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IMPORTANT BIBLE TOPICS

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Drugs and Alcohol

Every country in the world is probably affected in s some way by drug and alcohol use. In many countries drug use is an acceptable and lawful activity. There are the legal 'drugs' such as alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and prescription drugs. Then there are of course the illegal ones. This article does not have the space to list them but I am sure we are aware of many of them even if we have never used them.

In a recently published statistical report of drug use among 16 to 59 year olds in the UK, 1 in 12 had used an illicit drug in the last year and of the 16 to 24 year olds included in this number, 1 in 5 had used an illicit drug (National Statistics Drug Misuse: findings from the 2016/17 Crime Survey for England and Wales www.gov.uk).

Another study showed that in the UK over 81% of adults over the age of 16 had used alcohol in the past year (Consumption: Adult drinking in the UK. www.drinkaware.co.uk).

In whatever country you are reading this article your country will have its own rules, legislation, problems and statistics around drug and alcohol use. Wherever we live there is no escaping its presence!

Problems caused by alcohol and drug abuse

Now some would say that to be a Christian we must abstain from all drug use. Is this what the Bible says? Some might even say that the Bible does not specifically mention drugs, only alcohol, but it is important to note that alcohol is in itself a drug so references to alcohol abuse in the Bible contain lessons and directions that could be used for any form of drug abuse.

The Bible does not necessarily teach total abstinence from alcohol, except in special circumstances. For example, in the Old Testament we read about priests abstaining from alcohol when performing their duties in the tent of meeting (Leviticus 10.8, 9). Another example of such abstinence was associated with taking the Nazirite vow (Numbers 6.1-8).

In some cases the Bible even recommends alcohol use. For example we read about a possible medical use for alcohol in one of Paul's letters to Timothy: Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses

  • 1 Timothy 5.23

The emphasis here must be on the word 'little' – not quantities that could be called abuse, quantities that lead to intoxication and which can lead on to more complicated problems such as addiction.

When we think of the problems caused by drug and alcohol abuse, the list is very long. We think of the long-term physical effects and how the body gets worn down by having to manage the effects of drugs on the body's organs. It raises blood pressure, it increases the risks of some cancers, the liver becomes inflamed, enlarged and stops working as it should. We think of the effects on the brain and our mental wellbeing. It can cause certain types of dementia, make our mood low and it can make us aggressive and argumentative. This in turn can adversely affect relationships with family, friends and peers within our work place.

The insidious effects of drug and alcohol abuse reach far and wide. What might have started out as a choice, a feeling that we are in control, can very easily become a situation where choice is replaced by an absolute need for the substance above everything else in our lives. So it is no longer an option of free will, one has become overwhelmed by an illness or disease due to addiction. what does the Bible say about the effects of drug and alcohol abuse? The Bible is very accurate and very clear about the nature and problems of excessive alcohol use and the power of addiction. For example, think about these words of the wise man Solomon from the Book of Proverbs:

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. "They hit me," you will say, "but I am not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?"

  • Proverbs 23.29-35

An even more graphic account is recorded by the prophet Isaiah:

And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer. Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions. All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth.

  • Isaiah 28.7,8
Photograph by 1000 Words from shutterstock.com

I think we get the picture don't we? The Bible leaves nothing to our imagination! Here are two other examples of what the Bible clearly says about alcohol abuse:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the spirit.

  • Ephesians 5.18

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise

  • Proverbs 20.1

In the first book of the Bible we read about Noah who was perhaps the first man to experience the negative effects of alcohol use. We are told that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he did everything that God asked of him (Genesis 6.9). After the flood we are told that he planted a vineyard and when he drank the wine produced from it he became drunk and fell asleep naked in his tent, a behaviour seen as immodest and shameful (Genesis 9.20-27). So if someone as righteous as Noah, even though his actions could be seen as naïve rather than intentional, was affected by the power of alcohol, we must learn from this, as it shows us that no one is immune from the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Why do people use drugs and alcohol?

We can think of many reasons why someone will use a drug. Firstly there is the social context. Many people see the use of alcohol as being associated with relaxing with friends and family around the meal table to accompany food perhaps.

Photograph by Graphic.mooi from shutterstock.com

We maybe have been to a celebration such as a wedding where there has been champagne to toast the bride and groom. We read in the Bible that Jesus turned water into wine for a wedding feast, so this has been a custom for thousands of years.

But for many, drug and alcohol use becomes much more than a social nicety. It becomes a coping mechanism to alleviate the stresses and strains that living in this world gives us: low self-esteem, anxiety, low-mood, hopelessness, life traumas such as loss or hurt, the list goes on. Drugs and alcohol become a way of filling a void within us, a buffer or cushion to the difficulties and worries we experience.

We have already referred to the words of Solomon in Proverbs. God gave him everything a man could desire but Solomon's evaluation, recorded so forcefully in the book of Ecclesiastes, was that everything that one could experience or achieve in this world was meaningless, a chasing after the wind

  • Ecclesiastes 2.11

and that without the hope of something more, this world eventually leaves us feeling that something is missing. And this is where God and His Word the Bible really have the answers.

In many western countries there is an organization called Alcoholics Anonymous (UK website: www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk) which was created to help people who have become addicted to alcohol. Interestingly, the philosophy that underlies their model of support and recovery for AA group meetings is that there needs to be a recognition of a power greater than ourselves. Addicts can no longer rely on themselves, they have little or no resolve and only have eyes for the drug in front of them. Their minds are consumed by the drug they desire. The remedy is to put themselves in the hands of a higher being, in order to gain strength and hope.

What is the Bible's answer?

As Christians we believe that there is no greater being, no greater power than God, the Creator of this world and on whom we are all reliant. God says through the mouthpiece of the prophet Isaiah:

He (God) gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

  • Isaiah 40.29-31

Jesus appeals to all who are troubled in mind or body:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

  • Matthew 11.28,29

The trouble with drug and alcohol abuse is that it gets in the way of seeking God and praising Him. The addict is taken up by the desire to experience the effects of the drug that his mind and body crave. It is both a physical and a mental need and if the mind is being taken up by these thoughts how can he or she give to God what He wants from us as a believer? Jesus said:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind

  • Matthew 22.37

A total commitment is needed then. The Apostle Paul wrote:

''Everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me but I will not be mastered by anything.''

  • 1 Corinthians 6.12

...You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.

  • 1 Corinthians 6.19,20

If we are abusing a drug can we fulfil this command to honour God with your body? Some people in this world can be proud, boastful even, of the amount of alcohol or drugs they consume and others can be looked down upon if they can't keep up with this shallow lifestyle choice. Here are some words of warning from the book of the prophet Isaiah:

Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent. Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.

  • Isaiah 5.22-24

But for those who want to follow God’s ways there are words of encouragement:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. That you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will.

  • Romans 12.2

The Apostle Peter added: Cast all your anxiety on him (God) because he cares for you

  • 1 Peter 5.7

In conclusion then, the Bible is very clear that to abuse any drug is detrimental to the health of an individual. But more importantly, it is detrimental to our spiritual wellbeing and is sinful behaviour that gets in the way of developing a rewarding relationship with God. As with all things of this world, drugs and alcohol offer empty, short term comfort. The Bible guides us then to have self-control, to avoid the traps of this world, and to rely on God our Father for support, strength and guidance.

''For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.''

  • Titus 2.11-14
description
Author Ricard West
Country Norfolk, England
Source Light on a New World reprint from Volume 29.3

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