The Alcohol Dance
Survey a hundred Christians and you’ll get diverse perspectives on alcohol and the Christian. When it comes to alcohol, the Christian community is like an awkward school dance. “Wallflower” Christians prefer not to join the fray. No alcohol at all. Not one drop. The “dancers” are all in, enjoying themselves without a care in the world. Keep their cups filled. Then there are the “selective dancers”. Alcohol consumption depends on who’s at the dance. If the right people are there, it’s on. For many, it’s a conscience matter. A clear conscience can yield a brimming cup.
Liquor Store Jesus
I don’t care whether you’re liberal or conservative when it comes to drinking. I just have one request. Can we please stop taking Jesus to the liquor store? I know that sounds absurd. But for some, it’s a reality.
I know it because I did it. In college, I was a Christian who professed faith in Jesus. I attended church…irregularly. Honestly, I made more monthly trips to the liquor store than I made to church. I was a big time “dancer”. I used to get in some heated arguments with friends who couldn’t believe I was drinking so much as a Christian. I used to pull out all the heavy hitters in those arguments. Don’t judge me. Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone. So you’re telling me you’re perfect, right?
But I had one trump card. Jesus was called a glutton and a winebibber, so I was just becoming more like him. Jesus frequented the liquor store, why couldn’t I? It was in the Scripture. What could they say about that? Many of them had nothing to say.
Sitting Down With Myself
I wish I knew my 36 year old self then. I probably would have sat down with my collegiate self and had a talk. Who’s calling Jesus a glutton and winebibber? Why are they saying this? What did those words mean to those hearing them? These are important questions I didn’t know to ask then.
The Pharisees and lawyers in the text are the ones making the claim. They’re making the claim because Jesus is breaking all their regulations and rules. Anyone within earshot wouldn’t think it gave them license to go out and buy bottles of Ciroc. Instead, hearing those words forced them to contemplate Jesus’ identity. Let me explain.
In Deuteronomy 21, the Israelites had a problem. They had bad kids. Seriously, they did. Go read it. These kids did some college-aged kids stuff too. The parents complained that the kids were stubborn and rebellious. Like the Pharisees, these parents called their kids gluttons and winebibbers. The law, as outlined in Deuteronomy, had a solution. All the men of the city were to stone the child. A pretty high price to pay for rebellion, right?
Jesus accusers used the same language from Deuteronomy. Hey guys, this Jesus character is nothing more than a rebellious child. He’s a glutton and a winebibber. He deserves to be stoned to death. Like parents of a rebellious child, they’d later pick up stones to punish Jesus. The Pharisees were less concerned with Jesus drinking habits and more concerned with his tradition-shattering ministry. This accusation wasn’t about Jesus’ partying lifestyle, it was about Jesus ignoring years of manmade tradition to inaugurate his kingdom.
Context is key. Please don’t use the “Jesus as glutton and winebibber” passage to take Jesus to the liquor store. To use it as an excuse for frequent liquor store excursions misses the point and only serves to clear a clouded conscience. Bringing a “Jesus passage” with you to the liquor store is ignoring the real issue—the heart issue. I’m not telling you whether drinking is right or wrong. I’m just a brother who tries to read God’s Word and ask the question I never asked when I was less mature. Why did I feel it was necessary to excuse my trips? Why did I feel guilt when I made those trips? Why did I want Jesus as an accomplice? And honestly, those are questions we all need to ask about any of our vices—not just alcohol.