by Mike Harding
This is the fifth in a continuing series of articles on the issue of alcohol. In this article we offer an appeal for abstaining from alcohol.
Philippians 2:4 tells us, “Do not merely look out for your own interests but also for the interests of others.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 also reminds us, “Whether, therefore, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” There is no glory to God in the willful pursuit of pleasure that has no regard for one’s influence or effect upon others. “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor 10:34). How many of you would fly is you knew that there was a 1 in 10 chance the plane would crash? The chances that the moderate drinker will become an alcoholic is 1 in 10; the chance that the moderate drinker will become a problem drinker is 1 in 3.
Furthermore, if you abstain from alcohol as a social beverage, you can encourage others to forsake illegal stimulants such as marijuana, heroin, or cocaine without fear of inconsistency. Our joy need not come from an alcoholic stimulant. On the contrary, “in Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever” (Ps 16:11). God wants His children to have peace without unnecessarily risking that we go to pieces. The liberated mind-set of the Corinthians did not help their church, nor will it help ours. Mark Twain once commented regarding gambling that the best toss of the dice was to toss the dice away. Practically speaking, in order to avoid temptation, tossing liquor, strong drink, and modern alcoholic beverages down the drain would only have positive results in the world we live in today.
“Certain neighbors of mine laugh at me for being a teetotaler, and I might well laugh at them for being drunk, only I feel more inclined to cry that they should be such fools.”
For me, these pleas are personal. I have personally witnessed the destruction and misery brought on by alcohol consumption and abuse. I understand the drinking-scene better than most. As a young boy I spent part of my life in the bars with my father on 51st street in Chicago. I was endeavoring to persuade him to come home before something terrible happened (and it did on numerous occasions). I agree with my mother that the bar scene is an “upholstered sewer” full of shallow fellowship and depressed people. After all, alcohol is a depressant in the end. It is social drinking at its worst. I made a promise to my mother that I would never drink. My dad is dead. Several of his brothers died of alcoholism in their twenties, forties, and fifties without knowing the Lord. As I have witnessed and preached to many of my relatives in the Boston area, it would be inconceivable to them for me to drink.
I personally came to Christ while living on the south side of Chicago. Afterwards, I ministered for three years at the Pacific Garden Mission which has cared for thousands of addicts. This is the most famous rescue mission in the United States. I am sure you have heard of their famous radio program, “Unshackled,” which broadcasts amazing stories of conversions at the mission. There was a firm policy of abstinence at the mission for all workers and residents. It was unthinkable that those preaching and counseling would imbibe. It was equally impossible for us to teach the new believers to embrace a policy of moderate social drinking.
Yes, there is a significant difference between the bar scene and a family having a glass of wine at the dinner table. Nevertheless, the man who is found on the bar scene starts somewhere, with one drink in his hand. Better for him to have stood his whole life with no drink in his hand at all. Better for his ‘moderate’ friends to have never influenced him to drink at all. What do you think the Lord will say in That Day when your moderate drinking is found to have caused one of these “little ones” to sinfully stumble and suffer the bitter consequences of sin.
Matthew 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Mike Harding is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Troy, Michigan and a member of the FBFI Executive Board.
This article is excerpted from a single, longer piece by pastor Harding. Proclaim & Defend will make the original article available in pdf format when our serialization is complete.
- “A Plea for Total Abstinence,” The Evangelical Beacon, Nov. 13, 1979. p. 2. [↩]
- Charles H. Spurgeon, John Ploughman’s Pictures, p. 42, [Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, rep. 1974]; also see C. H. Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore (Moody Press, 1984), pp. 181-83, which details the turning of young Spurgeon from alcohol to total abstinence. [↩]