Saturday, May 06, 2006

Why I Abstain from Alcohol By: John Greening

I have been surprised to hear a few more voices than I would have ever imagined in “conservative” church circles suggesting that drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation is an acceptable practice because of the liberty a believer has in Christ. Many years ago I made a decision not to drink. Here are three reasons I stick by that decision today.

My father told me not to drink. He was a godly man for whom I had great respect. I would have dishonored my father by not heeding his instruction.

An intriguing story in Jeremiah 35 highlights this principle of obedience. The account involves a family named the Rechabites. God used them as an illustration to teach an important lesson to the people of Judah. God had repeatedly admonished His people through His prophets to turn from their evil ways. But they neglected to obey the Heavenly Father’s instruction.

As the story goes, Jeremiah was instructed to bring the Rechabite family into the house of the Lord. There he placed large bowls of wine in front of them and instructed them to drink, but the family declined. Many years earlier their father had placed certain prohibitions on them, including drinking wine. They so respected their father that they abstained from alcohol in obedience to his instruction.

Jeremiah was to relate this account to the people of Judah to drive home an important lesson. The Rechabites obeyed their father even when the temptation of wine was set directly in front of them. In contrast, Judah gave in to temptations, disregarding God’s instructions.

The primary point of this passage is not the specific prohibitions. It is to reinforce the concept that God meant for His people to obey Him by refusing what was not acceptable to God. The people of Judah needed to be admonished because they had carelessly disregarded God’s guidelines.

My dad was a wise man. He knew things about life that I did not yet comprehend when I was younger. So he established rules to protect me from involvement in activities that he believed would be counterproductive to a godly life. My dad is no longer alive. But like the Rechabites’ account to the people of Judah, his words echo in my heart today; therefore, I will not drink. By honoring my father’s instruction, I reinforce the importance of obeying God’s instructions.

My mother wanted me to be a leader some day. She taught me that alcohol is not for leaders. Proverbs 31 tells us that King Lemuel’s mother taught him the same lesson: “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” (vv. 4, 5).

Alcohol dulls a person’s senses and confuses a person’s ability to make godly, ethical choices. A leader must have all his wits about him to effectively fulfill his responsibilities. Alcohol clouds the mind and therefore should be refused.

My godly mother did her best to raise me to possess leadership characteristics. She would not permit anything to spoil my leadership opportunities. As I grew older, I came to appreciate her conscious effort to develop in my life the wisdom of Proverbs. Whether at home, church, work, or in the community, I must be an alert and engaged leader rather than a man with clouded judgment.

My wife and I are parents, and I am a ministry leader. It is our duty to influence our home and ministry families in a constructive way rather than hinder anyone in his or her spiritual development. I am sobered by the account of Noah’s careless involvement with alcohol and its damaging effect on his family (Genesis 9:20–27). Noah had powerfully influenced his children by earlier living a godly life despite being surrounded by a godless society. The faith he demonstrated as he constructed the ark was a tremendous testimony to his children. Yet his episode with alcohol left tragic scars on his family. Our liberty must be restrained so we will not cause vulnerable and impressionable people to stumble.

There is good reason not to drink alcohol. I suggest you abstain and encourage others in your church or ministry organization to do the same.

Published on Baptist Bulletin Online (

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