Imbibe or Not?

AlcoholMy last post resulted in a couple of conversations about drinking alcohol. While this was not my intent, I am happy to continue the conversation.

I occasionally buy alcohol, but I never drink it. There are some stews that simply taste better when slow cooked in red wine and so I am inclined to add it as an ingredient. Of course, by the time dinner is served the alcohol is long gone. I suppose I would be considered a teetotaler, except I prefer coffee to tea. But for what the term implies, it fits me quite well—I don’t partake in alcoholic drink of any kind.

I was raised in a dry home and I raise my children in the same fashion. But this is not to say that I have never tasted or swallowed alcohol. There was a period of time, when I had reached my maturity that I did drink. My consumption was modest and I don’t believe I was sinning, and yet I chose to stop.

The conviction to abstain happened through a course of events. I was counseling a couple of men (independently of one another) who were both battling with alcoholism. Their lives were pitiful! In the midst of this I was reading a novel that chronicled the life of an alcoholic. He was equally pitiful. Then I learned of a respected pastor in a neighboring city that had gradually succumbed to alcohol abuse. Rounding off these events was a memory of my father. He once said, on the matter of drinking, “if you can give me a written guarantee that it won’t become a problem, I will drink—but since you can’t, I won’t.”

Was it the combined weight of these incidents that made up my mind? They certainly informed my decision, but the ultimate influencer was unseen. More and more, I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit that He wanted me to abstain. Believing that this was His will for my life, I chose to quit. Living dry is a matter of obedience for me.

Is abstinence the Holy Spirit’s preference for every person? I don’t think so. Throughout the Old and New Testaments there are positive references to the drinking of wine (Deut 14: 26, John 2:10). If alcohol were such an affront to God one would expect an explicit prohibition from Him. Moderate consumption seems to be an acceptable part of the holy life. However, if this approved substance is abused it becomes sin. There is no place for drunkenness in the holy life!
(Luke 21:34, Eph. 5:18, Gal 5:21, 1 Pet 4:3)

Is abstinence my preference for my children? Yes. I will use my influence to hopefully persuade my children to live as their father and grandfather have. Since I can’t write them a guarantee against addiction and abuse, I would rather they simply avoided alcohol altogether. It’s a matter of risk management in my thinking—the benefits of drinking just don’t offset the risks involved. As Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12, ESV). When my little ones reach adulthood they will have liberty in this matter, but until then I will encourage them to choose as I have.

Does my choice prejudice me against those who drink? No. I am quite comfortable when others drink moderately in my presence, and I hope my abstinence doesn’t make them uncomfortable either. This is a matter of Christian liberty, and we are free to choose as the Spirit leads us. In all things, let us live obediently to the one who owns us.

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6 thoughts on “Imbibe or Not?

  1. I could not agree more. You have put into words (quite eloquently) exactly what I have tried to tell folks when they look at me sideways because I say that I do not (and will not)drink.

    I made this same decision long ago out of a conviction that it was not the right thing for me. Does it make for some awkward social situations? Well, yes. I felt awkward at my cousin’s bachelor party clinking my glass of water with other’s long neck bottles, mugs and steins. Does it allow me to share why this was my choice and open opportunities to share my faith? Yes, occasionally so. But more often than not it just gets shrugged off by others as “another one of Jason’s quirks” :)

    Beside what I felt was a conviction of the Spirit, I have some very practical reasons, too.
    I don’t like the taste of beer (my dad taught me that a long time ago). My grandfather has told me of how his drinking could have ended his young marriage, but he was able to overcome it. I have an Uncle who is a recovered alcoholic and he has shared his struggle. SO I chose not to take the risk. I have enough bad habits. That junk ain’t cheap. :) And I can make a big enough fool out of me without any chemical enhancement…just ask my wife. ;)

    As you said, I am not opposed to others consuming. I say go ahead. It doesn’t bother me, so don’t let me lack of participation bother you. I’m not a “stick in the mud” (though I may be a little straight-laced and up-tight) I just choose to abstain.

  2. I’d make a safe bet a majority of Biblical shepherds abstain from alcohol simply because they are the standard of holy living. Better safe than sorry. It’s a marvel how big God is, because He treats every case individually and uniquely. It’s bizarre to me how I can know a person who drinks to get drunk on a daily basis but is fully functioning, yet also know a person who drinks only on NYE; always seems to have one too many and falls asleep before the party really starts. Alcoholism is one thing I don’t fully understand. I know it makes me sad though. I also agree with you about dry living not being the pat conviction of the entire Body. I am a bartender by nature.

  3. I am glad you have written on this subject. About two years ago I also felt led by the Holy Spirit to abstain from alcohol. I then discussed my feelings and convictions with my husband. We made the mutual decision to abstain together. It is amazing to me how many times people have asked me… why? What is the big deal? But I feel like this decision was many years in the making. I watched my brother battle alcoholism for many years and eventually commit suicide at the age of 38. I also have another brother that battles alcoholism to this day. Although, I have never had a problem with alcohol. I feel that I must discuss the risks with my children. Eugene, the memory of your father’s statement really hit home for me. There is no guarantee that it won’t become a problem! But my choice to abstain has given me new insight on how to discuss this with my children and to others. I am not ashamed to say that I don’t drink. Instead, I feel blessed that the Holy Spirit was working in my life, leading me to this decision.

  4. This blog really ministered to me. As a man who has had to deal with a few addictions in my life (and having been delivered by the Lord from those addictions), I don’t want to add alcoholism to that list. I grew up in a single parent household and my mother was an alcoholic. I can remember attending many family functions where alcohol flowed very, very freely. During my younger adult years I did drink, but never got to a point where I couldn’t control or remember what I said or did. Later in life, I gave up alcohol completely for a number of years. However, I started drinking again on rare occasions. But now, I wonder why? Who exactly was I trying to impress? Why did I choose to take up drinking again? Folks, I have no answer, so therefore, as I see it, I don’t need to be drinking. For me, it accomplishes absolutely nothing. So from this point on, I choose to stop drinking. This doesn’t mean that I have a problem with those who do choose to drink. That is their choice. But for me, drinking is no longer an option.

  5. Great posts and comments. I don’t drink now because some medications that I take proclude it. Others told me to just drink on special occasions (which I probably could do). I do many other things that I should not do that drinking is one that I can abstain from. I feel for others with more severe reasons and agree that not starting is the best assurance of not having issues.

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