Thinking about Drinking?
Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 6:12-20
Many of you recognize Foster Brooks who made a career of playing a drunk & most everyone recognizes Otis Campbell – the good-natured alcoholic on the Andy Griffith show. One of my favorite episodes aired on January 28, 1963 during the 3rd season & was entitled “The Loaded Goat”. When Cy Hutchins brought his goat to town, Jimmy got loose & tried to eat a case of dynamite. Andy & Barney got Jimmy into one of their jail cells & went to get some more hay when Otis showed up in the middle of the day drunk. Otis got in the cell with the goat & for a moment thought it was his uncle Nat. Andy returned to find a very mad goat & had these words to say: “You would have to show up today, Otis. About one loaded goat at a time is all we can handle.” &, while we may smile at these put-on antics, there is nothing funny about a drunk or an alcoholic. Probably no one in this audience would encourage a teen to smoke meth. The effects of this drug are so devastating. One of those effects is meth mouth wherein the teeth suffer irreparable harm. This drug will age the user probably faster than any other one around. We wouldn’t recognize someone after 10 years of smoking meth if they lived that long. On the other hand, we wouldn’t encourage anyone to take up shooting heroin – teen or otherwise. The effects of illegal drugs are well-known & yet these remain a big problem in our society. Hopefully, our young people are heeding the warnings. &, if they have a good Christian home, they are not likely to fall into this trap. On the other hand, our young people are bombarded with the appeal of alcoholic drinks. The makers of beer make it look like this is what successful, good-looking folks do for fun. Yet they fail to show consumers the down side of drinking. Alcohol is used by more young people in the United States than tobacco or illicit drugs. More people die each year from alcohol addiction in the United States than from drug addiction. In the decade of the 90’s, current alcohol use by high school students remained at 50%. In 2009, that percentage dropped to 42%. In that same year, 24% of high school students reported episodic heavy or binge drinking. 28% of students reported riding in a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol. Of course, this is what most of us fear the most. In 1982, 60% of all automobile fatalities were alcohol related. That number dropped to 37% in 2008 while the overall # of automobile fatalities dropped by almost 7,000 nationwide. In TN during 2008, we matched the national average of 37% of all traffic fatalities being alcohol related. I don’t want any of our young people to ever get involved in illegal drugs. But I also don’t want them to get involved with alcohol – the most abused legal drug in the United States. While I may be aiming a lot of this message at our young people, the overall message is to our older folks – parents & grandparents & aunts & uncles. The title of this lesson is the simple question: “Thinking about Drinking?” & I know every young person is faced with that question & decision. We took our text from 1 Cor. 6:12-20 where Paul was dealing with some of the moral issues of his day. So let’s start there & see where it takes us. As always, I beg you to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 & search the scriptures today & every day to make sure I’m telling you the truth about what God has to say.
Perhaps most lessons you’ve heard on alcohol relate to trying to define wine in the scriptures & the prohibition of drunkenness. While there is merit in such lessons, I’d like to approach it differently. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: 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. It is perfectly legal for those of us 21 & older to purchase & consume alcoholic beverages. But, if I did that, it would not be helpful in my job as a minister. It would not be advantageous or beneficial for me to be known as any kind of a drinker – social or otherwise. &, if you’re a Christian, the same applies to you. But notice Paul’s next statement: All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. It is legal for me to buy & consume, beer, wine or any kind of legal alcoholic beverages, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Is alcohol keeping you from serving & using your talents as a Christian? I’ve known people who won’t even come to church or men who won’t serve as a deacon because they would rather drink beer. Now folks, those persons need to have their heads examined. They’d rather enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season rather than eternity in heaven! But I want to talk a little bit more about being brought under the power of something legal like alcohol. Maybe you’re sitting in the audience this morning as one who enjoys a little bit of beer or wine but you never get drunk. What effect are you having on any children or adults who might know you do this? The one thing none of us knows is if a person taking their 1st drink will become an alcoholic & thus be over-powered. &, each day, more than 13,000 children & teens take their 1st drink of alcohol in our country. After I graduated from UNC & was waiting to report for duty in the Air Force, I spent some of that time helping alcoholics. I learned some lessons about alcoholism that I’ll never forget even attending AA meetings. I’ve helped administer small amounts of alcohol to alcoholics trying to keep them from going into the DTs until we could take them to a rehab center. I’ve seen men resort to drinking Mennen After-Shave lotion & sterno when they couldn’t afford beer, wine or whiskey. About 15% of the adults in our nation are problem drinkers & nearly 18 million are alcoholics. My friends, you wouldn’t give a case of dynamite to a child. By the same reasoning, prudent people will never set any kind of example that might lead a young person to take their 1st drink of alcohol – because you don’t know if they’ll turn out to be an alcoholic. A child who takes their 1st drink of alcohol before the age of 15 is four times more likely to become an alcoholic than the person who doesn’t take a drink until they are 21. I’ll never forget helping a 40-ish year old woman get to the car one night on her way to a detoxification center. She lived in a nice family neighborhood but she was an alcoholic. After helping her to the car, she hung over the passenger door before sitting down & said to me, “Honey, don’t ever drink & get like me.” I’d be naïve if I believed alcohol was not a problem with some of you here today. In 2008, there were 225,227,000 persons over 18 years of age in our country. Of that number, 50% were regular drinkers of alcohol. 60% of these regular drinkers were men & 56% of the regular drinkers were between the ages of 18-44 – male & female. 350 people die each day in our country from alcohol-related problems. I’m going to get to more scripture in just a moment but I want to cite 2 examples about how just a little alcohol impairs us. A professional rifle team participated in an experiment that showed that drinking as little as a glass of beer lowered their scores. In another experiment, it was found that two beers or the equivalent of some other kind of alcohol lowers a driver’s driving efficiency by 25%. In fact, the American Medical Association has stated that “There is no minimum blood alcohol concentration which can be set at which there will be absolutely no effect.” Folks, we should not want to take anything into our body that impairs our abilities in any way – especially our thinking. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. We know tobacco is detrimental to good health & such products carry a warning from the Surgeon General. But alcohol is involved in 50% of spousal abuse cases. Extending this outside of the marriage relationship, alcohol is involved in 2/3 of the cases of violence between intimate partners. 40% of convicted rape & sexual assault offenders say they were drinking at the time of their crime. 28% of suicides by children ages 9-15 were attributable to alcohol. An estimated 480,000 children are mistreated by a caretaker with alcohol problems each year. Folks, tobacco may be killing more people each year but alcohol is destroying more homes & personal lives each year – & there are no warnings posted on the bottles or cans. One thing I’ve learned about it: there’s nothing good I can say about alcohol. Perhaps everyone is aware of how Noah got drunk on wine after the flood. Or how David tried to get Uriah drunk to cover up his sin with Bathsheba. But turn with me to Lev. 10. Most of you recognize this chapter as the one containing the account of Nadab & Abihu who offered strange fire in the tabernacle & were struck dead by the Lord. But there’s an interesting epilogue, I believe, to this story contained in verses 8-9 which may indicate the reason Aaron’s two sons got into such trouble: Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.” Remember all Christians are priests today. Now turn with me to Prov. 31:4-5 & let’s read this together:
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Nor for princes intoxicating drink;
Lest they drink and forget the law,
And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.
If kings & princes weren’t supposed to drink alcoholic beverages, it might indicate we shouldn’t either because of the impairment of judgment. Probably most of you are familiar with Prov. 20:1 –
Wine is a mocker,
Strong drink is a brawler,
And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
The last passage from Proverbs I want us to look at is chapter 23 – verses 29-35:
Who has woe?
Who has sorrow?
Who has contentions?
Who has complaints?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who linger long at the wine,
Those who go in search of mixed wine.
Do not look on the wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the cup,
When it swirls around smoothly;
At the last it bites like a serpent,
And stings like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange things,
And your heart will utter perverse things.
Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying:
“They have struck me, but I was not hurt;
They have beaten me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”
There are enough warnings against drinking in the Bible that we shouldn’t be trying to find loopholes for social drinking. Our influence as Christians is too precious to be weakened by alcohol. If you are still trying to justify drinking alcohol, I want us to close with one more passage – Rom. 14:21. Please read it with me: It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. My friends, we shouldn’t do anything that would cause a brother to stumble. Parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles – how much more should we not do anything to cause a child to go astray!
If you’re thinking about drinking, please don’t. I’m convinced more than ever that God is not pleased when we drink alcoholic beverages.
Young people, please don’t ever start. It’s horrible when your high school or college friends die due to alcohol – & it will happen. Don’t let it be you! If you’re an adult thinking it’s O.K., please study these passages we’ve looked at this morning. I think if you’ll look at them prayerfully, you’ll realize it’s best to leave it alone. If you’re not a Christian this morning, why not become one? If you’d like a new start on life – forgiven of your past sins, we can assist you in washing them away & putting on Christ in baptism. If you haven’t been setting the right example as a Christian, please don’t risk missing heaven by waiting another minute as we stand & sing.
(Walter Hill; Sunday A.M.; 10/3/2010)