Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Proverbs 20:1 Whatever you do...

The very first verse in Proverbs 20 stopped me in my tracks, and I debated whether or not to touch it, because I do not want to come off as judgmental. But it’s in God’s Word for a reason, so here it is:

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1 NIV)

The English major in me notes right off the bat that wine and beer are personified in this verse - given human attributes - as if they, indeed, have the capacity to intentionally lead people astray. It’s as if they are sneaky, not forthright in their plan to capture victims. Now, just so you know, I am not opposed to drinking per se. I will have an occasional glass of wine with dinner, and I can enjoy a beer with Mexican food. But I am not a drinker, really, because I have a very low tolerance, and I got all of the partying out of my system in college - losing my dignity in the process!

However, I have been a witness to the dangers of drinking from a young age, so that skews my thinking on this subject. I saw my wonderful father drunk too many times! In the 60’s he was considered a “social drinker,” but in hindsight, we are pretty convinced that he was an alcoholic. So, it’s possible that I carry that gene. I’m outspoken enough without alcohol - don’t need to be subject to the “mocker.”

As a young mom I followed the advice of my sister, Jodi, who told me that if her own children ever decided to drink, it would not be because they saw her doing it. I felt that was a good philosophy to model for my girls, since girls are particularly vulnerable to being victimized while under the influence! So, while my girls were in my home growing up, I never drank.

So is it wrong for Christians to drink? Well, if Jesus thought so, I don’t think His first miracle would have been turning water into wine - and the best wine of the evening at that! But we are given lots of guidance on the subject from Paul in his letters.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. . . (Ephesians 5:18 ESV)

In I Corinthians he has much to say on the subject. He acknowledges that we are free from the law in Christ, so he cautions against being judgmental. But Paul also warns us that we need to be careful that we never stumble another by our behavior, specifically, in I Corinthians, by what we eat or drink. 

Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (I Cor 8:13 ESV)

Do we not have the right to eat and drink? ... For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them... (I Cor 9:4,19)

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. (I Cor 10:23)

Paul is saying that we are certainly free from the law - but sometimes we need to give up our freedom so that someone else is not hindered. We would not want to drink in front of an alcoholic and cause him to stumble. Our freedom would be putting him in bondage. Nor would you want to tempt someone to become judgmental by drinking in front of a person who has strong feelings about alcohol. Some people are so offended by the sight of Christians drinking, they will never see Jesus past the wine glass in your hand.

Paul’s primary concern was how his behaviors affected others. His top priority was to win others to Christ. So he gave up some of his freedoms that they might be won. Is this hypocritical? No, it’s being obedient! For the overriding principle for Paul was this:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Cor 10:31)

Regardless of what behaviors we are examining, our utmost goal must be to glorify God in all we do - whether at work, at home, or at play!

It is not my intention to condemn alcohol use. However, because of my own childhood, I am very uncomfortable around people who drink to excess. It causes me to cringe inside, because I remember how embarrassed I would be by my dad when he drank. And the problem with drinking is that the first thing that goes is your judgment. So, people who are drunk never judge themselves to be drunk! 

Christians, we are free to drink. However, we need to consider when we do so whether or not someone might be stumbled - a child watching, a struggling alcoholic, or someone who may be tempted to judge. Will our witness be compromised?

When I was a brand new Christian I asked a friend if Christians could drink. I’ve never forgotten his simple response: “Yes, but I gave it up, because I’m not sure I can glorify God with a can of beer in my hand.”

LORD, help us to put the needs of others before our own, so that you might be glorified in all that we think, say, and do.  

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