Today's Scripture Reading (November 28, 2022): Proverbs 31
I live in a culture that has a problem with its alcohol. And the problem exists on both sides of the issue. On the consumption side, alcoholism and crimes that are related to drunkenness are rampant in our society. And it is not just a North American problem. I used to be part of a denomination that prohibited alcohol use by its members. I believed at the time that alcohol abuse seemed more of a North American problem and the denomination appeared to be continually addressing and possibly rejecting their teetotaling ways. During this time, I was responsible for transporting a pastor visiting from Africa to another church in a different city. As I drove him to his next engagement, our conversation turned to alcohol consumption. I apologized for the North American response to alcohol consumption, explaining the unhealthy relationship many have in our society with alcohol consumption. But my new friend stopped my explanation by assuring me that, regardless of what the General Assembly of the denomination might think, alcohol was a problem everywhere.
But there is a pushback to the policy of prohibition. The biblical prohibition is against drunkenness and not moderate consumption. As a result, we are making a mistake by pursuing a prohibition policy when the Bible teaches moderation. Why should the Christian community prohibit what the Bible does not prohibit? And the reality is that I agree with people on both sides of the argument.
Now I am part of a denomination with no alcohol policy. I remember being at a denominational function in the early days of my association with this group of churches and listening to an argument between a pastor and a board member about the relative advantages of making wine or brewing beer. When they paused and asked my opinion, I had nothing to say.
I have always believed that if you can drink in moderation, go ahead. But as for me, I will abstain, not because the Bible preaches against it, but because I believe that I am my brother's keeper, and I don't know who it is around me who cannot handle their alcohol. I don't want to be a stumbling block for someone else or the one who leads them in a direction that they cannot follow in a healthy way.
Proverbs would seem to agree with me. While wine is okay for most people and possibly even beneficial, Kings and leaders should abstain. And Proverbs and the Bible are not the only place where we can find such a prohibition on alcohol consumption for leaders.
"The Carthaginians made a law that no magistrate of theirs should drink wine. The Persians permitted their kings to be drunk one day in a year only. Solon made a law at Athens that drunkenness in a prince should be punished with death (John A. Trap)
There is a difference between the rank and file and the leaders over them. But if any of us aspire to leadership, we should put away the alcohol so that God can influence our lives as we lead our communities in the direction of God.
Tomorrow's Scripture Reading: Song of Songs 1