3 Things to Ask Before you Drink
This week I taught on Jesus’ first miracle that he performed at a wedding in Cana. (Click here to listen to the message.) When a wedding party ran into trouble, Jesus provided an abundance of extremely high quality wine to save the newlyweds from embarrassment and shame and display his power. I have heard several people quote this passage in John chapter 2 as justification for the Christian to drink. While that’s not the point John is trying to make, it’s interesting to notice that Jesus nor his disciples seem to have any qualms with consuming a beverage that most definitely contained alcohol (though not the same concentration as today’s wine.) But we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that drinking is best or even ok for every follower of Jesus. Here are three things you should ask before you drink. All three are taken directly from Paul’s teaching to the Romans.
I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. (Romans 14:14-19 NLT)
What do I believe?
The first question you should ask is, “What do I believe?” Am I fully convinced that drinking is ok for me? Paul says, “But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong.” Paul and Jesus both make it clear that it’s not what goes into a man that defiles him but what comes out. If I choose to drink while having even the slightest doubt that it might be wrong, I am in sin because of what is coming out of my heart not necessarily what’s going into my mouth. In this case the root problem is selfishness. The selfish person says, “Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, I will do what I desire.” This is the very nature of sin. Rebellion is reserving the right to make the final decision. Submission is yielding to God the right to make the final decision.
What do those around me believe?
The second question you should ask is, “What do those around me believe?” In our culture, changing our behavior based on those around us seems foreign, but Paul explains that it is an issue of love. “And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it.” The person that chooses to drink despite those around him shows a lack of concern for his or her family in Christ. In essence you are saying, “I don’t care what you think.” Someone under the conviction that drinking is sin will be greatly concerned, possibly anxious, for the person who has found the freedom to drink. You could even lead them into sin themselves—remember for them it is a sin. Love should be the motivating factor behind everything we do. After all, the greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. Sometimes choosing not to do something is the greatest way to show love to someone.
What does my church believe?
Lastly, you should ask, “What does my church believe?” Many churches, like RLC, recognize that drinking is an individual conviction. Therefore, they leave it up to the individual to decide on a case by case basis whether it is right for them while providing biblical guidelines to make a wise decision—kind of like I’m doing right now. However, some churches, colleges, ministries, and other organizations make it clear to their members that they believe drinking is not best. Many of these organizations will put a no-drinking policy into their church covenant, handbook, or workers manual then ask you to either agree or disagree as part of joining. In this case, you would be under an agreement that would make drinking wrong for you. Again, the issue isn’t drinking but disregard for God’s established authority and rebellion that would lead to disunity. Paul put it this way. “So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.”
So, before you decide to take another drink or say to a friend, “The Bible doesn’t say drinking is wrong,” stop and think. Ask yourself a few questions. If we could practice submission, love and respect one to another we could show the world that Jesus is real rather than fighting to prove that we are right.