A member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) once sent this letter to columnist Ann Landers:
“We drank for happiness and became unhappy. We drank for joy and became miserable. We drank for sociability and became argumentative. We drank for sophistication and became obnoxious. We drank for friendship and made enemies. We drank for sleep and awakened without rest. We drank for strength and felt weak. We drank “medicinally” and acquired health problems. We drank for relaxation and got the shakes. We drank for bravery and became afraid. We drank for confidence and became doubtful. We drank to make conversation easier and slurred our speech. We drank to feel heavenly and ended up feeling like hell. We drank to forget and were forever haunted. We drank for freedom and became slaves. We drank to erase problems and saw them multiply. We drank to cope with life and invited death.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, high-intensity drinking appears to be on the rise. This is not a case where you’re home, watching Hulu, and enjoying a glass of wine or two. No, this is defined as “consuming alcohol at levels that are two or more times the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds.” Roughly thirty percent of Americans have an alcohol disorder. Binge-drinkers are 70 times more likely to have an alcohol-related ER visit. Let those last two sentences sink in. Worse still, an estimated 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year. 95,000 deaths that really don’t need to happen.
You probably don’t need me to tell you how damaging alcohol is to your body. Your heart rate. Blood circulation. Liver function. Breathing. Diarrhea. Infertility. Muscle cramps. You don’t need me to tell you that. But keep it in mind anyway.
I’ve been asked more than once, “Matt, is it okay for Christians to drink alcohol?” My answer is usually something like, “It doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself a Christian or not. Only you know if, how often, and how much, you should be drinking.”
As most of us recognize, there is a big difference between alcohol and alcohol abuse. Most people can drink moderately, or, as the TV commercials love to point out, “responsibly.” I’ll never tell someone what they can, cannot, should, or should not drink (assuming they’re of the legal age). That’s not for me to decide. Nor is it for you. The first step of Alcoholics Anonymous states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.” It’s one’s personal responsibility to decide whether or not he or she has a specific problem.
I can shed some light on what the Bible has to say about this topic. Scripture never explicitly says, “Thou shalt not consume alcohol.” Of course, it never tells the reader, “Yeah, go out and make a fool of yourself” either.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry (1 Peter 4:3).
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise (Prov. 20:1).
“Wait…didn’t Jesus turn water into wine? Doesn’t the wise Solomon say it’s okay to drink wine with a joyful heart? Didn’t the Apostle Paul encourage young Timothy to “use a little wine” to alleviate his stomach issues?” Yes, those are all true. But not once does anyone refer to drinking outside of moderation in a positive light.
Perhaps the underlying theme is self-control. What are the first things that betray you when you become drunk? Your self-control. Your cognitive functions. Your ability to make clear judgments.
So how much is too much? I have no idea. I have no idea what drinking in moderation looks like for you. If you find yourself asking a question such as, “How much can I drink before feeling buzzed?” or “What’s the legal limit?” you’re missing the point. The point is this: you know yourself. You know what it’s like to lose control. You know when you should absolutely not be driving a car. You know that although nothing bad may happen if you have too many adult beverages, you can be certain that nothing good will result from it.
I don’t drink alcohol. I can’t. If I do, lives will be ruined, starting with my very own. But that’s me. No one stopped drinking for me. No one dragged me to Rehab and to a bunch of AA meetings. I did that on my own. And I thank God every day I was able to get that chance. Because entirely too many people are not as fortunate as me.
If you are struggling with alcohol, know that you are not alone. And know that help is out there. As the program states, the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. Nothing more.
And, trust me, even a devout Christian can be labeled an alcoholic.
Even an ordained minister.
In Jesus’ Name,