Just for the record, I’m a teetotaler.
And my reasons are personal, not biblical. Although I grew up in a church that did not approve of drinking at all, I’m not sure a case can be made for that position.
Even in Scripture wine is appropriate for both celebration and health. And anybody who tries to convince me that Jesus turned water into grape juice is on a fool’s errand.
My personal reasons have more to do with the devastation of alcohol on my extended family—alcoholic grandparents, broken families and two fatal accidents. I spent one summer during college with my grandfather who was suffering from delirium tremens when he misused his medications from the VA to treat his alcoholism. It’s not pretty.
So I chose a long time ago not to go down that road. Not even by a single beer. But it’s not a standard I extend to others.
I feel quite differently about drunkenness, however.
New numbers from the Center for Disease Control indicate 1 in 6 adults in the United States binge drink, usually 4 times per month, and consume an average of 8 drinks per occasion.
The CDC defines binge drinking as more than four or five drinks on an occasion and says 90% of all alcohol consumed by young people is consumed in this way, contributing to traffic deaths, domestic violence, unplanned pregnancy, venereal disease and, of course, alcoholism.
Frankly, the degree to which even Christian young people have embraced alcohol as integral to their life style is a cause for concern if not alarm.
No wonder the Apostle Paul said not to be drunk with wine but filled with the Holy Spirit. Seriously, anyone who says a few drinks won’t affect their moral judgment has already begun to rationalize debauchery. And any Christian who first seeks solace or good cheer in a few beers has forgotten how and why to pray.
The Scripture clearly warns against drunkenness. Both New Testament lists of things that keep us from inheriting the kingdom of God include it. (See Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.) In another place we are told not even to eat with someone who is “guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler.”
There are, in fact, more warnings about drunkenness and biblical stories where it ends poorly than about almost any other sin. Here is one of the warnings:
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.
Binge drinking is not just a party game. Or a way to spend a lonely evening. It is an evil by which thoughtful people lose their judgment, their coordination and their reputations.
And perhaps their souls.