Shelby G. Floyd
Recently I listened to Paul Harvey’s daily news program on the radio as I drove along in my automobile. He said something that was humorous but also had a very serious tone to it. Apparently there was a little boy who had watched too much television. His father took him to a restaurant for a meal. When the waitress asked him what he would like to have he said, “I’ll have the largest steak in the house and a bottle of Lowenbrau.”
All of us who watch television just a little know that the programs are saturated with references to beer, wine and all kinds of strong drink. Subtly implied is the idea that it is the “in” thing. The idea is that if you are young, happy and successful, drinking alcoholic beverages is the thing to do. We know that is not the entire picture or story of drinking strong drink.
Television stories and dramas fail to show the broken homes and the people who are maimed and killed on the highways by drinking drivers. They fail to show the entire picture. I read in the Indianapolis Star a story by Bob Greene that pictures the other side of the coin. This is a story about the dangers of drinking alcohol, especially by young people who start at an early age. It is bad for anybody. It is especially sad to see young people start early in life to destroy their lives and influence by drinking alcohol.
Bob Greene writes about a girl who is about eighteen years old and an alcoholic. He calls her a teenage alcoholic. Following, this girl tells in her own words the tragic story of how she became an alcoholic. She says, “I started drinking when I was nine or ten years old. My dad would give me half of his beer. I started to take liquor out of the pantry. It was easy because both of my parents were alcoholics. It was a sick family, but it seemed normal to me. I would drink rum and coke every day. I never knew why I was doing it. It was not for pleasure. All I know is that I was ten years old and I was an alcoholic.”
She says, “We would go to the relatives’ houses to visit and they would think it was cute if I was drinking. You know, a little kid drinking. They would say, “Oh, you can have one drink but no more,” and they would laugh. I would go into their kitchen and fill my glass. It did not take me long to go from beer to highballs to straight whiskey. Giving a beer to a little kid who does not know any better! I mean people think it is so funny to see a little kid sipping on a drink. They would be appalled if an adult gave a joint or some pills to a little kid. But letting a little kid have a drink is okay. That is the whole thing about alcohol versus drugs. Everyone thinks that drugs are a big problem, but they can handle the idea of alcohol because it is so readily available. It is part of our society. It is everywhere. Everyone does it. It is advertised. People do not want to admit it is a big problem because it is a part of their own lives. They can handle thinking heroin is a problem, but when they talk about alcohol they are talking about themselves.
“Meanwhile, I was hooked. I never liked school after I started drinking. I could not learn. My parents split up because my Mom gave up drinking and my Dad could not. So with no alcohol around the house I had to start finding ways to get it myself. I would steal it. I started shoplifting to get myself booze. My Mom took me to a psychiatrist when I was in the sixth grade. Psychiatrists always want to put stuff on you, like this guy said I was depressed and I had mood swings. He said I was hyperactive and he gave me drugs to calm down. I had to take these drugs for years when the real problem was obvious. It was alcoholism. It is a disease. It is as simple as that.”
“My Mom knew what was wrong. She took me to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when I was fourteen. Inside I knew I was an alcoholic but I did not want to admit it. I thought to myself, I do not need this AA stuff. I am not that bad off. I knew that I really was, but I did not want to stop. I thought the skid row type. But actually there are alcoholics in all walks of life — senators, movie stars, even priests and little kids like me.”
“I lost all of my teenage years. I would make my friends drink with me. I started stealing more to buy the booze. After I started getting arrested, I started having suicidal tendencies. I always carried a razor blade in my shoe or inside the patches of my jeans. I told myself that if I got arrested again I would kill myself but I never did try it. Last year was the year it really got bad. There was one four-month period when I was arrested twenty times. Mostly it was little stuff like being drunk in public or shoplifting, but once I got arrested for armed robbery. What happened was, I was on my way over to the supermarket to purse snatch and I saw this newspaper delivery boy on his bike. I figured he was working so he had money. I had a knife on me. I went up to him and said, “Do you have any money?” He said, “No.” I pulled the knife out and held it to his side. He promised he did not have any money so I let him go. But when I was walking out of the store he was there with a policeman and pointed me out and I was arrested.”
“It was about that time that I knew I needed help very badly. It was fun up until then and then it was not fun anymore. I talked to my Mom about it. The time had come when I finally said, “Gena, you are an alcoholic and you need help. It is either get help now or end up killing yourself or getting yourself killed.” So I went to a psychiatric hospital. I was there for four and one-half months. I did not do too well at first, but I started doing better. I am not ready to go back into the real world yet, but I am getting there.”
That is the story of a little girl who was given beer, graduated to stronger drink and became an alcoholic. The story shows how her life, the youthful years when she should have been having friends and enjoying herself the right way, was lost and destroyed.
“There is Death in the Pot”
In the Old Testament in II Kings 4:38-41 there is a story about Elisha the prophet. He went down to GiIgal and there he assembled himself and the sons of the prophets. He said to his servant, “Set on the pot.” The words “Set on the pot” do not mean he was to get a pot out and climb up and sit on it. Elisha said, “Set on the pot.” To “Set on the pot” meant that he was to set the pot on the fire. He said, “Seethe some pottage for the sons of the prophets are hungry.” Elisha sent his servants out to gather the materials for the pottage. The Bible says one of them went out into the field to gather the herbs, spices and whatever else they used then. This person found a wild vine and gathered some gourds from this wild vine. He brought all these ingredients back and then shredded then up. The wild gourds were also shredded into the pot. They stirred in and cooked all the ingredients. About the time the pottage was ready to serve to the sons of the prophets, somebody cried out and said, “There is death in the pot!”
Elisha told them to go get some meal and mix it into the pot. It was an antidote to the poison of the wild gourds. Having added the meal, it was served to the sons of the prophets and they were not poisoned.
I want to apply this story to alcoholic beverages. We need to cry out as the people did back then. We need to say, “There is death in the bottle, or can, or other container in which beer, wine and whiskey is found!” We need to cry out to our friends and neighbors, “There is death in the bottle, there is death in the can!” We need to explain to our young people in plain terms that they will destroy themselves if they drink that stuff. Somebody has said that alcoholic beverages destroy internally, externally and eternally. Alcoholic beverages will destroy one physically, morally, mentally and spiritually.
Someone may say, “Well, I really do not see anything wrong with drinking in a social way.” He may use John 2 as support for social drinking. John 2 is the story about a marriage feast held in Cana in Galilee. The mother of our Lord Jesus Christ was invited to this marriage feast. Jesus and his disciples were also invited. It was not long before his mother said to our Lord, “They are out of wine and have no more. They have many guests and have run out of wine.” Jesus said, “What do I have to do with you?” He said, “Are you come to call me before my time?” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says for you to do, do it.” Jesus did relieve an embarrassed host or hostess on this occasion. There were six water pots and he told the servants to fill them up with water. Having done so, he admonished them to serve the guests. The Bible tells us that the wine was good wine. It tasted better than what they had originally.
From this story some have drawn the conclusion that Jesus condoned social drinking. They conclude he would encourage us today to drink wine, go to marriage feasts, cocktail lounges and anywhere else to drink socially with people. That is simply not true.
Wine in the Bible Has Three Meanings
In the Bible the word “wine” is used three ways. Sometimes it is used for the grape while it is still hanging in the cluster on the vine in the field. It is used in the sense of fresh grape juice that is on the vine, not yet gathered and squeezed out. The second way it is used is for fresh grape juice squeezed out of the grape. That is the way it is used in John 2.
I would encourage reading a book called “Bible Wines.” The ancients had many ways to preserve grape juice to keep it as fresh and sweet as Welch’s Grape Juice you buy at the supermarket today. They could preserve it for a year at a time. When it was opened it would be as fresh and sweet and unfermented as the day it was squeezed out of the grape. For a party or wedding back then, it was the mark of a good host to serve grape juice that was still fresh and sweet, despite whether it was in or out of season. This undoubtedly is the sense in which the word “wine” is used in John 2 concerning the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee.
The third way the word “wine” is used is in the sense of fermented wine or strong drink. In both the Old and New Testaments, when the word “wine” is used in the sense of fermented wine, it is always condemned. Let me give you an example in the Old Testament. Solomon was the Sage of the nation of Israel. God gave him more wisdom than anyone else except Jesus Christ. Solomon said in Proverbs 23:29-35:
“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?” Then he answered those questions. “They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.”
Nowhere else in the Bible can a passage be found that condemns drinking wine, beer and strong drink more plainly! Notice Solomon said, “Who hath wounds and contentions and redness of eyes and babblings?” It was the people who tarried long at wine and mixed drinks. So they had mixed drinks back then. Then he said, “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red.” That is a prohibition. It meant the people could drink wine when it was fresh grape juice. When it was red and moving itself, or fermenting, they were not to “look upon it.” That meant they could not drink it. The Old Testament is very clear in its condemnation of drinking fermented wine. There are other passages also. The Book of Proverbs says, “Wine is a mocker, but strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” This covers any other strong drink.
What does the New Testament say about drinking alcoholic beverages? In Ephesians 5:18-19 Paul said to the Ephesians,
“And be not drunk with wine wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Notice he said, “Do not be filled with the one thing, but be filled with something else.”
Do not be filled with wine. Why? It will cause drunkenness and the loss of self-respect. Be filled with the Spirit. How are we filled with the Spirit? Colossians 3:16 is a parallel passage and tells us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” What will happen when we are filled with the Spirit by letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly? We will have songs and hymns and spiritual songs in our hearts that must come out. Therefore, we will sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 the apostle Paul wrote words to some Christian people who had come from very immoral backgrounds. They had done just about everything named in the Gentile world, but had been baptized into Christ. Paul told them to leave their former manner of life because now they were the people of Christ. He said,
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Notice this, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
I appeal to all who are Christian people. Maybe you have done things in the past that are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. If you have been baptized into Christ, you should do those things no longer. Paul said, “Such were some of you.” In other words, you did those things in times past, but can no longer do them and be consistent with the doctrine of Christ. Why? You have been washed in the waters of baptism. You have been sanctified by the name of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God has justified you. Is it consistent for a washed, sanctified, justified person to drink alcoholic beverages? No! Nor is it consistent to do any of the other sinful things that might previously have characterized his life.
I especially appeal to those in their teenage years. The Devil is trying to work on you and tempt you to drink alcoholic beverages. He uses every avenue, every means and every media to try to get you away from serving God and to cause you to lose your spiritual influence. If somebody tries to get you to take a drink, cry out and say, “No, there is death in the pot! There is death in the bottle and I will not destroy my soul, my body and my influence.
The Bible tells us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6). The Bible says that if we destroy our bodies that are the temples of the Holy Spirit, then God will destroy us. Let us not think of our bodies as receptacles for strong drink, cigarettes, drugs and things of that nature. Let us instead tell ourselves, “I will keep my body as healthy as I can. It is a gift from God and I will not mistreat it. I will not put poison into it. I will try to stay as healthy as I can so I will have good years and good influence to serve God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the way we ought to think.
Think seriously about the lesson. Think seriously about a teenage girl who was an alcoholic because her parents started giving her beer when she was just a little girl. Think about what Solomon said. Think about what Paul said, and think about your influence as a Christian.
If you are not a child of God, the Church is the best place on the face of this earth to be. There are no better people than Christian people, even with all of their faults and shortcomings. Christian people are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. I believe that if the Church were taken off the face of this earth, God would have to destroy it because we could not stand to live on it. We are the influence on this earth to change the hearts of men and women. We can change them with the gospel of Christ. We can change them when people see the gospel changing and molding our lives and making us into the image of Jesus Christ. Let us not partake of anything that would cause us to lose our influence.
If you are not a Christian, confess your faith in Jesus Christ, repent and be baptized and live the Christian life. If you have lost your influence and are no longer faithful to Christ, be restored. God will forgive you. You can start where you left off and grow unto eternal salvation.*
*A Sermon Delivered By Shelby G. Floyd, June 18, 1978 At The Garfield Heights Church Of Christ, 2842 Shelby Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. Copyright © 2001, 2019 All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142