Drinking beer for its spiritual benefits?

Although it might be shocking to much of my extended family, I’ve started drinking a beer (or a glass of wine) once a week or so. And the reason I started was a spiritual one.

Most of my family attends Baptist churches. I did for the first 30+ years of my life. In the Baptist churches I’m familiar with, “Thou shalt not drink alcohol” is the eleventh commandment. Now, I’ve known Baptists that would disagree. But those same Baptists abstain from drinking alcohol anyway. I’ve also known some on the other end of the spectrum that would frown on taking NyQuil!

To be clear: there is no command in scripture that flat out says that drinking alcohol is a sin. Matthew 15:11 pretty much makes this clear: “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (ESV) There are several commands to avoid drunkenness, and I do believe that being drunk is sinful.

I came to this conclusion after studying the Bible at Word of Life Bible Institute. It became clear to me that alcohol isn’t the problem. The problem is drunkenness (and dependency that comes with alcoholism, and using alcohol as a way of escape, etc., etc.). It also became clear to me that a Christian can drink an alcoholic beverage without committing sin.

However, at the time I was a member of a church where that “just isn’t done.” I doubt anyone would give me serious grief if I had decided to try a beer or two while I attended there. But I also knew there were parishoners there for whom a drink of alcohol would be a serious stumbling block. If they found out that I had had a drink, it would cause them to see me differently, etc. So I decided to abstain while in that congregation.

I go to a different church now, one that doesn’t seem to have the same sort of parishoners. I’ve even talked with a friend there about going out and enjoying a beer sometime — with no hesitation or embarrassment.

So why did I switch my position on this issue and start having a beer from time to time? I had a really hard time with my understanding of this issue. I knew in my heart that a drink of alcohol wasn’t a problem. But I never could actually do it. Something was holding me back. I’ve heard message after message where the speaker talks about someone (sometimes themselves, sometimes someone else) who has such a great testimony before God because they have “never had a drop of alcohol touch their lips.”

When I would consider how my understanding of theology wasn’t matching up with my actual practice (knowing intellectually that having a beer wasn’t sinful, but just not bringing myself to try it), I would have a dilemma in my mind. I knew that having a beer was no problem, but I also knew deep down that I was just a little bit better than those who did. Intellectually I didn’t think so. But it was the deep down feeling that I couldn’t shake. One day I decided that this inner struggle had to stop. So Vivian and I had some wine with dinner with some friends.

The issue was really one of self-righteousness. Deep down I felt I was earning some kind of favor with God by keeping myself “pure” from alcohol. A concept which is just rubbish.

So now I’m able to have a beer now and then and enjoy it to the glory of God.

There’s a scene in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that is sort of on point. Friar Tuck is attempting to educate Robin Hood’s men. He holds up a handful of grain and says, “This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption… Beer!”

The churchy world that I was part of growing up tended to view beer as something evil that entrapped everyone that drank it. No one spoke of anyone having a beer because it was something to be enjoyed. No one talked about drinking the occasional beer as a way of celebrating God’s good gifts to us. Although, as I recall it we ate a lot of desserts.