This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Assimilation. Click here to see the entire series.
Not surprisingly, the Bible describes a medicinal use for alcohol. Proverbs 31: 6-7 says, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his trouble no more.” The case can be made that this is more than a statement about the medicinal use of alcohol. In fact, it appears as if this passage is a straight out endorsement of giving a bottle of Thunderbird to the bums we might see downtown! Clearly it is permissible to give “strong drink” to the person who is perishing. Strong drink can act as a painkiller for the person who is near death, perhaps due to a debilitating illness or disease that is causing a lot of pain. But the second exhortation for the use of wine describes a different situation. Merely having a “bitter” life is sufficient reason to give wine to a person. In fact, the wine is not there to treat any medical problem but is there to help the poor soul “forget his poverty”. Although most Christians do not like to admit it, alcohol is described in the Bible as a means by which those who are spiritually impoverished may anesthetize themselves. This goes on everyday among those who live in the street.
I Timothy 5: 23 is perhaps the most well know reference in Scripture to the medicinal use of a drug. Paul writes, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” There is very little disagreement on the interpretation of this passage. There is little doubt but that Paul is exhorting Timothy to the medicinal use of the drug alcohol. What is interesting however, is that Paul apparently has no conception of Timothy needing to get the permission of the State before consuming a medicinal drug. It is quite obvious that Timothy is deemed to be qualified to purchase and consume a medicinal drug entirely on his own recognizance.
Mark 5: 23 records the description of Jesus being crucified. It says, “And they tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it.” This is another obvious medicinal use of a drug. The wine and myrrh mixture was designed to be a painkiller in an attempt to somewhat mitigate the agony of crucifixion.
Psalm 104: 14-15 is an interesting passage that illustrates the principle of the recreation use of a drug. It says, “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad…” Why does this wine make a man’s heart “glad”? Because it is a drug. The consumption of wine alters the physical and mental state of the drinker to create a sense of euphoria (gladness). Nowhere in Scripture does God prohibit the production and recreational consumption of this drug as a means of making the heart “glad”.
Ecclesiastes 10: 19 says, “Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry…” Here is another overt example of food and drink being used for the purpose of making life better by means of altering the perception of reality in the participants. Of course, just as overeating is gluttony, and a sin; so overdrinking is drunkenness, and a sin. But, eating and drinking are not sins, they are encouraged behaviors.
John 2: 10 contains the story of Jesus producing an alcoholic beverage. When the headwaiter tests the wine that Jesus has produced he has this to say, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.” Again, if we cast aside presuppositions that force us to somehow interpret this as “non-alcoholic wine”, we are forced to the conclusion that Jesus produced a drug to be used by all of those who were attending the wedding feast. The common practice was to serve the best wine first. After consuming the good wine it would be less likely that those who had indulged in the drug would be able to ascertain that the latter wine was not the same quality. That is because the drug would cause them to become partially detached from reality. That is what a drug does. Jesus heightens this experience by making good wine to be served after the participants are already well on their way to the euphoria created by the depressant drug alcohol.
There are dozens of verses that describe the evils of alcohol. I suspect that most Christians are well aware of them so I am not going to reproduce them here. The Bible says that “wine is a mocker” and that “strong drink” can destroy the soul of a man. In all cases where the Bible describes the drug of alcohol in a negative fashion, it is always associated with drunkenness. Drunkenness is defined as the overuse of the drug alcohol. When the drug has been used to the point where the desired affect has gone beyond a sense of euphoria to a loss of personal control, drunkenness has taken place. It is not the use of the drug that is a sin. It is the abuse of the drug that constitutes a sin.
I Corinthians 6: 12 sums up the biblical position on drug use. It says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” This passage gets right to the heart of the biblical teaching on the use of drugs. Drugs are not unlawful. There should be no laws against the use of drugs. There is nothing inherently sinful in drug use. However, if a drug comes to a position of being the master of that person, the line has been crossed from saint to sinner. Paul’s statement that he will not be “mastered” by anything is most instructive and gets to the heart of the physical addiction and the mental habit of taking drugs.
Here is a simply test to use to determine if you are using drugs responsibly or if you are sinning in your use of drugs. Ask yourself this question, “Am I consuming this drug because I want to or because I have to?” If you have to consume the drug, it has become your master and you are sinning. If you do not have to consume the drug, feel free to use it as a lawful means of altering your perception of reality and making your heart glad.
I realize that the argument I have made will be ignored by just about everyone. Those who do not ignore it will only read it so they can become angry and vehemently disagree. Nevertheless, it is a biblical position on the issue of drug use. It is a biblical position on smoking and drinking. More importantly, it is a biblical position on smoking and drinking that is diametrically opposed to the position of both the Church and the State on smoking and drinking. If what I have argued is true, then it necessarily follows that the Church has been assimilated into US culture by adopting the view that smoking and drinking are sinful behaviors when they are, in fact, matters of Christian liberty.