There are three reasons a pastor, and for that matter any professing Christian, should be a teetotaler: because of the Social Impact, the Scriptural Injunctions, and the Spiritual Influence. In a previous article we covered the social impact of alcohol. We turn our attention now to the next point.
The Scriptural injunctions against alcohol
One should not have to study the Bible long to realize that the preponderance of the scriptures that relate to alcohol are negative. There seems to be great confusion on what the Bible actually teaches regarding alcohol. It is true that alcoholic beverages were used in Bible times and that the wine Jesus drank may have contained some small degree of alcoholic content. What is certainly not true is that the wine Jesus drank is the same as wine today.[i]
In the Bible, drunkenness is always associated with disaster. If you study the lives of Noah, Lot, Nabal, Elah, Ben-hadad, Belshazzar, and the Corinthians, you will see in every case that tragedy followed the use of alcohol. Very few would argue that drunkenness is acceptable but the only way to insure you never get drunk would be that you never drink alcohol. But the Bible doesn’t stop at a simple condemnation of drunkenness, it is clear in its denunciation of alcohol.
What the Bible says
Wine will mock you, cause you to fight, and lead you astray (Prov. 20:1). Wine creates poverty, woe, contentions, wounds, mental instability, foul language, and the deadening of one’s feelings (Prov. 23:19-35). Intoxicating drink is said to bring on the judgment of God, is done by those with no knowledge, it removes honor, and places one on the road to death and hell (Is. 5:11-14).
Hosea warns that wine will enslave you (4:11). Habakkuk declares that the wicked transgress by wine, that they are proud, and like death can never be satisfied. He further declares a woe against those who give drink to their neighbors (Hab. 2:5-17). This should serve as a serious warning to any pastor who commends the use of alcohol, no matter what the social situation is or how moderate the level of drinking may be.
In Romans 13:11-14 Paul says that alcohol is a “work of darkness,” it leads to other sins and makes a “provision for the flesh.” This is not becoming to one who has “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 13 lists some common evils that go hand-in-hand with drinking: revelry, drunken parties, which include immoral activity; lewdness and lust, both of which refer to sexual immorality. Alcohol has been the poor excuse for a myriad of cases of sexual immorality. Alcohol weakens inhibitions, deadens the soul to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and opens the door to the deception of demons. No wonder many are led astray in this regard.
Conflict is much more likely when one uses alcohol because the mind loses control over the faculties and things are said and done that bring offense. How many public figures have we read about, not to mention preachers, who blamed their “misbehavior” or “misspoken words” on the fact that they had too much to drink?
The scriptural injunctions provided here only scratch the surface of the Bible’s overall condemnation of alcohol.
Spiritual influence is significant
For pastors, perhaps our greatest concern should be the spiritual influence that we have over others. The separate, holy life calls for us to be different from world.
Our choices about the use of alcohol will have a significant influence on others. The long term effect of our influence is often overlooked. Even if the argument could be made that an individual could so control his drinking that it would have no impact on his own life there would still be the need to consider the impact he might have on others.
If someone sees you drinking and knows that you are a professing Christian, and in particular a pastor, then they will assume it is acceptable to drink. But if they are unable to control their drinking your influence on them could lead them down the slippery slope of destruction (Rom. 14:12-23).
When a preacher spoke in favor of drink
A number of years ago at a temperance meeting, a certain clergyman spoke in favor of wine as a drink, and quite to his own satisfaction demonstrated that its use was gentlemanly, healthful, and Scriptural.
At the close of his speech, an elderly gentleman arose and asked permission to say a few words. “A young friend of mine,” he said, “who had long been intemperate, was at length prevailed upon to the great joy of his friends, to take the pledge of entire abstinence from all that could intoxicate. He kept the pledge for some time, struggling fearfully with his habit, till one evening in a social party glasses of wine were handed around. They came to a clergyman present, who took a glass, saying a few words of justification for his practice. ‘Well, thought the young man, if a clergyman can take wine and justify it so well, why can’t I?
“So he took a glass; it instantly rekindled his slumbering appetite and after a downward course, he died of delirium tremors – died a raving madman. The old man paused and was just able to add: “That young man was my son, and that clergyman was the Reverend Doctor who just addressed this assembly.”[ii]
One very pertinent question would be, what of the influence on your children? If you have beer in your refrigerator, a wine cellar, or liquor cabinet in your home, which you use, no matter how moderate your use may be, no matter how responsible a drinker you consider yourself to be, you will have no one to blame but yourself when that knock or call comes and you must report to the hospital, or worse the morgue, because your teenage child or grandchild has been in an alcohol related accident. What parents excuse in moderation kids will often do in excess!
We will answer to God for those we have led astray by taking actions that were irresponsible.
You might ask, “Preacher, what should we do?” If you have alcohol in your home, or you do on occasion drink, go to the altar at church and repent. Ask God to forgive you. Then go home and pour it all down the drain.
I urge you, make a clean and clear break with all that can intoxicate. There should be nothing in your life that would compete with your allegiance to the Lord Jesus.
[i] For a good summary on the difference in wine today and in Bible times see John MacArthur”s sermon: “Christians and Alcohol.” https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-380/Christians-and-Alcohol. You can also refer to MacArthur’s commentary on Ephesians, (Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, 1986), pages 235-244.
[ii] Copied from Kelly Carner, Facing the Music (J-Rad Publications, Sacremento, 1980), p. 21.