To Drink Or Not to Drink, Is that Truly the Question or An Excuse?

by Pastor Lee Hemen
July 2, 2008

Recently, on one of the web blogs someone asked if Christians felt it was okay for you to drink as a Christian. After reading post after post that tried to make all kinds of excuses as to why these folk thought it was perfectly okay to drink in bars or taverns, but not get drunk as a believer, they failed to address the real issue here. So, I will…

Here is the problem so many dance around here: If you have to make an excuse as to why or why not do something, then what does that tell you about it? While the Scriptures were written during a time when alcohol was seen as a part of the meal, today it is seen in our society as a part of having “fun,” of being hip or a way to relax. Why does a Christian need to relax, have fun, or make excuses this way? And for what… the ability to drink booze in a bar? If even one of those who make excuses were involved in an automobile accident after only having a “few” and having some enjoyment with fellow “Christians,” what happens to their witness of Christ then? To your witness as a drunk behind a wheel?

I was raised in a denomination that did not see any problem with drinking on Saturdays and showing up on Sundays. With the same mouth the night before that they were sopping down booze in a bar and getting tipsy, they now were trying to show their godliness by reciting their prayers to God. While my folks were hardly ever drunk, their actions taught me what it meant to be a Christian hypocrite. Alcohol is a drug in our day and is not seen as a part of the meal. Wine was seen as a blessing of God and a food crop. Relatively few in our day see it this way. And if you do, you do not need to go into a filthy dirty ungodly atmosphere like a tavern or bar to enjoy a good wine. Eating a few wings in a bar does not excuse it as a meal either. And while Jesus drank wine with a meal, He never drank whiskey, beer, gin, tequila and other hard liquor. In fact, public drunkenness or drinking hard alcohol, like the pagan ungodly Romans did during the time of Jesus, was seen as one of many reasons that these pagans were ungodly by devout God-fearing Hebrews.

A pastor friend of mine at one time sold air purifiers for taverns and bars. He had to go into these places during the daytime to install and sell them. He related to me, “Lee, few folks would enter into any of even the ‘better’ of these places if they had ever seen them in the light of day.” They were dirty, unkept, unclean, and filthy places. He quit selling them after being called of God into the ministry. We are called to be the salt and light of the world, not the dirt and filth of society and to make excuses as to why we should be able to do whatever the world does as well.

I doubt seriously that we can make the excuse that Jesus did it so we can too. Not only is that tacky, it is ungodly reasoning. Why then do you not only wear leather sandals, a robe, under robe, and a sash that you use to sleep in at night as well? And if you truly believe this silliness, then why are you not constantly on the move, sleeping out in the open even in the winter, and telling everyone you see about the gospel? Come on, you know you do not do any of these things. You are simply trying to make the childish excuse of your ungodly actions by saying, “Jesus did it too and so it must be okay!”

Please, while Jesus may have gone into a tavern to witness, we do not find Him doing so even though they did exist in some of the regions He visited. I do not see Him turning to His disciples on a hot dusty dry day and like John Wayne saying, “Come on boys, lets go into this filthy worldly place and have a few cool ones to relax and witness about the holy things of God!” While He went into the homes of “sinners,” ate with publicans (tax collectors), and those who were seen as prostitutes, He did not frequent places of ungodliness such as brothels, bars, pagan temples, and taverns to have fun and eat buffalo wings.

Just my own thoughts…

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “To Drink Or Not to Drink, Is that Truly the Question or An Excuse?

  1. room2blog

    Ya ok,

    you have a very good point. Drinking alcohol to get drunk for “kicks” is way of the mark and shouldn’t be a Christian’s behavior. Other than that, I highly disagree with many of your opinions.
    I don’t believe that drinking alcohol per se is wrong. I like a glass of wine with a good dinner. I like a beer or two while watching soccer (or even three if the game goes into overtime). I appreciate the time I spend with my friends (Christians and Nonchristians) in pubs, in the park having a BBQ, at the lake… Sometimes we have a beer while hanging out, while talking about politics, soccer, philosophy, religion and many other things. Sometimes one or more of us chose not to have a drink today. Sometimes I talk about my faith, sometimes I fall short of standing up for what I believe in. The thing about it is, it’s not about the beer & the “unworldly, filthy” places we hang out at (there are obviously some pubs & clubs I would choose not to visit, anyhow). It’s about spending time together and loving & appreciating the people, some of which I have known for years and went with me through some challenging and rough times. I pray that my behavior makes a difference in the circle of my friends. And I’m not making any excuses for it. Sometimes I miss the mark and make a mistake, even though I don’t aim for them, but if I do I can stand up for it and bring it before God.
    There is nothing wrong with beer & wine and even Whiskey, Cognac and Schnapps can be consumed for enjoyment (the reason that there is none of that stuff in ancient times is simply, that producing distilled alcoholic beverages is a little more complicated than producing beer & wine). Proverbs 31:6 even tells us to “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.”
    But alcohol can be a dangerous drug and just like many gifts God has given us it can be corrupted and abused. Drinking alcohol implies a responsibility to be careful. I’m not to drink more than I can handle. I’m not to drive after drinking. I’m not to consume alcohol at work. I’m not to persuade others to drink more than is healthy.
    Some people chose not to drink any alcohol at all for various reasons. Some just can’t handle their liquor, some don’t like the taste, some abstain for health reason, some for religious, some are dry alcoholic, some work among alcoholics. There is obviously nothing wrong with that and as a Christian blogger (http://branthansen.typepad.com/letters_from_kamp_krusty/) wrote: “Yes, I realize there are good arguments to be made — deep, theologically profound arguments — but I still say it’s not a sin to not drink wine..” But it’s wrong to make this attitude a universal standard or even implying a moral superiority.

  2. I’ve got to disagree with you here. Here’s a point I think you should consider:

    Cultural conditioning. Our Christian predecessors have taught us a lot of things that are unbiblical. For example: you can’t wear makeup and you must always wear a dress. I think what you’ve incorrectly labeled as “excuses” are actually folks trying to determine if what their peers and leaders are saying is simply preference or actual biblical truth. It’s an important part of our faith, this aspect of daily questioning our beliefs. Without this kind of questioning we would have never had the Reformation. It’s sad to see folks stop growing in Christ and just settle in to what they’ve been fed their whole lives.

  3. PastorBlastor

    Dustin, I am not sure I follow your reasoning here. Perhaps this will help…

    It seems to me that there is a passage that says that “everyone did as he saw fit.” I suppose you can live your faith that way and continue to make excuses with your actions. (You do not need words to make excuses.)

    When anyone has to say that American Christians have to make justification for not drinking, I have to laugh. Jesus indeed witnessed to “sinners,” which I already covered if you read my post, however He never ever purposely went into a tavern or bar for fellowship and fun and to have a few. You are still forgetting that wine in Jesus’ day was not seen in the same way as drinking alcohol is now. People go into a bar to have “fun” and to “drink” with their buddies. To try and equate drinking wine with a meal, which Jesus did, and the drinking in a bar for fun and “fellowship,” is very poor worldly theology.

    While we all can cite all kinds of “examples” of folks who wandered into a bar for a soda and witnessed to someone, it is rare and the pastor or Christian who did, did not go into the bar for fun and fellowship to have a few, God can use the moment. To say He will use our propensity to excuse our ungodly habit of frequenting barrooms is hilarious.

    I believe this is the main reason why you do not see a true revival in America today. You see programmed churches and worship that tries to make you feel good about your actions, but little resemblance to actual holiness. It was for this reason God told the writer of Chronicles, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-15) Perhaps we do not see the work of God reviving His people because His people are too busy getting artificially buzzed in so many other manufactured ways instead? This why what other Christians in other nations are doing in this regard is not the issue here. Here in America, we need a true return to the Lord. Making up reasons why we should be allowed to enter a bar without being judged by fellow believers is a great way to become distracted to the real issue of ungodliness that permeates the Christian community here.

    As a believer you certainly have a choice to decide if you are going to drink in a public place or not, but what you do when you say you are a believer also allows your fellow Christians the scriptural right to judge your actions and the worth of your faith. I find few great men of God, or great revivals of the Lord begun by witnessing in bar rooms as they belted back a few with the boys. And why is it that when an actual revival does begin in a nation, what usually closes or suffers first? Bars and taverns. Gee, I wonder why? This occurred in nearly every nation where revivals took hold.

    Again, just my thoughts…

    Thank you for your comments!

  4. room2blog

    I think you’re mixing up different things here. You talk about drinking and not drinking but equate the consumption of alcohol with the visit of “filthy, unworldly” places. Additionally you make it seem, like it’s about the alcohol not about the fellowship with good friends. In a lot of cases this might be true but you cannot generalize that assumption. Apart from that I cannot support your view on bars & pubs. I’ve never been to an American bar, but in Germany bars are not necessarily shady places where borderline alcoholics go to get their level and ogle at the few (but obviously immoral) women… maybe it’s a cultural thing. In Germany there’s a difference between enjoying one or two beers and “belting back a few”. Many Americans have told me that Americans don’t make that distinction and drink just to get drunk.

    I find the implied causal relation of what you deem to be “worldly” behavior and revivals somewhat disconcerting. There is so much more to godly behavior that’s wrong in western society than pubs, bars & alcohol. The USA & EU are actively oppressing the Third World, responsible for the majority of the CO2-pollution and the current US-government is leading an illegal war in Iraq. With your logic, this could just as much be a reason for God not granting a revival. The way I see it revivals are God’s gifts and he grants them by grace, not because of our ethical merits.

    Maybe we should not focus on great revivals, but strive for an authentic faith in Jesus and meet the individual (be it a believer or a nonbeliever) with open and honest hearts and love.

  5. The problem is not drinking alcohol. The problem is where you drink it and why you drink it and the excuses you have to make in order to reason why you should drink it. And this especially holds true for Americans who see booze as a means of enjoyment in order to get drunk and not as part of a meal. Here in the USA, taverns and bars are rather seedy places. For American Christians to say they not only drink but actually want to go into places like this for “fun” and “fellowship,” smacks of hypocrisy.

    While Americans see their faith as something they are to act out in every area of life, few Europeans regularly do. Therefore, Americans tend to be more “conservative” and vibrant in their faith practice and why European churches are dying and struggling. An interesting story that is kind of related to this subject is about the English Baptist preacher C. H. Spurgeon. He decided to accept an invitation to preach in South America, however, he loved big old cigars and smoked like a chimney. Many Christians did back then and it was accepted, but when he found out that Brazilian Christians viewed it with disdain, he immediately quit and did not smoke again.

    I find your myopic world view rather “offensive” that the USA actively oppresses the Third World, when in fact it is America that ends up sending most of the aide, help, and assistance to the Third World. What did Germany do recently for the Third World? Buy them mosquito nets? In fact countries like Russia, China, and India cause far more pollution and CO2 emissions than the USA does. None of their vehicles have pollution controls on them. The USA leads the world in this area. China alone is responsible for most of the CO2 released into the atmosphere. And which countries had huge oil agreements as well as arms and weapons agreements with Saddam Hussein and this was why they were all of sudden against the war in Iraq? Wasn’t it Germany, Russia, and France? By golly it was! So, who “oppressed” which Third world nations, and continues to do so by not giving hardly any aide or assistance as compared to the USA? Why, most of Europe! Christian churches in the USA alone have given far more in assistance and aide than even European governments such as Germany, France, or others. European philanthropy is abysmal at best.

    However, lets remain on task concerning drinking in America and what I wrote about American Christians and their view of it.

  6. Pastor Lee, I just want you to know I respect you and I’m glad you were willing to bring this up on your blog (and deal with the subsequent debate in a Godly manner). I’ve just addressed your question in detail on my blog:
    « Basic Tool Kits: 11 Essential Tools for the Household Handyman
    A New Perspective on Drinking and Christianity
    . Please check it out and take it into consideration.

    One other thing I will mention is that you’re assuming that ALL people, Christians included, go into a bar making excuses and looking for trouble. That’s really not the case at all. Maybe in the bars that you’ve see or been to, but not in my case, nor the case of many of my Christian colleagues.

    Folks DO go to bars just to have a good time, talk, hang out, watch sports, and NOT get drunk. In fact, there are A LOT of people that this applies to. It’s belligerent of you to continue harping on this point as if ALL people in the world who step into a bar are doing so out of sinful intention.

    I would also urge you to consider that your perspective may be off a little bit in regards to percentages. Here’s what I mean: it’s not 1 or 2 Christians who go into bars with perfectly acceptable intentions each week, but thousands or more. Now obviously I can’t back this statistic, but I personally know a great deal of Christians who go and have a drink at some bar on occasion. Apparently plenty of other commenter’s and bloggers that you’ve encountered feel the same way. The point is that this isn’t an isolated occurrence among liberal Christians of the new era. It’s a legitimate topic that should be looked at objectively, with prayer, and in light of scripture.

    I hope you can see past my rambling.

  7. Sorry the title of the link got messed up. It still goes to the right place. By the way, that Basic Tool Kits article is going to be published on Unclutterer some time this week if you’re interested 😉

  8. Just for clarification: I didn’t mean to imply that the US is any worse or better than the European nations. That’s why I wrote the USA AND the EU (European Union) are actively […]. But politics is not the issue here, I just wanted to point to a holistic interpretation of godly behavior. Christians in Europe and the USA fall short of living up to biblical standards of ethical behavior.
    Picking out one very specific issue and implying a causal relation between this issue and stunted church-growth doesn’t tackle the gravity of being a “living sacrifice”, at least IMHO.
    Another thing: Please do not generalize European believers and European’s philanthropic attitude. The welfare and the development funding system in Europe work differently than the American systems and cannot be compared in two short sentences or even simply judged as “abysmal”. The way I see it, both, the US & the EU, are doing very poorly in ending poverty and global injustice and we Western Christians fall very short in realizing our calling (I’m not taking myself out of that equation).
    You still have a very good point with this one: “Perhaps we do not see the work of God reviving His people because His people are too busy getting artificially buzzed in so many other manufactured ways instead?”. Amen to that, but I would not limit it to drugs & alcohol. I wouldn’t even limit it to worldly pleasures. Maybe we are busy getting our buzz out of worship concerts, theological debates, organizing church events, Christian conferences and church planting visions but fail to see the needs of the homeless guy around the corner or of the lonely alcoholic at the shady bars (the ones that I tend to avoid, too…). Just a thought.

  9. pastorblastor

    I AGREE wholeheartedly! My concern is not that a believe take a drink once in a while, but why and where they do. As a Baptist I am more adverse to drinking because that is my theology, however, to excuse drinking for ungodly reasons is, well, evil. The same could be said of over eating, lust, or any overindulgence. If we have to rabidly make excuses for our willingness to go into places where booze is served, that we should be seen as just as “Christian” as anyone else, and then try and justify it by using Scripture, well, I think that is kind of hypocritical. If the money “Christians” spent on booze or other questionable or unnecessary habits was used instead to support their churches, ministries, or missionaries, perhaps we would see a real change in our world?

    Just my thoughts…

  10. pastorblastor

    In a society that equates having “fun” to be accompanied with booze, should not Christians, who are supposed to be living holy lives, think twice about the witness they portray to others by even being slightly intoxicated or by going into bars and taverns for fun?

    Far too many youth, about 5,000 each year, are killed on our Nation’s highways because of booze. More than will be ever killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Perhaps if we used the millions of dollars that “Christians” spend on booze each year, to give to our churches, ministries, or missions, we would not have the spiritual decline we have in America and churches, missions, and ministries would have better funding?

    While all things are permissible to the Christian, not everything is beneficial.

    How can we sense the Holy Spirit when we are even slightly inebriated? Are we not to be filled with Him instead?

    While wine was seen as a blessing of God in the Bible, it was because it was seen as a food and crop, and not a source whereby you were to drink just to drink.

    More families and children are harmed by alcohol in America than all other drugs combined. If this is true, why then should Christians support an industry that is not truly necessary in the life of a believer and causes so much more harm than good?

    Want more examples? 🙂

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