Monday, July 21, 2014

Too Much of a Good Thing?

"Everything in moderation" is a piece of wisdom we've all heard many times. If you haven't, welcome to the wisdom club. Too much of anything is bad for you. Too little as well. Take oxygen for example: too much and you get cell damage, problems with the lungs, and seizures ( Too little and … well … you die.

Most commonly that piece of wisdom focuses on not having "too much" of something. Don't believe that too much of something is hazardous? Outside of the oxygen reference above, have too much prune juice and see what happens. Or, have too much cheese and see what doesn't!

This wisdom is found across cultures, countries, and even religions. The bible makes reference to moderation in many areas. Actually, most things considered "sin" in the bible are just taking things to an unhealthy extreme. What is lust? Natural attraction on steroids.

There is one area I want to focus on in this article: alcohol. It is a topic of much discussion in the church, and there are people on both sides of it. In America, there is a serious problem with alcoholism. When it comes to discussions concerning legalizing marijuana, the harmful effects are often compared with the harmful effects of alcohol.

What are some of the things the bible says about alcohol?

"The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard …" (Isaiah 24:20a NKJV)

"Thus says the Lord God: 'You shall drink of your sister's cup. The deep and wide one; You shall be laughed to scorn and held in derision; it contains much. You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, the cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria. You shall drink and drain it, you shall break its shards, and tear at your own breasts; for I have spoken,' says the Lord God." (Ezekiel 23:33,34 NKJV)

"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly." (Luke 21:34 NKJV)

"Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness …" (Romans 13:13a NKJV)

"But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard …" (1 Corinthians 5:11a NKJV)

"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit," (Ephesians 5:18 NKJV)

"For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, …" (1 Thessalonians 5:7,8a NKJV)

"For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles - when we walked in licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries." (1 Peter 4:3 NKJV)

Apparently, quite a lot. It is such verses as the above, and the affects of alcoholism on families and individuals touted in the media, that the church uses to condemn ANY drinking whatsoever. But is the condemnation of alcohol biblical?

I have a great pastor. One of the great things about him is that he puts up with the likes of me! As I've mentioned previously, I like to poke a stick at things. One time he was mentioning in part of a sermon that, according to science, we all had a little bit of Neanderthal in us. I texted him after that sermon asking him, "Does that mean Adam and Eve were Neanderthals?" (He never responded.) He is a fastidious teacher/preacher. He has often said that you must look at scripture in the context in which it was written, and to not add meaning that the writer did not intend. He is also not afraid to condemn alcohol from the pulpit based on the destructive qualities it has on families (his family in particular). I say those two ideas are in conflict with each other.

Alcoholism is a destructive thing in our society to be sure. But you can't use the bible to condemn it. The bible does not condemn drinking: it condemns drunkenness. And what is drunkenness? Drinking that is not in "moderation". Excessive.

"And put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite." (Proverbs 23,2 NKJV)

"Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags." (Proverbs 23:20,21 NKJV)

"Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness …" (Ezekiel 16:49a NKJV)

"The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'" (Luke 7:34 NKJV)

As is shown in the above verses, gluttony, or overeating, is also a sin. In fact, in the bible it is on the same footing as drunkenness. Yet I've never seen a church who shunned pot luck dinners.

Once, at a men's advance (or "retreat"), a group of us went out to dinner at a local steakhouse. We had a rather long table with guys on both sides. I sat at the end. As the waiter went down one side of the table taking drink orders, he was told, "Coke", "Coke", "Diet Coke", "Pepsi. No Pepsi? Okay, Coke", "Iced tea", "water", "water", etc. He got to the guy across from me who ordered in a similar manner. He then started up the side I was on with me. I said, "I'll have a 'Corona'." The guy across from me asked me, "You're ordering a beer?!?" I said, "Yes. Beer and steak go well together." He turned to the waiter and said, "Can I change my order?"

Culture has a major impact on how the church handles itself. In places where the water isn't the greatest, wine and beer are preferred due to the sterilization that occurs during processing. We in America don't have that concern. But the church shouldn't add to scripture what wasn't intended. You can preach against alcohol in light of drunkenness, but don't condemn.

Like I like to say, if you consider one beer drunkenness, than you have to consider that small order of fries gluttony.

Moderation is the key to everything.

© Emittravel 2014

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