Yesterday I wrote a blog asking the question “Is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol.” I had no clue that it would be shared and read by so many people. What an honor that so many would read it. Due some godly feedback, however, I would like to shed some light on my personal preferences and convictions on the matter.
As I wrote yesterday, I am not a drinker. I really never have been and I do not ever see a time in the future where I ever will be. It is possible that if you read my blog yesterday without knowing me that it would have been easy to walk away from it thinking that the only reason that I have chosen not to drink alcohol is because I do not like the taste. However, there are many other and more important reasons than that. I would like to share four of them with you, and if you are a Christian, I would ask for you to think through some of these reasons with me.
- I do not want to offend my brother (I Corinthians 8:13):
Paul told the believers in Corinth “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful . . .” While drinking alcohol may be lawful for me, in the context in which I live, I know how divisive it can be. I would rather not drink and cause no one to stumble than to drink and cause someone to stumble in their faith because of my freedom. The fact is: we live in a different culture and context than 1st century Jerusalem. We must be sensitive to the climate in which we live. My brothers are too important to me. My witness is too important to me. I would never want to be one that causes disunity within the body. Drinking may cause disunity, but I have never known abstinence to cause it. I prefer to err on the side of the latter.
- I have seen the destruction it can cause on families (Proverbs 20:1):
My mother grew up in a home where her father was a drunk. He abused not only his own body, but also my grandmother’s. This is an all too familiar story for many. In nearly 14 years of ministry I have seen it first hand as well. While people can be abusive without drinking, the fuel of alcohol has often aided in abuse and complete dismantling of households. It is a horrible sight to see. If there was no alcohol, I believe there would be less abuse and less family problems. People are still going to be people, but I do not see any reason to add fuel to the fire. There are few things worse in ministry than having to deal with the devastation that can be left because of the abuse of alcohol in a family.
- Being an elder, I have been called to be above reproach (I Timothy 3:1-7):
As a pastor, two of the qualifications for the position are to be, “above reproach” and “not addicted to wine.” Being an elder is a high calling; there are higher standards. For me part of being above reproach is not only not drinking alcohol but not even having any in my home. I would hate for a member of the church to come to my home and see that I have a wine cellar stocked to the brim. To be above reproach means that there should be no valid accusation of wrongdoing that can be made. A person in my position must take this into account. The reality is that there are often assumptions made about a person (whether those assumptions are right or wrong) when you see them with alcohol. I must be above reproach, and one way that I can do that is by not drinking alcohol. To “not be addicted to wine” is not just simply another prohibition either. An elder must not have a reputation as a drinker. He must always be ready to make clear judgment, and drinking alcohol can easily impair that judgment if one is not careful.
- I believe there is wisdom in creating safeguards:
There is a well known proverbial saying that states, “What one generation does in moderation, the next will do in excess.” For my family one safeguard that we have to help prevent drunkenness is to not drink at all. When Lot set his tents close to the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, this was his first step toward his later downfall. Was it wrong for him to put his tents there? No, but the next time we hear from him he is in the town enjoying all that the cities had to offer. This is my point about alcohol. While the Bible does not prohibit all alcohol consumption, wisdom tells me to create safeguards. I believe it would simply be better to create the safeguard of abstinence than to end up looking up one day from a bar stool, hammered, and wondering what happened. This is not to say that everyone who has a sip now and then is a dunk, but for me wisdom says do not give Satan even a foothold to take me there. For the same reason that I would not take another woman out for dinner (because of what it would look like or possibly lead to), I choose not to drink. There would be nothing more enjoyable for Satan than to see a godly man fall into sin. The Lord gives us freedom for sure, but he also gives us wisdom. For me, wisdom, preference, and personal conviction say to abstain.
While I may not be a teetotaler by name, I certainly am in practice. I see the practical benefits of it for me and my witness. I would rather not offend anyone by possibly drinking. I know the harm that alcohol can cause . . . and it is deplorable. I must remember my calling, and that calling sometimes means suppressing your personal freedom for the sake of others, and I am happy to do so. I believe there is wisdom in abstaining from alcohol in this day and age. While not everyone has to agree, for me, this is what I believe is right and best.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell