context of a specific sin. Here, however, is a direct command to “abstain,” yet the object is a general idea. Not only specific sin is to be avoided, but even the appearance of such. If this does not apply with regard to the practice of drinking, then it does not apply anywhere, because everything associated with drinking is evil. This can be shown by the following.
It Is A Drug
It makes little sense to recoil with horror from the idea of using “just a little” grass, coke, or dust, while we sit in a Bible class and calmly give our assent to “just a cold one on a hot day.” A $2 million tax-funded study during the Johnson administration identified alcohol as the most dangerous drug in the country.(1) Alcohol addicts outnumber drug addicts 10 to 1, and alcohol deaths outnumber drug related deaths 33 to 1.(2) Consider also, that doctors report 1 out of every 3 people are put together in such a way as to make them potential alcoholics.(3) One cannot know until he begins to drink whether he will be drawn into alcoholism. In 1975 (10 years ago, no less!) the number of those addicted to alcohol was estimated at 8 million(4) while those who were working with alcoholics thought the figure was closer to 15-20 million.(5) Like the reckless teen-age driver who is sentenced to spend time in a hospital emergency room so that he might see the end results of his “fun,” perhaps it would do our Pepsi drinking brethren who see nothing wrong with social drinking good to spend time with a few members of Alcoholics Anonymous so they could actually see the burns from the fire they play with. This drug has a proven detrimental effect on one’s brain, lungs, heart, liver, pancreas, small intestine, endocrine glands, sex glands, blood, and bone tissue, as well as lowering one’s resistence to infection.(6) Nothing wrong with “just a little” you say? Then you surely won’t mind if your child pops “just a few pills,” or smokes marijuana “just a little?” It reminds me of those inconsistent brethren who argue that there is no proof that smoking is harmful (as if this was the only problem), thus no reason to abstain from doing it on the porch at the church building. But they won’t let their children smoke! To play with that which has enslaved so many and has the power to master us is to ignore every warning from God on the deceitfulness of sin and the power of Satan.
It Weakens Inhibitions
Like most harmful drugs, alcohol causes one to lose his ability to reason and think clearly, though the one drinking is usually the last one to know. It is not a stimulant as so many believe, but instead simply takes away inhibitions, removes the brakes so to speak. Thus, when one would normally resist or avoid certain temptations, he instead weakens his conscience, if not silencing it altogether. This is accomplished because that portion of our brain, the frontal lobe, which controls our inhibitions is quickly affected by alcohol.(7) And we might point out that this happens long before state laws would ever recognize one as being intoxicated. The degree of reasoning power that is lost may be much or little, but it is lost nonetheless. Should a Christian sacrifice any of his ability to think clearly and deal with every situation as “wise men”? This would hardly agree with Timothy’s directions to discipline himself (1 Tim. 4:7), or with the Spirit’s admonition to be “alert and sober” as “sons of light” (1 Thess. 5:5-6). It is wrong, brethren.
The World Sees What We Deny
Alcohol has been the direct and indirect cause of the destruction of uncountable numbers of innocent lives. Every dollar gained by the government is lost multiplied times over by being poured out in policing drunks, higher insurance fees, destruction of property, rehabilitation, drying out programs, medical care, lost time from work, and the kindred costs of other crimes committed while “under the influence.” Over fifty per cent of all traffic fatalities and seventy-five per cent of single vehicle fatalities are directly related to alcohol. Keep in mind that not all of these are even classified as “drunk.” They’re just “comfortable.” Seventy percent of all divorce cases result at least partially from alcohol.(8) Twenty percent of alcoholic mothers give birth to children with serious birth defects.(9) Up to 75% of all crimes are committed by persons under the influence of this drug.(10) There is no way to put a dollar value on the immorality committed while “on” this drug, nor of the tragic results of such activity in broken homes, abused children, and birth defects caused by unthinking parents who were pumping alcohol through their veins during conception and/or pregnancy. And most of us would prefer not to consider the long range cost of scarred and broken lives (of the innocent as well as the guilty). But just a little is ok, right? Wrong! Nothing with this type of track record ought to have any place among those committed to putting “His righteousness” first (Matt. 6:33). This practice in any degree can be nothing but harmful to our influence and example as salt and lights in the world. There is some salt in serious danger of losing its flavor because of its great desire to be like the world. The foolishness of trying to justify the practice is seen in the picture of one asking another to come over and spend the evening in Bible study. The gracious host, desiring to make his visitor comfortable so that one might truly see his soul’s need in the study, meets him at the door with, “This Bud’s for you!” Is this truly the “Miller time” we hear so much about? It is wrong, brethren.
Even If You Can Control It
Because of the first reason we listed, there is a very real danger of leading others to commit outright sin in becoming an alcoholic (drunkard, Bible). Now, to some who care nothing for others, this means little, but for a Christian to engage in that which may destroy another’s life, let alone his soul, is unthinkable (1 Cor. 8:12-13).
If there were no other reasons, these would be enough. Drinking alcoholic beverages in any quantity in our society and circumstances today is sinful. But these are not the only reasons. We will look at some Scriptures plainly condemning such action next time.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 21, pp. 658-659
November 1, 1984