How do you relax? With all of the stress of life, what do you do when it is time to unwind?
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
Alcohol consumption has been the topic of debate in Christian circles for years. Can a Christian drink? Should a Christian drink? Some denominations expressly forbid it, while others remain relatively silent on the topic. But what is the truth–what does God say about this?
Cultural historians tell us that the wine routinely consumed in the Middle East during Jesus’ earthly life was not what we commonly call wine, but rather a diluted version of it. Nonetheless, Jesus did turn water into wine at the wedding in Cana and He did institute the Lord’s Supper using bread and wine. So does this mean that we, as followers of Christ, are free to indulge in alcohol consumption as we see fit?
Biblically speaking, it does not appear as if drinking alcoholic beverages is strictly forbidden, yet, as St. Paul expresses, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) The point is not whether drinking alcohol is allowed, but whether it is conducive to our Christian walk and whether or not we are brought under its power.
Proverbs offers some useful advice:
“Listen, my son, and be wise,
and set your heart on the right path: do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (Proverbs 23:19-21 NIV)
The problem with alcoholic beverages is that they are addictive, and those enslaved by them rarely recognize the fact that they are. Yet today’s verse offers insight into, perhaps, a difficult discussion.
God tells us, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” A contrast is set up: being drunk with alcohol versus being filled with the Spirit of God (interestingly, alcohol is still occasionally referred to as “spirits.”) When you drink, you give up control of yourself to something else. Imagine a situation in which God could use you to help someone better know Him–maybe even come to genuine salvation through your witness of Christ–but you have been drinking. Could you be useful to God, or would this be a lost opportunity?
Ultimately, the decision whether to consume limited amounts of alcohol or to abstain altogether is an issue we must each resolve for ourselves. I personally made the decision to follow Kay Arthur’s example and abstain altogether. I do not want to miss an opportunity to be used of Christ, and I would like to offer our children the example of a life lived alcohol-free, just so they know it can be done. You need not be concerned with whether you have been brought under alcohol’s power if you abstain.
As a footnote, we are told that there is “dissipation” (“excess,” KJV) in being drunk. Dissipation means “squandering of money, energy, or resources,” so Biblically, being drunk squanders the time, money, and mental capability God has given us. Instead of being, “…a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21), by drinking we risk rendering ourselves ineffective and out of commission, so to speak.
God commands, “…’Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’” (2 Timothy 2:19) We need to be careful to be far from anything that is iniquity in God’s estimation. Furthermore, Scripture instructs us to “be diligent to present…[ourselves] approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed…” (2 Timothy 2:15)
So, how do you relax and unwind at the end of a long day? Let’s ascertain that it is not by being drunk. Instead, may we be filled with the Spirit!
Thank You that “I [really] can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Help me not be drunk, which squanders what You have given me; instead, help me be filled with Your Spirit! Amen.