I used my previous post in this series to condemn the sin of drunkenness. Now I want to share a few thoughts on addiction to alcohol. All drunkenness is sin, but there’s a difference between getting drunk once at a party and being a full-blown alcoholic.
I take no joy or pride in admitting that alcoholism runs on both sides of my family. So, trust me, I could write a book on the subject. Isn’t it amazing how easily one glass of wine or one can of beer can turn into decades of hard drinking? The old saying is so true: “First the man takes a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes the man.”
Many of us know all too well the incredible damage that alcohol can do to a life. That’s why we shy away from having honest discussions about the Bible making any allowances for drinking. We fear that if we give ground on having even one glass of wine with a plate of lasagna at an Italian restaurant, one bottle of beer at a July picnic, or one shot of liquor on a cold night, we will fan the flames of the already raging bonfire of alcohol addiction in this country.
Consequently, many of us end up in one of two camps. Camp 1: We try to ignore the subject outright by never talking about it. Or Camp 2: We talk about it too much as we try to get everybody to join us inside our fortress of total abstinence. Our problem, however, is that neither camp lines up with the totality of what the Bible teaches.
Is alcoholism a very real problem? Of course it is. But does everyone who drinks become addicted? Believe it or not, they don’t. Maybe your uncle Joe did. Maybe your cousin Sue did. Maybe your child did. Maybe you did. But that doesn’t mean that everyone does.
You see, in one way, alcohol is like food. When used appropriately it can be viewed as a blessing from God. It makes this difficult life a little more enjoyable. It brings pleasure to the taste buds. It can even help settle the stomach. But when it is used to sinful excess, the good turns to harm. Just as overeating creates the sin of gluttony and causes all kinds of physical, emotional, and psychological problems, drinking too much creates the sin of drunkenness and causes the same kinds of problems. Is it any wonder, then, that the Bible so frequently links the sins of gluttony and drunkenness together? (Deuteronomy 21:20; Proverbs 23:21; Ecclesiastes 10:16-19; Isaiah 22:12-13; Amos 6:3-7; Luke 12:19; 1 Peter 4:3)
And so, how should we deal with addiction to alcohol, or any addiction for that matter (food, drugs, pornography, sex, etc.)? Well, it sounds like a cliche but the cure for every addiction is Jesus. I can think of two passages that say it all. First, there is John 8:34,36:
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave to sin…Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (N.K.J.V.)
And then second, there is Luke 4:17-18:
And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
And so, we see that Jesus is the liberator for anyone is enslaved by or held captive by addiction. He is the Moses who can lead that person out of that Egypt. He is the David who can slay that person’s giant. He is the Solomon who can erect a shining new temple of holiness in that person’s life. Addiction doesn’t intimidate Him in the least. He has released scores of captives from its grip already, and He stands ready and willing to do it one more time.
Just a note to let you know I’ve been following this series, and am very impressed with the accuracy and fairness it has been presented with. I grew up in a denomination that proclaimed abstinence from the rafters. It was a very rude awakening for me when the opportunity to travel into foreign nations to assist friends serving as missionaries. Before leaving for one of these trips, we were required to sign a statement that we would abstain from alcohol and tobacco products while serving. I thought nothing of this and signed the form. But when we took of the Lord’s Supper with believers in this land, guess what they served? Yep, real wine. This forced me to dig deeper into my personal beliefs on the topic, and pretty much came to the same conclusions you have taught here. Thanks friend and God bless.
Hey, thanks for such an encouraging word. It’s kind of a controversial series. I understand that. I grew up in a Southern Baptist Convention church, received my pastoral training at a S.B.C. school, and served as a pastor in S.B.C. churches for approximately the first fourteen years of my ministry. So I know the other side of the coin. I didn’t start a non-denominational church over the alcohol issue, but I will admit that it’s a lot easier to get at what the Bible teaches on the subject in such a church. 🙂
Great series Russell, Very informative and Bibie based. Thanks. Love reading your blogs.
Dale, since you’re a guy who knows all about Mitchell county, you know that my thoughts on this subject aren’t exactly agreed upon in certain circles. 🙂 So I appreciate the encouragement. I’m just trying to tell the truth as the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, present it. Thanks for reading.