Then he goes on to say that: Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
I’m not here to tell you that the Bible says we can or can’t drink alcohol or to debate if the wine in the Bible was actually watered down or non-alcoholic or whatever. The consensus seems to be that the Bible overall would permit drinking alcohol but strongly forbids being drunk.
What I would like to examine is whether or not drinking alcohol is beneficial, constructive and for the good of others.
Is alcohol beneficial? Joshua Gowin earned his doctorate in behavioral neuroscience at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. I researched his journal articles. He points out that alcohol is the most widely used drug worldwide. He provides evidence that as one’s blood alcohol content is rising, it acts as a stimulant and then as one’s blood alcohol level is falling, it acts as a sedative or depressant. Drinking increases levels of norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter responsible for arousal, which would account for heightened excitement when someone begins drinking. Elevated levels of norepinephrine increase impulsivity, which helps explain why we lose our inhibitions drinking. Drunken brains are primed to seek pleasure without considering the consequences. Additionally, decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for decision making and rational thought, further explains why alcohol causes us to act without thinking. The prefrontal cortex also plays a role in preventing aggressive behavior, so this might help explain the relationship between alcohol and violence. Alcohol also decreases energy consumption in the cerebellum, a brain structure that coordinates motor activity, which is why it becomes dangerous to drive and why our movements become sloppy and uncoordinated. Alcohol depresses the nerves that control breathing and other involuntary actions, such as your gag reflex. When you have too much, these actions can cease entirely. People suffering from alcohol poisoning have choked in their own vomit while passed out because they have lost the ability to gag and cough. Breathing itself can stop as well. Beneficial?
- Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking. For example, performing poorly at work, flunking classes, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over.
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against doctor’s orders.
- Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking. For example, getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct.
- Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships. Getting drunk with your buddies, for example, even though you know your wife will be very upset, or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink.
- Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress. Getting drunk after every stressful day, for example, or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your spouse or boss.
I think it should be clear, even to people who ignore the Bible, that alcohol abuse is dangerous and wrong, but even with moderate drinking, the physiological, psychological and physical effects of alcohol are enough to convince me that it is not beneficial.
Is it constructive, or in other words, useful? I’ve been listening to a birthday party on the back patio of a home near us this evening. It certainly is Exhibit A as far as losing your inhibitions go. Fowl expletives, amorous rendezvous in the back dark corner of the yard, shouting and stammering around… it wasn’t what I would consider constructive – but that is the abuse of alcohol and that is my perspective. From their perspective, the alcohol is very useful. It is what has made the party happy and fun. It’s made everybody feel good. Whether or not it is constructive, therefore, can be judged differently depending on if you are in the world or in the Kingdom. If you are using it as the only way or consistantly using it as the easiest way to feel happy or relaxed, I would strongly urge you to seek professional help.
Isn’t having a beer with mates after work constructive? Building bridges and witnessing to them? It most certainly could be… so ask yourself a few questions in evaluating that. Are you friends closer to Christ because you order beer instead of Orange Juice? Have they noticed that you are in any way different to them? Has there been good fruit produced that could only have been produced by your drinking of alcohol? If your answers are yes, then it’s been constructive.
Is it for the good of others? We really need to be not thinking about ourselves and what we want as much as acting for the good of others.
The context of your alcohol consumption is an important aspect to consider. Context does make a difference. For example, dancing during corporate worship at a church service is very different to dancing at a sleazy tavern. Culturally, what disturbs me is when a youth group finishes the Sunday night service or the Friday night youth group and then hit the clubs. I’ve never seen good fruit from this, but I have seen marriage break-up and relationships break down. I’ve seen drunkenness, violence and deteriorating health. Brothers who are young in the faith or immature in their identity can easily be misled back into their old culture by deluded Christians who are trying to be relevant and fit in with the world. The fact is, we’re meant to be counter-cultural. Drinking can provide many potential stumbling blocks, but having said that, there was a situation a month or so ago where I bought a brother a cold beer at a restaurant we were at. I had a clear conscience and felt at the time that it was the right thing to do. There is no doubt that there are situations where drinking is beneficial and constructive and even for somebody else’s good. I decided decades ago that I wasn’t going to drink from that time on. It’s also not up to me to judge what is right for you. We are told though, to judge ourselves.
Why do we drink? Does it give us comfort that we should be getting in a more legitimate way? Do we need it to relax or to sleep? Do we need it so that we can get a party going and have fun? Do we need to drink it so that we feel accepted by the people around us and we want to blend in? Are we trying to escape from something by deadening our senses? Is it peer pressure? Is it because everybody else is doing it? I would suggest that your motivation to drink should be carefully thought out and if it fits into one of these categories, you should perhaps do some serious thinking and evaluating.
1. It’s expensive and therefore questionable as a stewardship issue.
2. We act impulsively, seeking pleasure because it drops our level of self control, which is a fruit of the Spirit that most of us can’t afford to drop.
3. Can we really afford to kill those brain cells? It interferes with the process of memory and new learning. Stopping alcohol intake has been shown to increase sharpness of thought.
4. It interrupts normal sleep patterns which affects energy, mood and anxiety.
5. Although it can provide short term relief when you are anxious, it usually leads to rebound anxiety which will be worse.
6. Increases the likelihood of using other substances.
7. Can be dangerous in combination with other medications.
8. It will damage your liver. Liver disease and liver cancer are a real possibility.
9. Alcohol damages your skin and your vision.
10. It has been shown that people are likely to respect somebody who doesn’t drink.
11. If you are pregnant, you are more than likely harming your baby.
12. Alcohol magnifies all those little aches because it constantly robs your body of the necessary nutrients by preventing vitamin absorption.
13. Headaches and nausea that come from drinking will be replaced by energy and zest.
14. If you don’t drink heavily, every aspect of your love life will be deeper, stronger, better and much more fulfilled according to the reading that I’ve done.
15. You’ll waste less time sitting at a bar – just don’t replace it with another time-wasting addiction… like sitting at a Playstation.
16. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
17. It can cause osteoporosis because it causes bone to become less dense and it interferes with the balance of calcium and the absorption of vitamin D, as well as increasing the release of parathyroid hormone.
18. The Bible says not to get drunk. Is that ‘Noah-drunk-lying-naked-passed-out’ drunk or is that 0.05 drunk where you’re no longer allowed to operate machinery? Where do we draw the line of where sobriety ceases and drunkenness starts? Given that the alcohol itself causes you to lose inhibitions and seek pleasure, you become less able to pull up when you should. If we never start, we’ll never cross the line.
19. The places where alcohol is consumed are usually not places that are conducive to a Christian walk or witness.
20. It is easy to misjudge where your 0.05 level, drive a vehicle and and end up with legal problems and maybe unemployment.
21. It makes you fat and causes your health to deteriorate. So do other things, but you know they don’t call it a beer gut for nothing.
22. It is highly addictive.
23. It can cause a brother to stumble.
24. If you’re causing a brother to stumble, then you’re sinning by drinking.
The less you drink, the less likelihood you will have these problems – so why drink at all? Is alcohol really something that we want to embrace as a part of the culture within the Kingdom? Christian organisations like the Salvation Army who see the effects of alcohol every day don’t think so.
So what do we do to further the Kingdom? Decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Let your conscience guide you as to what is beneficial, constructive and for the good of others.
Ever changing; His Kingdom come
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