Ethics: Church Leader Publicly Drinks Alcohol

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What would you do Wednesday!

There has been a lot of blogging about Christians and alcohol lately. Today’s scenario will follow suit and deals with seeing a church leader drinking alcohol in public.

It’s Friday evening and you’re out to dinner with a few friends from church. Dinner is in an open area where several restaurants have outside eating areas that allow the patrons to see one another. The area was set-up to encourage community interaction where many people and families walk around and socialize both before and after dinner.

While getting ready to eat laughter coming from a table on the patio in the restaurant next door distracts your table.  Looking across the patio a well known church leader can be clearly seen drinking a glass of wine. It is definitely wine as confirmed by the bottle on the table. Confirming their suspicions your friends ask and you affirm that you know this church leader. The people next to you also notice the wine and they begin grumbling about the church leader drinking in public with “those kind of people.”

Think about what you may do in this situation. Think about what you might say to the church leader and/or the folks at the table next to you. Are you angry, upset, disappointed, embarrassed, etc.?

Now pause. Move the scenario back in time for a moment.

Let’s say you are in public during Jesus’ ministry and what you are witnessing is the following:

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’… (Matthew 11:19 ESV)

The church leader in question is Jesus and you are a witness to the charges quoted in the above verse.

  • What would you do?
  • Did your reaction change with the scenario? Why or why not?
  • Would you do the same in both scenarios? Why or why not?
  • Or…. ?
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tagged as , in Culture,morality

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Jordan August 24, 2011 at 10:01 am

I actually Laughed Out Loud when I read this.

2 Darrin August 24, 2011 at 10:29 am

I’ll drink to that

3 dp August 24, 2011 at 10:44 am

Jesus never drank that DRUG alcohol. Why are you making excuses to drink the DRUG of death? You need to listen to John MacArthur and grow up. Why is the YRR movement so obsessed with the DRUG alcohol?

4 Mark August 24, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Jesus was accused of being a drunk so he must have drank alcohol. Those in the Corinthian church got drunk. The Bible says that sin leads to death. I am grown up. I’m not sure that I am YRR. Is 40 young? I am not obsessed with “DRUG alcohol” or any other type of drugs or alcohol. I agree with MacArthur on some things and disagree on others.

You comment has nothing to do with this post.

5 David R. Brumbelow August 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Mark,
You said, “Jesus was accused of being a drunk so he must have drank alcohol.”

Jesus was also accused by His enemies of being demon possessed. Using the same logic was Jesus at least moderately demon possessed?

John Baptist did not eat and drink with the people; Jesus did. But because Jesus came eating and drinking does not mean He drank alcohol.

We have a flyer at my church about a youth event that says we will have “pizza and drinks.” Not one person will mistake that to mean we will serve alcohol. I came to my church eating and drinking with church members and nonmembers, but like Jesus, I’ve never drank alcohol.

Scripture never says Jesus made or drank alcohol.
David R. Brumbelow

6 Mark August 24, 2011 at 2:32 pm

David,

Thanks for the comment and giving me reason to clarify. The accusations against Jesus wasn’t my point. In the verse just prior to the one I quoted, Matt. 11:18 it states that John the Baptist did not drink or eat while V. 19 goes on to state Jesus did drink and eat. Obviously, the the charges of John being demon possessed and Jesus being a drunkard and a glutton are false.

John’s separation from eating and drinking and Jesus’ eating and drinking are not accusations by their opponents, but statements about their lives according to Matthew.

I know you believe Jesus never made or drank alcohol, but I don’t and believe Scripture states otherwise.

7 Jamin Hubner August 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm

David,

You are out of your mind.

Jesus publicly made gallons of water into wine (not grape juice, which didn’t exist in the first century – unless you’re assuming that this happened to be the day of harvesting the grapes so that no fermentation was necessary to preserve, which would be absurd) at the beginning of his ministry, and let it go to people who were already drunk (καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσιν τὸν ἐλάσσω):

Joh 2:1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
Joh 2:2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.
Joh 2:3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
Joh 2:4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
Joh 2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Joh 2:6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.
Joh 2:7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.
Joh 2:8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.
Joh 2:9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom
Joh 2:10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

At the climax of his ministry, Jesus drank alcohol and encouraged others to drink it to, for thousands of years, in the institution of the Lord’s Table:

Luk 22:17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.
Luk 22:18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
Luk 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Luk 22:20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

And lest you think they drank “grape juice” at the Lord’s Table:

1Co 11:21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.
1Co 11:22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
1Co 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
1Co 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
1Co 11:25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

At the end of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus consumed alcohol:

Mat 27:33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),
Mat 27:34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.

Now I suppose you could say Jesus just didn’t know he was drinking wine, or that he didn’t drink any more after he tasted it because, well, drinking alcohol in public (in front of hundreds, in this case) is wrong. But that would be reading something into the text that isn’t there, and completely contrary to the meaning of the text (gall is a bitter herb that could be poisonous to consume; *that’s* why Jesus refused to drink it, not because it was alcohol). The fact remains that Jesus publicly consumed alcohol.

You say: “You said, ‘Jesus was accused of being a drunk so he must have drank alcohol.’ Jesus was also accused by His enemies of being demon possessed. Using the same logic was Jesus at least moderately demon possessed?”

Why on earth would someone interpret “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard,” to mean “The Son of Man came eating and drinking non-alcoholic beverages, and they say ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard.”? True, it’s possible that people mistakenly thought he drank alcohol when in fact he was drinking water. But since we *know* (not guess or conjecture) that Jesus consumed alcohol on at least two occasions (Lord’s Table and on the cross), both “public” and “private,” is it so far-fetched to think Jesus drank alcohol before this?

The biblical facts are clear and indisputable. Jesus brewed alcohol himself when he didn’t have to and gave it to people who were already drunk. Jesus consumed alcohol and encouraged others to drink it via the repeated institution of the Lord’s Table. Jesus drank alcohol while he paid for the sins of His people. From beginning to end, Jesus’ ministry is not marked by an anti-alcohol attitude. Period.
So, I will leave you to the Jimmy Swaggert Expositor’s Study Bible-style argumentation, and rather accept God’s self-revelation for what it is.

ja

8 dp August 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm

You must be feeling guilty.

9 David R. Brumbelow August 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I was not going to reply again, but Jamin Hubner (Is that your real name? I use mine.) made me think otherwise.

Jamin,
You are absolutely wrong about ancients not being able to preserve unfermented wine. They did it on a regular basis. In fact, unfermented wine was easier to make and preserve than fermented wine. Just because you don’t know how they did it, doesn’t mean they did not know.

The Bible says the people in John 2 were filled. That can be interpreted to mean intoxicated, or just that they were filled, satiated. The Greek word can mean either one. However, believing that Jesus went to a drunken party and made over 120 gallons more of a hard drug, would make some wonder about other claims of the sinless, holy nature of Jesus.

I missed your proof that Jesus drank alcoholic wine at the Lord’s Supper. While Scripture often, and Jesus Himself, referred to nonalcoholic wine as “wine” (yayin, tirosh, oinos; of course, these can also refer to alcoholic wine), it does not even use the word wine in connection with the Lord’s Supper. It always uses “cup” or “fruit of the vine.” Also, the carnal church at Corinth is not the best of examples; even if they were using alcohol, Paul was condemning them, not commending them.

As to your loving comment to me, “You are out of your mind,” I’ll leave that for others, and most of all our Lord, to decide.
David R. Brumbelow

10 brig August 24, 2011 at 3:44 pm

You guys really need to cut out the grape juice antics, question-begging, and circular reasoning; you won’t convince any non-Fundamentalist with a-historical anecdotes from prohibitionists and un-vettable theories regarding the non-presence of alcohol in an unsustainable ancient kool-aid industry, all while decrying the evils of fermentation of soy sauce, cheese, yogurt, vinegar, tofu, salami, and , God forbid: pickles! … and how Jesus would never be caught dead making things that require death (like loaves of bread and dead fish and, well, wine) or touching anything like thereof, except when he did, like John 19:30. Some people feel they must abandon Scripture, reason, history, and biology to demonize wine (neglecting personal sin) and preserve their version of Jesus, and elevate their personal piety beyond our own Lord, who did in fact come eating and drinking.

The Scriptural implication is of course in light of what John was not eating and drinking, namely, that which was mentioned in explicitly in Luke 1:15 aka “wine and strong drink” and implicitly in Matthew 11. It’s clear Jesus was *not* under the Nazarite obligation of John, and so was free to eat and drink as He pleased.

If a negation of a prohibition does not imply engagement in an activity, then you must also agree with Roman Catholics that neither did Joseph ever have marital relations with Mary.

Or, for that matter, if Jesus being a non-drunkard implies that He didn’t drink alcohol, then when you say that Jesus was not possessed by Beelzebul, then he cannot have driven out demons.

Mark, this sort of “public” scene is only problematic if the church leader is seen to be stumbling out of the establishment soon after. But even mentioning the possibility evidently scandalizes fundamentalist Baptists.

11 brig August 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Jamin,

You don’t brew wine. Applying processes involving heat to wine produces things like brandy. Incidentally, that was originally offered by Benjamin Parsons as an explanation as to how they (theoretically) got the alcohol out of wine! Correcting the assumptions don’t stop the arguments from being used, though.

12 Jamin Hubner August 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Brig,

(I know, I was using the term “brew” more generally for “make alcoholic drink)

13 BK August 24, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Brig – how do you know so much about these things?

BK

14 John August 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I saw this I would simply mind my own business and continue conversing with those at my table.

15 Darrin August 24, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I think of 2006 when the SBC passed a resolution against alcohol use but didn’t deem the resolution on Integrity in Church Membership (Ascol’s) worthy of consideration. Wanted to warn folks not to taste wine or beer, but it’s not as important whether or not they ever show up at the church where they’ve been on the rolls for 20 years. Strange ways…

16 JAD August 24, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I’d probably saunter over to the church leader’s table and ask to join him. Who wants to eat with a bunch of complainers?

Of course, that depends who “those kind of people” are.

17 RazorsKiss August 24, 2011 at 11:23 pm

You must be feeling fallacious. Are you always this obtuse and insulting, or just about alcohol?

18 Mike August 25, 2011 at 12:03 am

Cheers Darrin!

19 Steve Martin August 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm

In Jesus’ first miracle, how many gallons of fine wine did Jesus make for the wedding party?

A) 1 gallon
B) 10 gallons
C) between 120 and 180 gallons

Answer C (John 2: 1-11)

20 Tom Parker August 25, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Mark:

My big concern is with the Pastors that use all sorts of gymnastics to try to say that the alcohol in Jesus day was grape juice. If they will go to this extreme about alcohol what else do they misinterpret and preach incorrectly to their flock.

21 Howell Scott August 26, 2011 at 12:43 am

Mark,

Sorry I’m late to the party! 🙂 I really enjoy your ethics hypotheticals. I would hope that I wouldn’t be upset in either situation, particularly with Jesus. While some may disagree, I think that Jesus actually turned water into more than Welch’s grape juice. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me for the master of the feast to have been quoted in inerrant Scripture quizzing the groom as to why “he saved the best stuff for last” if it was nothing more than grape flavored water.

Although I personally abstain because of my witness, I don’t think that taking a drink — in and of itself — is a sin. That’s why I voted against the 2006 Alcohol Resolution in Greensboro. Drunkenness is always condemned in Scripture, but not the mere use of alcohol, IMO. As a final thought, I’m quite sure that the people who were grumbling about the church leader drinking would have no qualms with the gluttonous portions that they no doubt would be eating at the restaurant that night. Thanks for the thought-provoking scenario. God bless,

Howell

22 Steve Martin August 26, 2011 at 4:57 am

“I’m quite sure that the people who were grumbling about the church leader drinking would have no qualms with the gluttonous portions that they no doubt would be eating at the restaurant that night.”

Exactly!

.

23 brig August 26, 2011 at 11:09 am

This is a huge problem, Tom. If it can be said that wine is not wine and strong drink isn’t strong drink, then you can justify saying anything at all. Sola Scriptura dies and gets buried in an unmarked grave, because it doesn’t matter what Scripture teaches.

That this sort of fundamentalism would ultimately bear liberal children was cautioned even then, and is borne out in history.

24 Mark August 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm

All (except dp), thanks for the replies.

Tom and brig, I agree this is a problem. Biblical authority is pushed aside for personal feelings when it is denied the Jesus made and drank wine. It seems some even ascribe the attribute of evil to the substance of alcohol as if it, in itself, is evil. It may also make less of personal sin and responsibility.

David R. B., I can assure you that Jamin (pronounced “jay-men”) is his real name.

Steve, that’s a lot of wine!

Howell, better late than never. You voted against the alcohol resolution? Wow! You never cease to amaze me. I like you more everyday. 🙂 I appreciate your response.

John Jordan, old friend, I think your response was my favorite.

25 Howell Scott August 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Mark,

I’m glad I can at least amaze one person today! As for you being “wowed” by my vote against the alcohol resolution, just call me a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. 🙂 And, the feelings mutual. Have a great weekend and God bless,

Howell

26 Mark August 26, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Thanks, brother.

27 Darrin August 27, 2011 at 1:25 am

Thanks Mike – same back!

28 steve August 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

who cares what sin didnt Jesus die for or cover some off you have been baptised in pickle juice.

29 Caterina Platt August 28, 2011 at 11:01 am

Thank you!! Exactly!!

Were this church leader drunk, it would be an entirely different circumstance.

As the situation has been described, the scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 7:5. ‘You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’

Alcohol is a very touchy subject, as although we can gather from the description of the situation, the church leader is not presenting the evidence that he necessarily has a problem with alchohol consumption. But….what about the parishioner that does struggle? Does he or she witness this circumstance and say to him/herself, ‘Hey!! If so and so can do it, why can’t I?’ Personally, I believe the answer lies in moderation. The struggling parishioner is dealing with alcohol in the form of an idol. As we all know, anything can become our idols. Sex, TV, money, food, internet chat boards….:)

30 David R. Brumbelow August 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Jamin Hubner,
My apologies. You’ve got one cool name.
David R. Brumbelow

31 Fred Butler September 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Mark asks,
What would you do?
Did your reaction change with the scenario? Why or why not?
Would you do the same in both scenarios? Why or why not?

Oddly, a lot of commenters never really answered your questions. They all started nipping at each other over whether biblical wine was fermented or non-fermented juice and what Jesus made at the wedding at Cana.

Never the less.

Regarding the church leader, it depends upon his reputation and personal life. If I know him to be a godly man, one who is not given to vice and is a sober-minded man, I wouldn’t become alarmed if I happened to see him drinking alcohol with his friends. Of course, I wonder how HE would react to seeing me watching him with his friends, but I digress.

I would not, however, give him an automatic “pass” just because the NT records Jesus being falsely accused of being a party guy by his religious enemies. I would be moved to ask him later about who he was with and what was going on and who he was with.

Question: would your response change if you knew he was drinking hard liquor? Like whiskey? or even Vodka? or does that not matter to you at all? Just curious.

32 Mark September 13, 2011 at 11:39 am

Fred,

Thanks for stopping by. You mentioned something that is not often though of, if ever, in these types of situations. You said, “I wonder how HE would react to seeing me watching him with his friends” which makes a great point.

Interesting that you would later ask him about what he was doing. Why?

My response would not change if it were “hard liquor” as you put it.

33 Fred Butler September 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Mark,
Interesting that you would later ask him about what he was doing. Why?

I have a post coming later, perhaps tomorrow, over at my place. Not to be a troll. Well… I guess I am wanting to be a troll. =-)

At any rate, I would ask, because I happen to think a church leader consuming wine in public to be something he needs to think about before doing. I know it stinks, but it is reality. This isn’t 2,000 years ago in Palestine.

I wouldn’t think less of him in the least, but there are others who would. I would merely ask him about the propriety of drinking in public and his thoughts on it. Just because he is sharing a dinner with “lost” people who have no qualms with drinking wine or hard liquor, doesn’t automatically mean the church leader HAS to be missional and partake with them. In one of their homes, it may be different.

34 Mark September 13, 2011 at 7:05 pm

OK Fred, I will try to remember to check out your upcoming post. 🙂

35 Fred Butler September 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm
36 plainprogrammer August 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I’d rebuke my friends for their grumbling. And, I’d probably order a beer for good measure; just one though. I’m assuming I’ll have to drive home and one beer with a meal isn’t enough to cause me a problem (given my body type and tolerance).

.

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