Devotion – Proverbs 20

The focus of this devotion is on Proverbs 20:1.

We live in a society that is consumed with alcohol.  The best commercials on TV are beer commercials.  Every restaurant has a bar, and people at almost every table are drinking some kind of alcoholic beverage.  The social life at most parties revolves around alcohol. Drinking is part of the American way of life.  For years there has been a debate over whether it alright for Christian to drink alcohol.  Traditionally, the denomination I was a part of have believed that the best approach to alcohol, and other drugs is abstinence, avoiding them completely.  Other Christians come to the conclusion from reading Scripture that consumption of alcohol by itself is not sinful if done in moderation, and that the issue is one of liberty and conscience.  At Genesis we believe this is an open handed issue meaning that we will have people who hold various positions on the Scriptural teaching of alcohol.  Still, no matter which position one holds, everyone would acknowledge that there are dangers in liquor and some people’s lives have been wrecked.

This verse has strong things to say about people and their abuse of alcohol.  The writer says that “Wine is a mocker, and strong drink is a brawler.”  He is stating something about people who are drunk that most everyone knows.  There are funny drunks and angry drunks.  People who overindulge in the use of drink will eventually make a fool of themselves or will get into fights and skirmishes they don’t need.    He goes on to say the person who is led astray by it is not wise.  The picture here is of a whiskey bottle carrying a leash and some poor dude us just being dragged behind it, away from the good things that matter.

Believe it or not, the Bible has several passages celebrating alcohol as part of the goodness of God’s creation, and any drink or food to be accepted with thanksgiving and praise to the Creator who has given it (see Psalm 104:14-15, John 2:1-11, Proverbs 3:9-10, Deuteronomy 14:26, Ecclesiastes 9:7). On the other hand, the Bible is full of warnings about the dangers (Proverbs 23:29-35, Isaiah 5:22, Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:21).  So whether you drink or not, here are a few thoughts on the dangers and Biblical principles that should guide.

(1)Being drunk is a sin – Ephesians 5:18 teaches that God’s desire is for us to be filled or controlled by the Spirit of God.  When a person gets drunk he or she will not be controlled by the Holy Spirit, because he or she will be controlled by the drug in the alcohol.  Most people, especially teenagers, who consume alcohol, do so because they want the drug.  They want to feel lightheaded.  They want to loose their inhibitions.  They want to let the alcohol change their behavior.  The Bible is clear, God does not want His children to be intoxicated, to be influenced by alcohol.

(2)Care should be taken concerning the  importance of one’s witness – As a believer in Jesus, it is important to realize we are called to be different from the world.  In some settings having a drink with some people may enhance relationship and provide opportunity for Gospel-centered conversation.  But bad decisions with alcohol can also destroy one’s witness.

(3)Caring for a weaker brother – Most of the arguments I heard in my religious heritage focused on this issue.  While the people would agree that the Bible does not forbid alcohol consumption, they argued that drinking will wreck the faith of new Christians.  In St. Louis culture I am not sure that this is true.  That being said, we always ought to exercise Christian freedoms in such a way that we keep newer and struggling believers in mind.  At the very least, the call is for prudence (see 1 Corinthians 8, Romans 14).  The same can be said about brothers and sisters in Christ who have a life-struggle with the issue.  We should show great care not to put them in hard situations or be a source of struggle.  Rather, we should support and love these people by choosing to abstain when our consumption could hurt them.

(4)Obedience to the law – The Bible is clear that believers are to obey the laws of the land unless they order a person to disobey God’s laws.  The laws prohibit people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.  The laws (for obvious reasons) prohibit consumption of alcohol when driving a vehicle.  Whether a person is caught or not, a minor drinking alcohol is breaking the law, which means they are also violating God’s plan for their life.  A person drinking and then driving is a sin whether they are caught by earthly authorities or not.

(5)The issue of self-control as an evidence of grace – Galatians 5:19-20 teaches that one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit is self-control.  Any area of life that we cannot control demonstrates our need for greater grace and the pursuit of God in a deeper way.  This is true of alcohol, food, video games, romance novels, etc.  Anything that gains control of our lives and that creates addictions will lead us away from Jesus.

No matter where you stand on the issue of alcohol, we do need to know that there are issues, and we should proceed with care.  But we also must be incredibly careful not to fall into another very serious sin, that of legalism.  In the end, we must build our convictions based on the Gospel and hold them in such a way that we demonstrate love for God and love for others in all of our actions.

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