Over the years, I have been asked a number of times why I choose to abstain from alcohol. And for about 10 years, I worked with new Christ followers in my church, and the use of alcohol proved to be a question of concern in the minds of many. Clearly there is a tension within the Church and society in general on the topic.
First, let me say that my decision is a personal choice and not one that I try to force on others. I try not to be one that gets on any moral “high horse” on the topic.
If you are looking for either a definitive moral condemnation of drinking or moral absolution on the issue, I am not the person that you need to talk to.
Perhaps there are pastors or other spiritual leaders that you can reach out to for guidance. Better yet, you can reach out to our Lord directly with your questions.
After all, He is the only absolute infallible source of truth.
But, if you have read this far, apparently you have some interest in what I have to say so maybe a little background would be of help.
I did not grow up in a home where alcohol was part of our environment. In fact, I only remember seeing my dad take two drinks in my entire life and I don’t think my mom ever came close to having a drink. In hearing the horror stories of others over the years where alcohol created havoc in their families, I consider myself very fortunate in that regard.
But like most people, I do have a family regret where alcohol played a part. I never got to know my paternal grandfather. He and my grandmother split while my dad was a child, and I am told that alcohol played a big part in the destruction of the family. My dad never had a relationship with his dad and therefore I never had a relationship with that grandfather. That is tragic to me.
And that is a tragedy that is all too common in many families.
I think that the other factor that influenced my feelings toward alcohol greatly was my dad’s job. For almost four decades, he served as a police officer. I cannot tell you the number of horror stories that I heard where alcohol played a major part. And all you have to do is listen to a police scanner on any weekend night to understand the impact that irresponsible drinking has in our communities.
So I think I have an ingrained bias against alcohol. But I also understand that my feelings do not represent the feelings and experiences of many really good people that can and do drink socially and responsibly. In fact, to a small degree, I was one of those people in my early adult life.
So why the decision to abstain?
I think it first started when our first child was born. I understood the awesome responsibility of caring for a child and I did not want to partake of anything that might impair my judgement or ability to meet that responsibility even briefly in an emergency moment or whatever. And I definitely did not want to set any example that might be a problem for my children in later years. So I don’t think that either of my children have ever seen me take a drink and I am proud of that example.
Beyond that, it just came down to a common sense decision for me.
I have never seen alcohol improve any situation other than momentarily. But I have seen it create much damage permanently, and in my mind those are not good odds. The risk/reward ratio does not seem to be in my favor. So I choose not to play.
I have personally seen good people destroy important parts of their lives with alcohol. Some of the hardest actions that I ever had to take as a manger were to fire people really close to me that let drinking affect their job performance.
They never intended it that way, but they chose to go down that path and that path led to that destination. I don’t know of a single person who ever took the first drink with a plan to let it damage or destroy their life. Yet that was the destination that they ended up.
Accordingly, that is a path that I choose to avoid out of the proverbial “abundance of caution”.
What about the moral and spiritual aspects of alcohol?
As I stated earlier, clearly there is a tension on the topic in that regard. And I am not going to try to resolve that tension for you. That is God’s job, not mine. And I am fully convinced that He will give you the answer that is right for you if you sincerely seek that guidance from Him.
With that said, I do think that there are some absolutes that we do not have to seek guidance on.
To me, the Bible is clear on the topic of drunkenness, which calls it out as sin. That doesn’t mean that it will cause God to love you any less or that you are condemned in any way. But it does mean that it should be avoided in that it does not honor God and it is not good for you.
And with alcohol, the problem is that you never really know exactly at what point you cross that magic threshold; therefore, I choose not to take the chance of getting too close to the edge of that cliff.
The other absolute to me is that any drinking which causes harm to others disobeys the overarching Great Commandment of Jesus. He was very specific that all of His requirements for us come under the heading of loving God and loving others. So once alcohol shows any indication of causing a problem for our families, our workplaces, among our friends, or wherever, the question is settled. Jesus has already spoken on the issue. Love dictates that our choices must not cause problems for others.
Lastly, for me, my decision to abstain from alcohol was completely cemented about 15 years ago when I chose to place my trust fully and finally in Jesus to manage my life. As I began to pray for wisdom daily, it just seemed wrong for me to pray for that wisdom and then intentionally do something that might be counterproductive to that prayer. And I’ve definitely never seen alcohol promote or provide wisdom.
So abstaining is a personal choice that is right for me and that I think has served me well. My prayer is that we would all take the time to consider this choice and all of our choices carefully along the way.
“Stay alert and be clearheaded.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6)