As a child, I was led to believe that the two worst sins anyone could ever commit were smoking and drinking, the use of tobacco and alcohol.
But where in the Bible is this taught? It’s not! Tobacco and its uses is not even mentioned. Alcohol is another matter for sure, but along with many warnings about the dangers of alcohol, there are affirmations of wine as God’s gift and a source of divine blessing.
So, I’ve had to moderate my hard stance over the years. A sermon I now look back on with embarrassment was a hard line position in a small Nebraska town in the Seventies that believers should not enter the only restaurant in town because it was primarily a bar. I wonder if I should go apologize to the owners 35 years later for my attitude toward them. A more recent treatment of drinking alcohol about which I’m not embarrassed is a sermon I preached in 2012 in the Wisdom for Life series from Proverbs, Wisdom and Wine,
Have I changed my mind about alcohol and tobacco? Yes and No
Hopefully, I’ve learned to be more careful in my use of Scripture to prop up my passionately held convictions. But while my absolutist positions of the past were perhaps overplayed, I’m not ready to concede the significant dangers of alcohol use and that my choice of abstinence is reasonable.
I’m grateful today that I had those early convictions about alcohol and tobacco and was never seriously tempted to even try them. I’ve been called a liar for confessing that I’ve never taken a puff or a taste, but it’s true. Oh, I did drink a thimble full of wine when I took communion at a Baptist church in Kiev, Ukraine. I’ve used Vick’s Nyquil to alleviate the symptoms of a cold. And I’ve had my share of second hand smoke; and noted that some pipe tobacco is very pleasant to smell. But I’ve never directly smoked or used alcohol as a beverage.
That’s not boasting. It makes me no better than anyone else. Maybe you think I’m a fool for not enjoying the fruit of the vine as one of God’s good gifts. Is this an example of a conviction that is based on misinformation and should be adjusted? Possibly. But this conviction has served me well and protected me from significant suffering tied to both habits. There are Biblical principles about addiction and caring for my body that relate to both of these things. I’m no model of self-control, so why take chances with things that could severely test my discipline. There are health facts about alcohol and tobacco that cause me to believe abstinence is the way of wisdom. I’ve witnessed the devastation of alcohol abuse over and over through the years. And the grave dangers of alcohol are multiplied in the modern world far beyond that of Bible times. Why expose myself, my family and my friends to unnecessary dangers?
I hope I can also learn from the experience of others. The great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon was both a smoker and a drinker and bragged that he would enjoy a cigar for the glory of God. But that’s not the whole story. Spurgeon came from the opposite side of the issue that I did, but it appears we ended up in a similar place, more biblical but cautious.
I think you’ll enjoy Trevin Wax’s article, Spurgeon the Drinker: The Rest of the Story…