sincerely want to thank all those who have contributed in one way or
the other in writing and the production of this book. I am
particularly grateful for the encouragement and the support of Laku
my wife. She prays while I write and she understands while I steal
into her time and that of the children to write. I also appreciate
the cooperation of our four lovely children, Yammune, Seramkong,
Kamduhl and Yamkwada. They all know when daddy is busy writing.
Thanks to my friends who have always asked, “What book are you
writing next?” I shall ever remain thankful to all our partners and
supporters of our mission work. Finally I thank my publishers for
for making this work available to the general public.
yours in Him,
Namani J Nharrel.
this work to all the servants of God working in places where strong
drink is an issue. I am praying that God will help them learn how to
strike a balance so that the issue does not become an obstacle on the
way of the true seekers after God.
A story (almost a joke) has it that
one of the foremost ‘sins’ the first European Missionaries preached
against when they entered a Nigerian tribe in the early 20th
century was the drinking of a locally brewed alcoholic drink called
men (MENN). Their not drinking men among other things
identified those who became Christians.
It happened that some of the native unbelievers went to see what
those white men and their kinsmen were doing under a tree on a
Sunday. They met the Christians praying. At the end of the prayers
all the believers in unison said the Amen (E-MENN). It was
intriguing to the unbelievers. Nevertheless they dispatched quickly
and joyfully bewildered, to spread the news. For all they understood
was that the Christians must have changed their minds about drinking
men. After all they heard the Christians commanding themselves
to E-menn (drink men) at the end of their prayers.
I grew up to see my people drink men. The Christians didn’t,
the non-Christians did. When a person became a Christian people
outside the church asked, “Has he stopped drinking”? Or when
a person began to get unserious with the Lord, the question usually
asked is, “Has he started drinking?” Incidentally drinking
secretly or openly was the first visible sign people began to notice
in a backslider.
The fact that those early missionaries and believers associated
drinking with evil is vividly illustrated in the following anthem we
were taught in the Sunday school.
Mam mo wob Yamba
De ma ilu ma seb Mai gu
A Munung ashin Bailbul
Mam mo wob Shuro
De ma ilu ma seb mai gu
A munung ashin dig men
Those of you who worship God
Stand up and see your King
He is carrying the Bible.
Those of you
who worship Satan
Stand up and
see your king
carrying a pot of wine.
So I left home with the idea that drinking is sinful. If I saw some
Christians drink I thought they could not be serious ones.
The claim that drinking is sinful and that those who drink are
either sinners or sinning has been preached from many evangelical
pulpits. In personal witnessing that has been the main trust of the
message of some too. It goes something like this: “Drinking is
sinful, stop it and follow Christ.” But the question that
those being preached to have always asked is, “Where is it
in the Bible, that says, drinking is a sin?” One went further to
refer me to the fact that Jesus himself turned water into ‘men’
and that Paul asked Timothy to drink ‘men’ for the sake of
his stomach. At first that sounded blasphemous. The places he
referred to have no ‘men’ but
wine in my language New Testament Bible. I admit that wine
is a foreign word and I didn’t care to know what it meant then. Now
that I know, it’s an English word whose equivalent in my language is
men, I suspect that the missionaries who translated the New
Testament into my language had their fears. Using men for
wine would have undermined their gospel or so they must have thought
since our people drank a lot of men.
The first tribe I worked among as a missionary myself was also very
wonderful at drinking. Again the major question my colleagues and I
had to grapple with was. If taking alcoholic drink was sinful or
The unbelievers said, “We have been looking and waiting for a good
alternative to our idolatrous way of life. But will you allow us to
continue in our drinking habit if we become Christians”? An incident
brings this question clearer.
My family was to move and start a station in one section of the
tribe. Family heads from several settlements in that region learnt
about our move. They met and agreed to embrace Christianity with
their families. They even decided where the worship centre would be
sited. But by the time we actually moved in to start work the people
seem to have changed their mind. They learnt that the missionaries
as individuals do not drink wine; they therefore concluded
that they (the missionaries) are not likely to condone drinking in
the church. This was confirmed much later, when one of the natives
stopped one of the missionaries and told him, “Look if only you
allow people who drink, in your church, that building you have
cannot contain all those who are willing to join you on Sundays.”
Thus what would have been a mass movement of a section of a tribe
into Christianity was stalled because of drinking palaver.
Though I was beginning to differentiate between Biblical absolutes
and the non-absolutes, yet I was not convinced that we needed to
throw the door of the church open just to accommodate a crowd who
were not willing to forsake what I considered an unwholesome habit
that may not help the spiritual growth of the church. Nevertheless
there was a struggle raging within me. Secretly I believed that
drinking was not a Biblical absolute in most instances. Therefore it
shouldn’t be the focus or point of emphasis of the gospel message.
On the other hand the reality of experience (doctrine is not built
on experience) would not make me say boldly and openly that drinking
is not sinful.
So when new believers come to ask if drinking is sinful or not or
when they come to report that that other new believer is still
drinking the missionary or preacher who wants to be balanced is
thrown into a fix. He is torn between being faithful to the Bible
despite popular opinion and giving a blank license for irresponsible
indulgence. He is not sure whether to trust the Holy Spirit to do
his work of inner sanctification or fear watering down the gospel if
he should tell people that taking strong drinks is not sinful. It is
As I write “What is in this Pot?” I am faced by this dilemma.
What will the majority of the evangelical preachers say about it? I
also fear a misreading by a people who would have been looking for
an excuse to abuse a gift of God to man. In any case I have sworn
allegiance to God and His word.
Preachers of the word of God must face this dilemma courageously,
particularly those working among peoples who drinking are literally
The issue of drinking or not drinking
alcoholic drink has been an obstacle to the spread of the gospel in
Nigeria since the time of the European missionaries to date. There
have been two unhealthy extreme views. At one end most evangelical
preachers list taking strong drinks top in the company of adultery,
stealing, idolatry, murder and the likes whereas the Bible is not
categorical about its sinful nature as it does the others. Then
there are those who see nothing wrong in taking strong drinks. They
indulge in it irresponsibly. When they are full they give glory to
demons in one way or the other. The non-Christian non-drinkers like
the Muslims associates’ strong drinks with Christianity. As such
some would have nothing to do with a religion that seems to permit
its adherents to take intoxicants. Especially, when they see
so-called Christians misbehaving under the influence of strong
The purpose of this book is to explain
as balanced as possible the scriptural position on strong drink in
the context of becoming a Christian and the demands of its lifestyle
thereafter. It is hoped that this book will help both drinkers and
non-drinkers of strong drinks put it in proper perspective as it
regards to its relationship with Christianity. I pray that the
Evangelical preacher, in particular will learn to prioritize the
content of his gospel message without necessarily making the gospel
look cheap or watering it down after reading this book. Overall I
desire that this book will help people make intelligent choices or
counsel others whether to drink or not. So that no one feels guilty
for drinking or claim spiritual superiority for not drinking
consequent of whichever choice one makes. And I pray that this
choice is going to be made in the light of clear biblical position
and in the context of the totality of Biblical Christianity and the
Kingdom lifestyle, so that we do not despise nor pass judgment on
one another other.
WHAT IS IN THIS POT?
What am I?
I am a liquid
Contained in a pot
Sought by Millions
I cheer and gladden the hearts of
Woes, sorrow and misery I give to more
I flow freely
Yet bind thousands strongly
Loved and hated
An Enigma you may say
Food or poison
Whatever you think
To God and conscience you can appeal
To reveal what I am.
You are a mix of sadness and joy. A controversial food drink made
from grains or fruits. You have as many names as the tribes that
make you in Nigeria and the world over. You are presented in pots of
various shapes to your lovers in Northern Nigeria, the Middle Belt
and other places that love you. In Hausa you are called Burkutu
or giya: Your sister from the Palm tree in the South is
called ‘tombo’ (palm wine). Then your cousins from abroad
either from cereals or fruits comes bottled or canned. They are
called beer and wine respectively.
But let us lump you together and call you strong
drink. If you don’t mind we shall from time to time called
alcoholic drink or even use wine interchangeably. However to
know you better we must need to examine you closer, through your
production, content, consumption and misuse.
– Is “an alcoholic drink made form
grains.” “It is an alcoholic drink made from malt and flavoured with
hops.” The hops are plants, which give the bottled beer its
bitter taste. The grains from which the popular Burkutu and
other forms of beer are made from include: Guinea Corn (Sorghum),
Millets, Maize (Corn) ‘acca’ and sometimes rice.
The production of the locally brewed
Burkutu goes through a process that last seven days from the
soaking of the grain to drinking. The process involves mainly the
breaking of the carbohydrate content of the grain into sugar, which
is in turn acted upon by enzymes to produce the alcohol and other
content of the drink.
The grain is soaked and softens in
water. Then it is removed and provided with other conditions of
germination, namely warmth and dark cover. By the third or fourth
day majority of the grains have sprouted. The sprouted grain is
grounded either after drying or wet and later made into paste. The
paste is put in large pot to boil, cool and allowed to ferment
overnight. The boiling and fermentation processes vary from place to
place and with the nature and strength of the beer desired. To
increase its intoxicating ability parts of some special plants are
On the seventh day the beer is ready
for drinking. Depending on the brewed quantity it can last for two
to three more days. With increasing days the drinks become more soar
and stronger. The expert at it loves it that way.
– This is the alcoholic drink used in the Bible lands and many parts
of the world today. “And wine mentioned in the Bible is fermented
grape juice with an alcohol content. No non-fermented juice was
Wine is produced from the vine plant
whose long stems grows along the ground or fastens themselves to
other erect objects by means of long tendrils. The fruits of the
vine are put in large containers called wine presses at an
elevation. The presses are connected to lower containers by
channels. The juice is expressed by squeezing the fruits in the
larger containers, which flow into the smaller lower containers.
This is later collected and put into pots or other containers like
wine skin in the Bible times.
The main action in the process here is
fermentation. It is set into motion as soon as the skin of the grape
fruits is broken. “Fermentation requires only sugar, some
micro-organism and time. The sugar is in the grape, the yeast that
produces fermentation clings to the skin of the grape and the time
begins the minute the skin is broken and the two are brought
together. It can happen still with the grape on the vine. In
refrigerated liquids, the process begins within hours and can
produce noticeable alcoholic content in a very short time”4.
After the juice has been expressed,
collected and put into jars it is now strained, sieved and ready for
Both are Alcoholic
Wine from grapes and other fruits and
beer from grains and roots both contain alcohol at varying levels of
concentration. Alcohol is defined as “the colourless liquid present
in wine, beer and other liquor that can make one drunk” 5.
The alcohol content of strong drinks
varies with several factors. These include the level of sugar
content in the source material, the degree to which the sugar is
acted upon by microbial activities; the atmospheric condition
conducive for the microbial activities and the addition of
additives, which may have intoxicating abilities in themselves.
The level of alcohol or its
concentration determines how strong a drink becomes. This in turn
determines the intoxicating potential of the drink. “In Biblical
times wine had a practical alcoholic content of 10-11%”. There are
several bottled drinks in the Nigerian drink market that certainly
have higher alcoholic content. In some places the pure distilled
alcohol meant for other purposes are bottled and consumed undiluted.
From all intent and purpose the
alcoholic content of strong drinks are if not all, to a very large
extent the motivation for the consumption of wine and beer.
In most communities that take strong drinks, they are seen as mere
food. One has seen whole communities whose life can be described as
virtually depending on wine as ‘food’. One has heard people say that
drinking is indeed their life. Meaning they cannot do without
drinking. In communities where people live like this the
burkutu is brewed on daily basis, from one compound to the
other. Instances have been observed where a whole family goes out
drinking from morning till night (not in one place). Sometimes the
very young ones are left behind to fend for themselves, if they can.
Strong drink is hardly served as a family meal even in places where
the people claim drinking is their way of life. Even in large
families and compounds strong drinks are hardly made for the
immediate members’ consumption alone. So when people claim that beer
or wine is food, it appears that it is more of ‘communal’ food that
they mean. When it is sold and bought outside it is often ‘eaten’
in-group or individually where people are. It is taken on the spot.
Hence the existence of beer parlours, drinking joints, bars and
markets are scattered in remote settlements and villages. People go to
all these places to drink and enjoy themselves. When bought and
brought home it is often to a special guest, an invalid or an old
elderly member of the family. Alcoholic drinks are also served as
the main or one of the main food items in social functions such as
wedding and festivals.
If some people take strong drinks as food, many more take it for
other reasons. It appears the alcohol content and its intoxicating
effect are some these reasons.
This is confirmed in the fact that those who drink heavily will feel
insulted when offered say ‘kunu’ (a form of gruel more
like the alcoholic burkutu and may even be denser than
the latter in quenching hunger and thirst) and other forms of liquid
food when they have a choice to drink burkutu. Or when
fanta or coca-cola is offered to one who drinks bottled beer. Here
the aim becomes not to fill the stomach with strong drink as food
but to get something different from it. Such thing could be the
desire to get drunk, proving ones prowess at drinking or generosity
with drinks. Some desire to get drunk in order to get even with
adversaries they have been too timid to approach in sober moments.
Sometimes it is just to feel belong to the status quo.
On this last point, a male adult may
not be considered a man in certain cycles if he is not drinking.
People have wondered aloud to the hearing of this writer that, “How
on earth can a grown up man not drink?”
Abuse and Addiction
“If alcoholic drink is taken for the
sake of the stomach, then it ought to be just food for the stomach
and nothing more. But a man boasted that he could drink from 6
‘O’clock in the morning to 2 ‘o’clock the next morning. Another man
said he could drink a carton of beer at a sitting. So in most
instances this ‘food’ is taken without restraint or moderation. It
becomes an abuse. Often this abuse leads to a tragic enslavement or
addiction. The author the book, Where there is no Doctor captures
the effect of this addiction:
“If alcohol has brought much joy to
man it has also brought much suffering especially to women and
children of men who drink. A little alcohol now and then may do no
harm. But too often a little leads to a lot. In much of the world,
heavy or excessive drinking is one of the underlying causes of major
health problems even for those who do not drink. Not only can
drunkenness harm the health of those who drink (through diseases
such as cirrhosis of the liver…), but it also hurt the family and
communities in many ways. Through loss of judgment when drunk and
have self respect when sober-it leads to much unhappiness, waste and
violence often affecting those who are loved most.
“How many fathers have spent their
last money on drinks when their children were hungry? How many
sicknesses result because a man spends the little bit of extra money
he earns on drinks rather than on improving his family’s living
How many persons hating themselves
because they have hurt those they love? Take another drink and
More questions. How many
divorce cases there are due to uncontrolled drinking? How many
children have had no parental love, attention and training because
one or both parents were drunkards? How many lives and property have
been lost in vehicle accidents driven by drunk drivers? How many
street fights, home fights, theft, rape, murder and a host of other
crimes have been committed under the influence of strong drinks?
Certainly the abuse of alcoholic drink has led to untold hardship,
pains, loss and death.
When strong drinks are taken solely for the alcohol sake it
naturally leads to its abuse. The unwarranted use or alcohol by
those who have given themselves to it ‘habitually’ or
compulsively is addiction. It becomes a lifestyle dependent on
alcohol. Once people are hooked on alcohol it becomes difficult to
stop it. If they try to stop it, they become miserable, sick or
I have seen people being ‘dragged’ on
foot over ten kilometers by the irresistible urge to drink. I have
seen and heard of people who once they receive their salary will not
return home until they have spent their last Naira on drinks. I have
lived with a neighbour who abandoned his family for most part of the
week rotating from one drinking spot to the other in the
On one occasion we sat dawn to
analyze how much an average drinker spent on drinks per week. The
amount was staggering relative to the income of most people in that
subsistence farming community. When I looked at the man as being an
above average drinker I marveled. His cloths barely covering his
body, his family feeding poorly, his bed a flat form of mud, his
room has no fixed door and yet he was a giant at drinking non-free
drinks. I wondered. In sober moments he confided his desperation. He
wants to stop drinking if only he could get the ‘medicine to stop
drinking’ he told me he would stop.
So when chronic alcoholics try to get out of it, often they cannot
help themselves, rather they go deeper, thereby creating more
problems for themselves, their families and the whole community. In
some of these communities the people don’t know what to do with
their addicts especially in the youth category. Beside stealing
goats, live fowls, money, breaking into grain stores such youths
have constituted themselves into social menace-fighting, raping
breaking all known societal laws and orders and making nonsense of
all traditional norms and values.
Abuse and addiction to alcoholic drink is sadly a vicious enslaving
habit. The prisoner himself is the prison warden. Only he has the
key of unlocking the prison gate to be freed from its captivity.
Though he moans, “I am chained strongly” yet when he wakes up he
goes for more.
There were such addicts in the Bible times too. They had woes,
sorrows, strife, complaints, and needless brushes, bloodshot eyes.
Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine’.
They “gazed at when it was red, when it sparkled in the cup, when it
goes down smoothly in the end it bites like a snake and poisons like
a viper” when drunk their ‘eyes saw strange sights’ and their minds,
“ imagined confusing things.” In such conditions they become 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 do not
feel it. When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” (See
Proverbs 23:29 – 35).
A bad habit is like a soft chair, easy to get into, but hard to get
out of it. People in this habit and or those around them only need
to know that “A changed life is the result of a changed heart”. The
only surgeon that does this heart transplant perfectly and
permanently is the Lord Jesus Christ.
MORE THAN A FOOD DRINK
There are few foods that are so
controversial and yet find acceptance and broad use than alcoholic
drinks. It has religious, social and economic significance. Its
consumption and use goes beyond being mere food.
The strong ties people have to strong
drinks can better be appreciated if we look further into the various
ways it is used. Understanding these uses can help us see those who
use it with eyes of love and empathy. Those who do not drink may
disagree with the habit of drinking itself. But that is a different
thing. There is no doubt, strong drink meets deep felt needs of its
Those who feel that there are better
ways of meeting these needs must first know why alcohol is so
important to its drinkers. Then they can objectively and lovingly
proffer such alternatives. The alternatives must be good and
Shared by Both Man and the Divine
In African Traditional Religion
(ATR), there is hardly any religious function in which strong drink
is not served. People pour libation to ancestors and spirits or
demons in the belief that the latter are appeased or pleased. The
drinks are offered in appreciation for perceived goods done by the
ancestors and the spirits. Such good things include the arrival of
rain, a bountiful harvest of crops, the gift of children, a family
member who died at a very ripe age, the removal of devilish sickness
(epidemic) and the like. Drinks are also used to appease the
ancestors or the gods when they visit the living with calamity;
result of the latter’s disobedience.
Men on their own part drink in their
communion with the spirit world. They drink as a matter of
fulfilling religious obligations. In cases where the drink is
offered in divining a cause of a mishap that has befallen the
community all are expected to participate. Those who refuse are
suspected as culprit. For drinking proves one guilty or innocent of
any complication in the case being divined.
In some cultures the dead are counted
as members of the family. They must be fed regularly. An incident
Two men who apparently have heard the
gospel of salvation preached wanted to declare their faith formerly.
They trekked some ten kilometers to invite me to their village so
that together with their families they can declare for Christianity.
On the appointed day, I rode together
with a dear brother on bicycles to the village. On reaching the
village we were told that the two men were still on their farms. We
got a young boy who led us to the farms. Fortunately for us the
farms bordered each other.
The two men received us happily. We
retold them the message of salvation, explaining to them how people
get related to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just at the point the two men were
bowing their heads to invite Christ into their lives an old woman
suddenly appeared from nowhere.
“What?” she shouted. “You want to become Christians? Who will be
giving food to your fathers?
The two men looked at the woman
embarrassed. They excused us, “till another time”.
On our way back, the brother that
accompanied me hold me that the fathers of the men died long times
ago. The old woman who interrupted the declaration of those men for
Christ happened to be the mother of one of them. Even if the fathers
were alive, mothers are disobeyed at a great risk of being cursed in
The belief in life after death is
behind the practice of offering food and drinks to dead people. Even
the recent dead are sent to their final place of rest with wine and
other foods. Thereafter they are remembered yearly depending on how
rich the family the deceased left is.
Sadaka in which prayer for the
repose of the soul of the decease is made is done with abundant
supply of wine. This is mandatory for the relations of the dead in a
particular tribe. Failure to meet this obligation attracts a penalty
of fine in addition to still having to do the Sadaka.
This pagan practice is modified and
christened in several Christian denominations today.
Alcohol drinks appear to be the only
food men and the spirits share in common.
An Item of Commerce
Two men were passing through a town
one of them drew the attention of the other to a new house by the
“Look at the house we built for this
woman” he said.
“You are neither a builder nor a
relation of the woman, how and when did you build this house?”
queried his companion.
Remorsefully the first man said, “It
is the money we spend drinking from her that she used to build her
The woman referred to was in Liquor
The alcohol Business is a flourishing
one. As far back as 1972 it was reported that, approximately six
million gallons of wine are produced annually. About 75% enters
international trade. “And the world produces about twelve million
gallons of beer annually most of which does not enter world trade”.
Since the above figures were given
more breweries have come up the world over. Research has broadened
the scope of raw materials in the alcohol industry. Most tropical
countries for instance depended on imported malt from the temperate
countries. But now tropical crops like maize, Guinea corn, millet
and cassava are used to produce bottled beer.
The alcohol industry certainly
contributes to the gross national income of Nigeria.
Beside its contribution to the international and national economies,
the local industry is a main income generator to the local brewers.
In many rural communities beer is the main item of trade. The women
folks are more prominent into the business. As a source of income
many would not stop the alcohol business for anything.
Working as a church planter in such places one has heard many a
woman comment, “How will I survive economically if I stop brewing
Indeed the business meet the
clothing, feeding and medical needs among other needs of these women
and their families. Some women do not drink but are into the making
of the drink for sale.
The business seems to pay off
quickly. It is hardly in need of customers. A people who believe
that drinking is their way of life or culture will always demand for
the drink. Those who can make it, supply it in exchange for money.
Surprisingly the customers always get
the money to drink in one way or the other. They literary drink up
the sweat of the toils of the cropping season. The farm produce is
squandered on drink. Some people go to hire their labour to rich
persons or communities and return to drink with the money so earned.
Looking at the rural set up it
becomes easier to understand why the liquor business thrives. The
level of initiative, creativity and industry of the people leaves
little or no options for making money. They may be in their own
worlds. But they need and do interact with the other worlds, which
do involve financial commitments.
However not everyone in such
communities is involved in the alcohol trade.
The excuse that brewing is the only
means of economic survival comes only from those who are in it. Many
missionaries have testified that the women converts who formerly
brewed burkutu and had stopped it after their conversion
survived. They lived healthier and more prosperous than their
counterparts who still made alcoholic drinks. With counsel and
determination they had their creativity and industriousness
enhanced. They were able to find other income generating avenues.
When they took the pains to reach the outside world they found
markets for their local products. Items that were before then
overlooked, suddenly had value and highly demanded.
The alcohol business at the local
level has a peculiar characteristic. Except in few cases hardly do
those involve have much to show for it, by way of improved standard
of living. The trade seems to keep both the supplier and the
customer at low levels of financial prosperity and stagnation. The
former drains the purse of the latter while the later seem to
silently curse the former so that the profit made become less
beneficial and worthless.
In Ceremonies and Festivals
Strong drinks are served at
occasions, wedding engagements and ceremonies, parties, meetings;
and regular festivals, religious or cultural. The drinks serve as
On these occasions the celebrants
provide the drinks with great concern.
On the surface the reason for the
concern might appear to be the need to satisfy the feeding needs of
the guest. But on probe, one sees that often it is the reputation of
the celebrant that is perceived to be at stake. In the world of show
off and competition people will like to seize every opportunity to
display their competence and wealth. So the main question at the
back of their mind as they supply the drinks is that of rating:
“What will the invitees say if they do not drink to their
satisfaction? They fear disgrace and shame.
Therefore, in away, meeting the drink
needs of the participant at a social function that serves it is
equated to the success of the function itself. People will continue
to stay for as long as the drink flows. Some can stay overnight or
for few more days depending on the occasion and the availability of
If it was, say a wedding ceremony,
people will return praising how generous the family of the groom or
bride (whichever hosted the occasion) is, with food to feed a large
crowd at a time and having people say so. This help to boost the
celebrant’s ego. It is a thing of real joy to the family so praised.
On the other hand, people will gossip about and slander hosts who
were not able to provide enough drinks for their guests.
In some cultures strong drinks are
listed as part of the dowry.
I happened to be privilege to
represent the family of a cousin marrying from such a culture. We
had bought all the items demanded from us. We were ready to present
them to the bride’s family, only to be told by a sympathetic lady
that our items weren’t complete. We hadn’t bought the bottled wine
and beer. I was hesitant about buying and presenting these
particular items. Though the cousin does not drink too, what I
couldn’t measure was his level of conviction about presenting strong
drinks to in-laws. I had to be careful with how I felt.
Strong drink is so important in
social functions such that those concerned are levied in cash or
kind to provide it. Distant relations take it upon themselves to
contribute and friends and well-wishers assist to buy or make. Its
importance is also seen in the nature of the occasion in which it is
served. They are often lively and joyful moments. The strong drinks
enhance these the more.
After drinking the people often rise
to singing and dancing; back patting and congratulating. These are
delightful and desired effects.
But alas! In many instance the
opposite of these desired effects result. After drinking, people
quarrel and fight. Unrestrained flirtation, fornication and adultery
take place. A man told me that he normally doesn’t stay late night
outside. But he is forced to attend late night wedding parties his
Strong drinks definitely connect
People and communities too. It makes them to rejoice with one
another. But sometimes these joys turn to sadness depending on the
tide of the cherished liquid.
Motivator for Communal Labour
Interdependency is a mark of
homogenous communities. To develop themselves and the community at
large members would have to deal with one another. Strong drink is a
strong binding force to reckon with in this interdependency.
In addition to other equally
important motivations, people participate fully and actively in any
communal work where strong drink is involved.
An individual can invite a section or
a whole village to his farm and the pay for their labour being ample
quantity of wine. It is served before and or after the farm work
depending on the quantity of the drink.
A new family compound with two to
four round houses can be built up in 2-3 days. It is possible where
wine is provided and the people invited.
Farm produce can be conveyed en mass
from the farm to the house or market if wine is provided.
Intra and inter village road networks
are constructed or repaired, public building are built with wine
served as food or refreshment for the work. In Urban centers,
cultural and tribal groupings meet to discuss ways of developing
their villages back home over strong drinks.
Though a good motivator in making
people participate in communal work, the emphasis however, is not on
the drink itself. The work is the focus. But serving the drink is
not taken for granted either. People here drink from others with the
thought that they will someday have people come to drink from them.
If they don’t go to drink from others nobody will come to drink from
The Social Connection
Man, sociologist tell us is a social
animal (I prefer a social being). He does not like to
stay alone but to associate with others. This association with or
without a necessary common agenda or focus is often desired at his
leisure time. The times that he is less busy.
As a missionary one goes to meet his
audience where they are. On one occasion I went to a drinking spot.
There I met a primary school teacher who lightheartedly invited me
to join him in ‘eating’. I politely declined the invitation on the
ground that I do not ‘eat’ that kind of food. However, wanting to
discuss further with him, I asked, “What kind of food is it that
doesn’t seem to satisfy people who eat it from morning till evening?
And why do most people prefer to eat it outside the home?”
He looked at me with a smile and then
said, “This is more than a matter of food. It is the heart of our
social life and interactions! If it were only to be a matter of food
I would just drink and go home to sleep or buy it and take it home
to my family.”
Strong drink is therefore the social
magnet that attracts people of different background to interact. It
is a leveler as people forget their status, class, position or
possession and mix freely with one another.
I know of some farming communities
that the farmers are so religiously attached to their farms. But
once it is the weekly market day they take leave of the farm to
attend the market. They go with the purpose of seeing (interacting
with) people where they ‘see’ the people is the drinking places.
When they interact and relax over
drinks they talk freely, loudly and loosely. They exchange the
latest news, gossips and boast about all there are to boast about.
They laugh off their heads silly patting one another.
Some see avenues for recreation in
drinking in the market. Others drink there to while away the time,
yet others go to drink to forget their miserable life. Still some go
to drink to meet old acquaintances or make new ones.
On the other hand are those who go to
public drinking places for some diabolic intentions. Such go to
settle scores with their real or imagined enemies. They drink and
start quarreling or fighting with other people. Some, pretending to
be friendly and generous with drinks have gone to the wicked extend
of poisoning others. They secretly put poison in the drinks and then
offer it to their friends.
I guess this is the reason why well
meaning people would have to taste first any drink they offer to
visitors or strangers. This is to assure that there is nothing
harmful in the drink being offered. Some of those who perpetuate
wicked acts on others do so under the pretext of being drunk. People
have been verbally or physically assaulted and some have even been
killed under this pretext.
To Escape from Reality
Some people use drink as a pain
reliever. Quite a number of people live under emotional stress. In
fact we should rather say that some drink as an escape route from
Many people I have observed or
interviewed were not drinking until they reached a crises point in
These crises inflicted wounds and
left pains in their hearts. To ease the pains they started drinking.
A quiet and gentle man has a wife
that has a good dose of nagging. He is not given to too much
talking. To avoid facing his sharp-mouthed wife he resorted to
drinking till late nights. He closes from work and goes straight
from office to the beer parlour. There he drinks and idle away the
time till, the bar attendant signals its time to close.
He heads for home that late hoping
the tigress has gone to sleep. Early the next morning he slips up to
work. The cycle continues.
Another man says he drinks because it
helps him to forget all the problems of life. Indeed without
drinking the man is depression personified. But after
drinking he is the most cheerful and lighthearted person one would
love to keep company with. Some people have low image of themselves.
They seem to find worth and self-esteem after they have drank.
Thereafter they talk big, arrogantly boast about and challenge
The pain of rejection and ridicule is
another reason why people drink. I have heard people ask if a man is
a man because he does not go out drinking with other men. There are
instances that wrong assumptions have been made against such a men.
“His wife has him in her pocket” or “She has a foot on his head” or
“He is a woman wrapper” or any or those idiomatic expressions that
says a man is influenced and controlled by his wife.
Only few men have the heart to take
this insult. So to be seen as ‘real’ men they go to drink.
Whether drinking actually solve the
problems of those who drink for that reason remains to be answered.
Based on the following observations often than not the problems
If any, the solution provided by drinking is
temporary. For example the man who wants to escape depression by
drinking is back to it after the hangover of the previous drink.
In escaping from one problem, more problems of
greater magnitude are created. The man who is fed up with his wife’s
nagging becomes an irresponsible absentee father and husband. The
function of both of these God-given positions are abdicated to the
wife or grown up children.
Many of such people live double life. They are
irresponsible in the home but pretend to be something else outside.
Though their irresponsibility soon becomes obvious to outsiders yet
not many people will be willing to correct such people.
Their whole approach to solving life’s problem
rather looks cowardly and often leads to tragic ends.
Oh how I pray that those who think
that drinking solves life problems will see its deceitful nature.
Only the Lord Jesus Christ in the believer’s heart provides a
lasting solution to life’s problem. Only he can meet any need
purported to be met by strong drinks.
I was settling dawn among a new tribe my family and I were to begin
a pioneer mission work. To acquaint myself with the people I visited
them in their homes. Once when I was passing in front of a house I
saw two young ladies sitting by a fire, on which sat a very large
Seeing that the ladies were well dressed compared to the other
ladies of their age in the village, I became curious if they could
be the ones brewing what I suspected to be the local wine. So I
branched off to see and talk with them.
After we had exchanged greetings I asked what they were doing, just
to confirm and satisfy my curiosity. From their looks I knew that
they know that I know what they were doing. Nevertheless they
“Do you drink it?” I asked them.
“Yes we do”
“And do you?” They chorused, both
looking at me with some light and healthy suspicion.
“I don’t drink it,” I answered lightheartedly. Then I quickly turned
on them the next question I knew they were going to ask me,, “But
why do you drink it?”
Smart ladies. They threw the question back at me “Why don’t you
I evaded the question because I knew they were driving me to a tight
corner, just as I was trying to pull their legs. For some time
both of us insisted to know each other’s reason for drinking or not
drinking. Knowing they were not going to bulge until I answered them
I requested that we both agree on another time that we could discuss
and answer ourselves, properly. They agreed.
The day of the “great debate” came. The two ladies came and we sat
in front of my house.
“Now you start”, I began, “Tell me
why you drink this strong drink that you were brewing”. The more
amiable of the two looked at me and smiled. Then she asked, “Is it
not food? Is it not made from dawa” (guinea corn the popular
staple food in the north and most parts of the middle belt of
I expected her to continue after what I thought were her preambles.
I waited. But after some moments she looked at me and said, “I have
Is it Not Food?
In the above encounter I couldn’t have answered either of the
questions in the negative. That people drink it and get satisfaction
(my personal feelings notwithstanding) from it must be food. That
the wine is made from guinea corn (which I myself eat in several
other forms) is indisputable. Thus my opponent in that ‘debate’
actually summarized her points in two implicative rhetorical
Most people will and actually have
given the same answers in one form or the other when asked why they
drink. Some have gone to ask the third question I am sure the lady
would have asked if I had given her a definite yes or no answer.
That is, “Who gave or created the “dawa”?
Until the coming of Christianity and Islam to Nigeria, most tribes
had no problem drinking burkutu or palm wine. They saw it as
food. It was one main ‘food’ that united peoples and communities
together on the one hand and the people and the gods on the other
hand. The people were happy drinking wine together and the gods were
pleased or appeased with wine supplied by the people who revered or
feared them. Then, people drank without any sense of guilt or any
externally motivated inhibitions.
There were of course those who didn’t
drink. But those exceptions were for functional reasons and purpose
and they were temporary.
In some communities for instance, the
village priest was not expected to drink before he went into the
shrine for fear of making mistake while performing his duties. A
very recent incident, which violated this exception to drinking, had
a devastating consequence for both the chief priest and other idol
A community was having it annual festival of sending away all the
sicknesses with the fading harmattan. The ceremonies in the shrines
were normally held in the evening with the offering of food and wine
to the gods. The chief Priest had earlier in the day gone to a
distant market away from the community. He surely must have
forgotten, for he returned drunk. It was time to go to the shrine.
All the worshippers headed for their different clans’ shrines. In
the mist of the ceremonies swamp of bees broke from nowhere, entered
the shrines and one by one scattering all the worshippers. This
writer reliable learnt that only one shrine was left untouched. That
was because the priest in that shrine realized what had gone amiss
and he pleaded on behalf of his own clan that the bees pass over.
Some other exceptions, to drinking are women and non-initiates who
were not expected to drink wine made for some religious purposes.
Also, there were individuals who abstained from drinking for fear of
getting intoxicated even with a little drink and getting into
trouble, sickness or breaking the society’s laws and orders.
So outside these and other exceptions nobody seems to feel anything
wrong in drinking wine.
Today strong drinks serve the same purposes or are rather regarded
in most instances as it was in pre-Christian and Islamic
Nigeria-namely as food by those who drink it.
It is with this background (that wine has ever served as food) that
the drinkers don’t seem to understand when non-drinkers say drinking
is bad. What they consider as food, “How could others feel bad about
it and would even want to make them feel guilty”. The drinkers
If wine has all the while served as food how did people began to see
It is Not Sinful?
Apart from few considerations, most of the arguments against taking
strong drink today has religious connotation. So we could be right
to say that people began to feel differently about drinking in
Nigeria because of religion-namely the two relatively younger
religions in the country.
Now religion is man’s effort and way of reaching out to relate with
a deity-a supernatural being he reveres and fears. Man gets to know
how to relate better with his deity either by direct revelation from
the deity or by instructions from the intermediary between the deity
and man. Generally these revelations or instructions come in forms
of “dos” and “don’ts” which governs the
relationship. Religion, many have argued is a private affair. Man,
however, would rather prepare practicing it in a group. No wonder
that in the course of practicing his religious dos and don’t the
more religiously minded would love to see every member of the
community doing it well. Though it ought to be the prerogative of
the deity to see man observes his
dos and don’t well. But too often other men
are concerned for the same reason that the deity is concerned.
However sometime man goes a step further to police his fellow man
for other selfish or irrelevant motivations.
In the African Traditional Religion (ATR) still in practice in many
parts of Nigeria today, taking strong drink is surely not one of the
and don’ts. The adherents have no problem taking wine. As in
many cultures and age’s wine or its raw material (grain or fruit)
are considered divine blessings to mankind. They are taken and
offered in appreciation to the deities credited with these
blessings. Fertility gods existed in some Bible cultures. They still
do today and are worshipped with the offering of the fruit of the
With the advent of Christianity in Nigeria the story as regards to
strong drinks began to change. The early European Missionaries of
and 20th centuries came with their opinions as different as
the beliefs of the missions or denominations they represented. They
were divided on the things that were not Biblical absolutes. One of
such was drinking. The effect of the different teaching on alcoholic
drink is evident in the beliefs and practices of the members of the
National daughter denominations and churches today. Broadly speaking
the church in Nigeria is pitched into two camps of the drinkers and
the non-drinkers or what I want to call the alcoholic and the
The ‘Alcoholic’ Christians
Christians in this camp see nothing wrong in taking strong drinks.
They see so not by way of choosing to defend the taking of strong
drinks after becoming Christians, but rather in defense of a brought
forward lifestyle they don’t wish to forsake. Coming from the A.T.R.
background and its attitude towards wine many people find it
difficult to agree with those who say drinking is sinful or those
who belief that the habit should be stopped before or after
professing the Christian faith.
However there are instances where the new believers wanting to be
true to their new found faith have had to stop drinking after a lot
of struggle. It is a struggle, because while they were not convinced
from the inside of themselves that drinking is wrong, but because
the person who led them to the new faith has an eye on them. Some
people in the course of this struggle go underground not wanting to
be caught in the ‘sin’ of drinking thereby displeasing their
mentors, while at the same time not willing to stop drinking either.
So they resort to drinking at secret spots or far places where they
are not known. Some believers I helped lead to Christ have told me
that it took them one to two years before they stopped drinking
after their conversions. And that anytime I spoke about drinking
(while they were still drinking secretly), they felt I had seen or
someone informed me on them. I have heard Christians doubt the
genuineness of a believer’s conversion because he didn’t stop
drinking after it.
But the believers who drink are not letting themselves to be
intimidated by the non-drinking believers. Some strong proponents
have argued their case backing it up with scriptures. Very often
they refer those who frown at their drinking habits to John 2:1-11.
That is, where Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast in
Cana in Galilee. “If Jesus himself did that, why then say drinking
wine is wrong?” they ask. Then they go on to quote 1 Timothy 5:23
where Paul asked Timothy to “Stop drinking only water and use a
little wine because of your stomach and frequent illnesses”. Some
advance their argument further by citing what Jesus Christ said in
Matthew 15 that it is not what one eats that is sinful, but what
comes from the heart that defiles a man.
A well-known cliché of those who argue for drinking is that
“Christianity is a matter of the heart and not what one does
externally. By this they appeal that judgment as to what is wrong
and right and or sinful or not should be left to the individual’s
conscience. In the consciences of drinking Christians taking
alcoholic drink is not sinful. Since the dos and don’ts of
Christianity are spelt in the Bible, then “Where is it stated that
drinking is a sin?” they rest their case.
One must agree that they have a very strong defense. As far as those
quoted scriptures are concerned they cannot be faulted. From those
scriptures we see that drinking is obviously not a Biblical
absolute. But that is not where Christianity all begins and ends.
Having observed the life of believers who argue and stand for
drinking alcoholic drinks one is left with many wishes and
I wish such believers were truly sympathetic to being faithful to
the purity of the scripture. I wish they were truly inclined to
obeying all scriptural injunctions. If not all, at least those that
point believers to a healthy relationship with Christ and victorious
Christian life. I wish that the argument for drinking were done in
the context of our call and purpose of living the Christian life
here on earth. But alas, most of the people I have heard or seen
argue for drinking do so from the point of self justification,
defense of a habit they have become used to and ignorance of what
the Christian life envelops. On further probe one finds that most of
these people know little or nothing about the life giving and
nurturing doctrines of the Bible. In fact most are not Bible readers
and do not desire to be.
Lets grant that there are some who read the Bible and understand its
demands. They are yet questions that beg for answers. How are they
living the other aspects of their Christian lives? How has drinking
improved their growth and maturity in Christ? How is the Lord Jesus
Christ glorified in that life style of drinking?
Talking about eating meal the apostle
Paul said it should be with giving thanks to God. In another place
he admonished, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you
do, do it for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:30-31). To the
best of my knowledge I am yet to see anyone who begins drinking by
giving thanks to God in Christ name.
denominations that haveis
one quickly retorted, “!”
says in the
global context of Biblical Christianity
Christians from growing into
maturity in Christ
that is sinful
, and that the food could
harmful and is ruining him is not withstanding lack oflove
The most important question we must be asking ourselves at this
juncture is what does it take to please God in a holy and righteous
It is however sad that the enemy
manipulates both ends of the debate to his advantage. Come to think
of it, that the subject of this manipulation is one of the things
God created and said that they were good. CS Lewis describes well
how the enemy does this:
I feel a strong desire to tell you-
and I expect you to tell-which of this two errors is the worse. This
is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in
pairs-pairs of opposites. And he always spends a lot of time
thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on
your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the
opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes
on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no
other concern than that with either of them.”
STRONG DRINK IN EVANGELISM
The Evangelicals’ position with
regards to salvation is that it is by grace through faith in Jesus
Christ alone. This is the scriptural position too.
The Evangelical Churches, “Believes
in the importance of faith in Christ, holy living, Bible study and
prayer, rather than in religious ceremonies”1. All
Christians are commanded, “To spread the Good News about Jesus
Christ in order to win people to Christ, that they may have eternal
Spreading the Good News about the
Lord Jesus Christ, that is Evangelism is defined as “The Zealous
proclamation of the Good News about Jesus Christ, urging men and
women to repent of their sins and put their trust in Jesus as their
only Saviour and to make him the Lord of their life”3
How do we go about Evangelism? In his
excellent book, Bible Guidelines, Derek Prime answers this question:
“We are to see ourselves as workers
together with God, understanding what is his work in bringing a
person to a saving faith in Jesus Christ and what is our part. As we
present the Gospel to all to whom God gives us the opportunity, we
are to look expectantly for such evidence of the Holy Spirit
activity in their lives as the Bible leads us to expect”4
He went on to outline the following
important considerations for effective evangelism.
Essential truth should influence our thinking
and acting when endeavouring to lead others to faith in our Lord
We must be clear as to what God alone can do and
what we therefore cannot do.
We must be clear as to what God required of us
by way of preparation for the work.
We must be clear as to what God requires of us
by way of cooperation in this work.
We need to be clear as to the essential facts of
the gospel, which must be made known before any response should be
We need to adhere to the principles, which are
always to govern our presentation of the gospel.
Presenting the Gospel of Salvation
entails that under the leadership of the Holy Spirit we should
invite or urge people to come to a living and solid relationship
with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is after we ourselves
must have learnt the truth the Gospel contains and has experienced
this warm and blissful relationship.
But the sad situation is that most of
us are going about our evangelism the wrong way. In the words of
“Most of us learn how to share our
faith in a pretty haphazard way. We pick up bits of good advice and
helpful arguments from sermons and books we read. We learn by
painful experience in chatting to friends and neighbours what to say
and what not to say. We find out more from watching other people in
action and coping their good ideas. But there isn’t much structure
and system”. 5
As evangelists, I find that our lack
of structure and system is evidence in two ways. The point of
emphasis – often majoring on minor issues and the universal package
we dole out to all that we meet.
In putting too much emphasis on
non-essentials of the gospel we mislead the unbelievers. All that
they see is that these non-essentials are all that the gospel is
about. Namely equating the gospel with the stoppage of certain
habits. The message goes like this: God is not happy with your ways
of life. He wants you to stop sinning in order to follow Jesus
Christ. On the surface this statement cannot be faulted. However it
is not the beginning and the end of the gospel. Neither does it
completely summarize the content of the Gospel.
The true Gospel is concerned with the
fact that lost man need to return home to reconcile with his maker.
The story however starts with this merciful and gracious Father
reaching out in love to lost man. His love is expressed in the
person of Jesus Christ and the supreme sacrifice made for the our
sin that separates us from God. In understanding the significance of
the death of Christ and we establish a relationship with him we find
our way to God.
The whole gospel calls for a proper
understanding and having a true knowledge of the person of the Lord
Jesus Christ and all that he stands for. It is after this that we
can expect a meaning full decision for or against accepting Jesus
Christ as Lord and Saviour.
When Christ is in then sin is out.
Even then, reality and the Scripture show that the symptoms of
sinful man do not leave men automatically. Every honest believer
must admit going through struggles with some sinful habits after
We are making a case that people need
to understand and be convinced as to why they should leave one way
to turn to another. Anything short of making people understand the
person of Jesus Christ is misleading. At best we can be seen to be
only involved in what John Allen, quoting Jim Petersen said is the
“Gospel of the Christian contract” He says:
“Possibly the most common weakness
in our contemporary approach to evangelism is our tendency to focus
our message on the Christian contract how to transact a relationship
with God rather than on the person of Jesus Christ. We become so
intent on helping someone understand how to put his faith in Christ
that we overlook the very real probability that he is almost devoid
in his knowledge of Jesus Christ… we tend to become more interested
in responses than in understanding. We try to elicit agreement, and
once it is achieved we seek to extract a positive response we call
this making a decision”6. This is the forced contract.
When it comes to alcohol and the
gospel presentation we again ask which is essential? Is it having a
true knowledge and accepting a living Lord and Saviour or Forsaking
a food habit in order to please God? What is the relationship
between the gospel of salvation and strong drink? Christian
preachers, by their words and actions have varying positions.
The Liberals and Indulgence
Preachers in this group place no
sanction on the consumption of alcohol. They seem to hold the
philosophy of tolerance and mutual respect for the ideas and the
feelings of their audience. They see nothing wrong in drinking.
Therefore they do not condemn taking strong drinks when they preach.
Most liberal preacher actually
participates in the drinking himself or herself. When questioned why
he drinks, he falls back to the arguments for drinking we saw in
The work of such liberal (with
regards to drinking) missionaries and preachers in Nigeria has
produced alcoholic Christians and church denominations that
are themselves liberal on drinking. Christians in the areas or
regions these denominations dominate drink as a way of life. Drinks
are taken and served freely in an outside church functions. Church
leaders participate actively.
A young man backslidded and started
drinking. He left his former church and started attending another.
This other church doesn’t seem to mind its members drinking. Soon
the young man was made the song leader in his new church.
One Sunday while leading the songs he
sang out of tune with the congregation. The Pastor noticed it and
realized that apart from the stench of alcohol coming out from the
man’s mouth, that the man was also not coordinated. He
skillfully took over the leading of the song. He understood where
the song leader had been before the service.
When it comes to evangelism, the
liberal preachers and missionaries seem to get quick acceptance with
their message. Their message doesn’t seem to demand much from their
audiences. Drinking for example. Whatever message is presented is a
different issue altogether.
One only needs to observe that in
reality where preachers are liberal about strong drink, nominal
Christians result and a marriage of Christian and pagan ideas and
practice hold sway. In such places those who are truly converted to
Christianity do show little sign of growth and maturity.
Christianity itself is less vibrant in its true sense, except for
Sunday to Sunday gatherings in places designated for worship outside
the church buildings the act of faith is less visible and
particularly on the other six days.
Believers who have left or have been
converted from churchianity to real Christianity have by
their own testimony and new life style shown the above observations
to be true. So true that one is tempted to call those ‘Churches’
they come from as sects or Pseudo-churches. The is not because they
permit their members to drink. But looking at their general beliefs
and practices, they are radically deviated from those of Biblical
Nonetheless, it is obvious that the
liberal preachers in one way or the other promote and encourage over
indulgence with strong drinks. Subsequently abuses and addictions
result with consequent drunkenness and other related sins prominent
in the areas they work. A preacher of one of these liberal churches
was himself stabbed in the stomach in a fight after drinking. A
church worked on a farm and drank there after. Then the members
rose to dance. They sang taunting, abusive and ridiculing songs as
the pagans do.
Certainly there are many concerns
about the liberals’ attitude towards strong drinks in their
evangelism and church planting drives. First, the true gospel is
soaked in drinks, and comes out smeared, stenched and distorted.
People accept it either ignorantly or deliberately. Deliberately
because it appeals to their love for indulgence and makes no attempt
to prick their conscience and touch their way of life. They
consequently get lost in religion called Christianity and go to
Secondly the whole concept of
Christianity, its implication and demands on the life of an
individual or group of people is blurred. Outsiders who watch to see
a different lifestyle from the so-called Christians are confused.
Because they see no changes that authentic Christianity claims for
its adherent they conclude, “If that is Christianity then it is not
worth it.” For all they care to know, a Christian is a Christian.
They wouldn’t know if there are Christians by practice and those by
An elderly Moslem man was so vexed by
the behaviours of members of a local ‘church’. He said, “If I
were still an idol worshipper I will fight some of this church
people. They claim to be Christians yet they drink and do all that
the idol worshippers do”. This leads us to the third concern.
The lifestyle of the Christian
converts from the work of such liberal preachers does not measure up
to the standard of New Testament Christianity. There is little or
nothing to say that they help to build up one another spiritually.
Talk less of preaching the gospel in words and actions to
At the risk of sounding critical, I
make bold to say that many of the liberals go out with the message
We are then forced to conclude that
theirs couldn’t be the same transforming gospel of the Lord Jesus
How sad is it that Jesus’ Strong
words to the legalistic teachers of the law and the Pharisees are
become true of such liberal preachers too.
Woe to you teachers of the law and
Pharisees, you hypocrites. You travel over land and sea to win a
single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much
a son of hell as you are “Mathew 23:15”
These teachers and preachers may need
to teach and preach that people should “live as free men but do not
use your freedom as a cover up for evil, live as servants of God (1
As far as food is concerned Paul
advise that “Do not by your eating destroy your brother. For the
kingdom of God is not of a matter of eating and drinking but of
righteousness peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit. Because anyone who
serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God approved by men…
“Do not destroy the work of God for
the sake of good. All food is clean but it is wrong for a man to eat
anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is betters not to
eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your
brothers to fall” (Romans 14: 15, 17-21).
Moderate and the Conscience
In principle we can say preachers
are divided more or less in two camps – for or against drinking. But
in practice there are preachers who take a middle ground.
They do not speak against or for it.
However their none-speaking speaks much of where they stand. They do
not restrict people drinking and when pushed to take a stand, they
argue for moral restraint. They leave people to their consciences as
judges over the issue.
In evangelism the moderates do not
make any strong case out of drinking. They neither condemn the
habits nor encourage it.
However, one wishes that such a stand
is a principled one. That drinking or not drinking doesn’t make a
difference in one’s relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As it
stands most preachers in this category view the issue more on
passive ground than on a strong conviction. Hardly does one hear
such preaches say, “Drinking or not drinking is not an issue in
salvation or the Christian’s daily work with God, for instance.
Because they are not firm on their
stand, believers from such preachers’ work are as divided on
drinking too. There are church denominations not reputed for
condemning drinking but whose members drink openly. And this, not
attracting any frown or form of any sanction from the leadership.
Understandably people are more comfortable in these churches as far
as drinking is concern.
But some of these churches have not
been spared by the hardliners. They have been described with quite a
few adjectives – cold, lifeless, dull or even death churches. The
standard used to get these description among others is the fact that
some members are known to drink openly.
Nevertheless it must be observed here
that even when people approach a near Bible position on an issue,
they get into problem when done in ignorance. The enemy of God
capitalizes on their ignorance to distort the outcome.
For instance it is true that the
Bible neither restrict the consumption of any food. But because
people do not know how to balance between food and duty to God the
devil has craftily magnified the importance of food over duty.
So even in churches where they seem
to be Biblical on its approach to drinking -that of moderation, the
devil is greatly doing havoc with drinks. Here you find the less
serious Christians are the drinkers. They constitute a log in the
wheel of progress of any local church. The leadership may not be
drinking but the drinkers may not be agreeing with them on issue of
The Legalist and Prohibition
The legalist in our context is
against drinking completely. They view it as sin. They see those
drinking as sinners or sinning.
As a rule the legalist preachers
strict adherence to the law. Whatever is a do or don’t must be
observed to the letters, else, the defaulter faces a stiff penalty.
The legalist hardly tampers mercy with justice so to speak.
Here the law says, according to the
legalist, drinking is a sin. It stands and no question. If you ask
for explanation you only irritate and you are seen to be questioning
Normally if people live by legalism
they respond with rage to people who break the law or question it.
In the mind of the legalist, the law is more important than people.
Who break or question it. They are quick to point accusing fingers
and recommend that the due penalty be served the law breaks.
So the legalist preacher in his
evangelism preaches against drinking and condemns those who drink it
as candidates of hell.
The blanket prohibition and
condemnation of drinking has not helped the cause of evangelism
much. It has hindered people from hearing the message of the good
news. All people hear is Jesus versus drinking.
Even if we grant that drinking is a
sin, the approach in Evangelism by those in this category leaves
much room for concern. If one goes out to evangelize and start by
lashing out at the sinners in their natural habitat is asking for
trouble. Listing the visible manifestations of sin and asking people
to stop them as conditions for becoming Christian is less than the
full gospel. If it is, then, we have no message to the moralist who
does none of those visible sins.
Sticking to sinful behaviours and
‘accepting’ Christ is not what is being advocated here. The issue is
that, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and
are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came
by Christ Jesus”. (Romans 3:23 – 24).
The sinful nature of man cannot be
adequate addressed from the viewpoint of specific sinful
manifestations or symptoms. Man is by nature a sinner.
Addressing a specific sin in a life
of a man I believe is in the realm of those already in the Christian
family. While correcting or rebuking or restoring a fallen brother
there is need to be specific. “Recognizing when another Christian
slips into a style of life that violates a clear biblical commands
and prohibitions is not legalistic. The one who’s been caught by sin
needs our concern and correction (Galatians 6:1 – 2) it is not
legalistic to give it.”
But dealing with unbelievers we need
to watch out that legalism does not define our approach to
One is not a sinner because he does
some specific sinful acts. Rather he acts so because he is a sinner.
It is this that needs our attention in Evangelism. Until the sinful
heart of man is addressed properly we cannot expect a change. At
best we can only succeed in policing people to stop a sinful habit.
Normally people resist being told to stop what they have not
purposed in their heart to stop.
I am reminded of an encounter with an
old man. In the company of some members of the Nigerian Christian
Corpers Fellowship (NYSC) we went for a weekend outreach to an
interior village. While going from house to house some of us
accosted this old man on his way to drink.
The old man possibly out of
politeness listened patiently to all that we had to say. Then of a
sudden he quipped, “Count me out of anything that will stop me from
drinking”. And he went his way. One of us had made the mistake of
mentioning drinking as a sin and the need for the old man to stop it
in order to become a Christian.
Churches and converts that result
from the work of legalistic preachers are also strong about it
members and other peoples’ drinking. They not only monitor them but
also mate stern disciplinary actions on those caught or confess to
drinking. Some churches will not baptize a believer if he still
drinks, some believers are excommunicated on that ground too. A
marriage may not be solemnized in the church if (usually) the groom
still drinks. The church may not name a child if one of the parents
drink s and church may not perform a funeral service if the decease
drank before his death.
The arguments against drinking as
pointed earlier always lack direct scriptural basis. But the
legalist is vehement that drinking is sinful. Often his stand is due
to his background rather than from a logical and factual point of
Writing in a different context A.W.
Tozer describes how people can be obstinately dogmatic in supporting
an unscriptural view. He says,
“The propensity to accept any current
religion emphasis as the correct and only spiritual view runs deep
in our nature, for it is simply the old love for status quo common
to all peoples in every field of human thought. Those we respect
hand an idea to us. We check the references, find the whole thing
mentally comfortable and proceed at once to identify with orthodoxy.
After that we judge people by whether or not they subscribe to it
naturally we resist any suggestion that perhaps the idea may need a
bit of editing to bring it into line with the scriptures and the
historical faith of Christians.”
Though the legalist is
non-compromising in his stand yet he is willing to edit the
scripture to make it agree with his hard line posture. For instance
when it is pointed to him that some key Biblical figures, God used,
drank wine; he is quick to point out that what they drank was juice
or that the wine were not intoxicating. Thus he puts words or ideas
the writers did not have in mind while writing the Bible.
In disputable matters and evangelism
the legalists have not really helped matters in several ways.
Particularly the issue of drinking.
The drinking unbelievers see the good news in
terms of God verses strong drink. This is evident that some people
can claim to be Christian, forsakes drinking and yet remains deep in
some real sinful behaviours.
The concept of sin is narrowed dawn to some few
Hypocrites or eye service Christians are
produced. As long as they can avoid being caught in popular ‘Sins’
they wouldn’t mind engaging in ‘little’ ones. For example it becomes
a news if a renowned Christians is seen drinking. But nobody care if
the same christian is known to make more than necessary profit in
his business or maltreats his house helps at home, or uses foul
language on a small child.
Real seekers after truth are scarred from
getting near to the church people who don’t sin by drinking.
An unnecessary dichotomy has been created among
And the devil has effectively used an unbalanced
attitude towards what God has created to hinder the spread and
progress of the gospel.
Again Paul has admonitions for those
so legalistic about any food. “Therefore let us stop passing
judgment an one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any
stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is
fully in the Lord I am convinced that no food is unclean in itself.
But if any one regards something as unclean, then for him it is
unclean… so whatever you believe about these things keep between
yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself
for what he approve Romans 14:13 – 14,22.
What do we tell people about drinking
in our Evangelism. Is it sinful or not sinful? Or should we just
keep quiet about it?
This book is not advocating for any
of the extreme positions on the issue. It is not even for passive
moderation. The concern here is that the full gospel be told people
in a way that they can truly and fully understand it demands. That
because they understand they can make intelligent choices to accept
or reject Christ. They will accept and relate with him on the basis
of his finished work of grace on the cross and obtain God’s mercy.
Or they may reject him at their own peril.
The concern here is that the gospel
is not Christ plus or minus drink, but he alone as God’s love to
man. That through his death and resurrection man is reconciled to
God in a relationship once gone sour because of sin. We are
concerned that the gospel is not about food but it is about
righteousness that comes through Christ alone. So we are concerned
that, we do no harm to the cause of the gospel either with our
permissiveness or rigidity on disputable matters that are not
central to the gospel. Doing so may make unbelievers see the gospel
in terms of a loose moral or strict policeman.
Though neither for nor against
drinking we think it is not the issue in effective evangelism. We
think the Holy Spirit should be trusted and be permitted to continue
his work of convincing and convicting men of sin and converting them
from it. He alone knows how best to do it. Our part is to faithfully
declare the word clearly simply, in all its purity and impressive
The Holy Spirit in an individual’s
life can effectively restrain or dictate the way a life is run. He
does it for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and for the spiritual
growth and benefit of that life.
LET THE BIBLE SPEAK
The Bible is the best Judge on
disputable matters in Christian doctrine. It spells out clearly
expectations, responsibilities and duties of a Christian. It tells
how to relate to the material, human and the divine worlds.
The Bible guides and directs man how
best to fulfill his purpose here on earth. So when we discuss issues
that Christians are not all agreed upon we should appeal to the
scripture for settlement. We should lay down our arms and dialogue
with the Bible as our impartial umpire. We should come to the Bible
with an open mind and objectively look at the issue from its
viewpoint. We should come with all the readiness and willingness to
accept, abide and walk from that point alone. We should be ready to
put aside what we think the Bible is saying and take what it has
said. We should be willing to do away with our personal biases, the
opinion of our respected leaders and teachers for the explicit
teachings of the Bible.
What if the Bible is not explicit on
a particular issue? Someone may ask. Again, the Bible is the only
reliable way to answer for itself. It makes explicit what it has
stated implicit is one part. The fact that it is a focused book
means that all its strands tie up neatly at a point. It should
therefore be taken as a whole whose parts shade more lights on one
another. We cannot therefore take one unclear part in isolation and
build a doctrine on it.
For instance in our context we can
not say don’t drink based on a scriptural passage that highlights
the evil of drink and stop there. Neither should we say drink it
doesn’t matter because we have not seen a clear biblical commands to
that effect. We should rather view drinking in the context of the
Christian faith and purpose – namely that we live in this word to
glorify God in all that we do, eat and drink.
Authentic Christianity leaves no room
for interpreting scripture to fit a pre-made mind. We make our mind
after we have heard the Bible speak finally on an issue and not
before it. For the danger of making up ones mind before opening the
Bible is that one is not likely to see or her well what the Bible is
saying especially when it is not saying what we want to hear.
What ever the Bible says about
drinking should be taken as the final verdict. And that should close
the case for the good of Evangelism and Christian living in general.
Let's Do Some Bible Survey
Basically, the Bible talks of wine and other fermented drinks
(Judges 13:4; Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; Deuteronomy 14:26; Judges
14:4; Isaiah 28:7; Luke 1:15. Through in this book we use strong
drinks to cover all intoxicating drinks. However in the Bible,
“Strong drinks refer to fermented beverages not made from the grapes
but from the barley and was more akin to beer.”
The New International Version of the
Bible mentions beer in several places ( Proverbs 20:1; Isaiah 28:7;
Alcoholic drinks in Bible times were
intoxicating drinks. Wine was, “usually diluted with water for
general consumption 2.
New wine is wine from the most recent
harvest (Genesis 27: 28; Deuteronomy 7:13; 2 Kings 18:32) New wine
was also intoxicating (Hosea 9:2; Joel 1:5) New wine also referred
to freshly pressed grape juice (Isaiah 65:8 Micah 6:8) The new wine
was not unfermented grape juice (for fermentation sets in quickly)
but wine made from the first dripping of juice before the wine press
was trodden. As such it would be particularly potent. (Act 2:15”)
Newly squeezed juice though may have
some alcoholic content are not described as wine (Genesis 40:11;
Numbers 6:3; Isaiah 65:8).
There were also mixed wines (Proverbs
9:2) probably mixed with spices to make it stronger and tastier.
This may explain why people went to sample drinks (Proverbs 23:2).
The grape form which wine was produced is a commercial crop. It was
produced and traded by royal house” (Esther 1:1-9, Nehemiah 5:18).
It was exchanged for goods (2 Chronicles 2:10-15).
Wine was often presented in earthen
pots jars John 2:10-15 7 and wineskins (Mark 2:22
Harvest was a time of Joy (Isaiah
16:10) people sang and danced (Judges 21:3-21 Jeremiah 48:33).
The abundance of wine was a sign of
Devine blessing (Genesis 28:27; Deuteronomy 7:13; Psalm 104:3;
Ecclesiastes 7:13). The Canaanites capped the harvest by worshipping
their idols and indulging in sexual rites Judges 9:27. The
Israelites used it in worshipping the true God in the feast of the
tabernacle (Deuteronomy 28:39)
Wine and bread represented the basic
elements in the Jewish daily meal (Judge’s 19:19, Lamentation 2:12,
1 Samuel 10:3, 16:20; Ruth 2:4, I Chronicles 12:40 Nehemiah 2:1-5,8;
Esther 1:7, Luke 7:33-34)
Wine was offered to God in show of
gratitude (I Samuel 1:14) and in daily worship (Leviticus 23:13,
Numbers 28:14). Wine was used to administer anesthetic drugs (Mathew
27:34); to treat wounds (Luke 10:34) and to purity drinking water (1
It was used as an element in the
Lord’s Supper (Mathew 26:27 – 29 Mark 14:23 – 33).
Wine was served at feasts and
celebrations (I Chronicles 12:39 – 40; John 2:1 – 11; Job 1:13, 18).
Jesus used wine to illustrate his
It had symbolic uses (Proverbs 4:17;
I Corinthians 11:23 – 36).
Examples of Those Who Used Wine
A priest of God gave it in show of hospitality
to a friend of God (Genesis 14:18).
Another man offered it to a man after God’s
heart (2 Samuel 16:1-2)
A father prayed and blessed his children to have
abundant of it. (Genesis 27:28, 37).
A Godly leader blessed his people, praying for
its abundance for them (Deuteronomy 33:28).
A prophet of God determined not to defile
himself with that served from a pagan king’s table (Daniel 1:5-8)
A nomadic family abstained from it in keeping to
their disciplined lifestyle and a promise made to their late father.
A righteous and blameless man drank wine got
drink and indecently exposed his body (Genesis 9:21).
Another righteous man got drugged by his two
desperate daughters and he had sex with them. (Genesis 19: 32 – 34).
A king wanted to humiliate his wife by asking
her to display her body before his guests. after drinking (Esther
A queen used it to manipulate her husband to get
what she wanted Esther 5:6; 7:2
Some people drank and got up to praise their
Those who abused strong drinks brought curses on
themselves and their nations. Psalm 104:15; Isaiah 5:11; 28:7;
Religious Leaders were not supposed to drink on
duty Leviticus 10:8,9; I Timothy 3:8; Titus 2:3
Those who were consecrated to the Lord for his
service were to abstain from drinking Numbers 10:3; Luke 1:5.
A class of individuals known as the Nazarenes
was under vows not to drink (Judges. 13:4,7,14).
Kings and those who took far-reaching decisions
that affect the lives of others were advised not to drink. So that
they do not pervert justice (Proverbs 31:4).
Effects of Drinking
It brought Joy Judges 9:13
It suppressed pain and banished misery in
forgetfulness Proverbs 31:6
It made people loose conscious control of their
movement Isaiah 28:7 Psalm 60:1.
People mocked and brawled after drinking
It impoverished (Proverbs 21:17).
It led to woes, sorrows, strife, complaints,
needless bruises, blood shoot eyes, bodily and emotional injuries to
self and others (Proverbs 23:29 – 31).
It led to self deception Ecclesiastes 2:3, 11;
People who got drunk hardly got serious with God
(Isaiah 22:12-13) as it dulled their senses and turned their
attention towards self-indulgent and enjoyment without God
It destroyed and brought backwardness to a whole
tribe Isaiah 28:1
Some of these who got drunk got into pervasive
sexual practices, which persisted in Israel despite prophetic
condemnations. Amos 6:4 –7; Jeremiah 16:5 – 11.
It makes one look irresponsible Proverbs 31:4
It made people unwary of dangers nearby 2 Samuel
Others were manipulated to do what they would
otherwise not do without drinking Genesis 19:32 – 35.
In Act 2:13 and I Samuel 1:15 it was implied
that people drink and sprawled into senseless stupor and babbling
People drink and go into licensors living
The Bible pronounces great sorrow
grief and misery on alcoholics.
“Woe to those who rise early in the
morning to run after their drink, who stay late at night till they
are inflamed with wine. They have hands and lyres at their
banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regards
for the deeds of the Lord, no respects for the work of his hand…
Woe to those who are heroes at
drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, Isaiah 5:11,22.
A lifestyle characterized by
drunkenness and an “unrestrained wild, noisy festivities attracts
God’s condemnation” Amos 4:1-3; 6:6 – 7.
Those who are indulged in drinking
wine lost their moral sensitivity I Samuel 28:36 and are therefore
considered as unwise Proverbs 20:1.
The Bible in several places and
contexts forbids (Leviticus 10:9) or speaks belittlingly of (Isaiah
27:3) on the use of strong drink.
What Have We Seen?
We have taken a broad but certainly not exhaustive survey of what
the Bible has to say on alcoholic drink. It is hoped that we can see
in the light of its revelation where we stand, our preaching on the
issue and what our attitude should now be. Like any mirror, you do
not help matters by denying or destroying the mirror if you do not
like what you saw in its. Neither do you gain any credit if the face
you saw is what you had always wanted your face to look like. You
can see only what you present to the mirror.
Let us here summarize what we have
seen in the Bible. We saw that:
Wine and or the crops from which it was produced
were considered a divine blessing. Lack of wine or poor yield of the
grape was seen as a curse and a form of punishment from God for the
people’s disobedience to him.
Wine was part of normal daily meals in homes and
on Joyful and festive occasions.
It was considered a luxury food but sometime a
There is o direct Biblical command to drink or
not to drink except to a specific group of individuals for a time
and for a purpose.
There were specific individuals who were told to
abstain from drinking for a purpose.
Nobody was ever commended for drinking or not
Moderation seems the Bibles position with
regards to drink in particular and food in general.
Abuse or over indulgent in strong drink was
frowned upon and condemned.
Abuse or over indulgent led to unwholesome
conduct, unnecessary pain and sorrow and misery to users and those
close to them.
Those who abused strong drinks neither
pleased God, did his will nor showed any genuine interest and
respect for the things of God.
More of the negative effects of drinking are
highlighted than the positive ones.
Certain people used the intoxicating ability to
take undue advantages over others.
Under its influenced people had inflicted bodily
and emotional injuries on themselves and those close to them.
God was certainly not happy with those whose
lifestyles were characterized by drunkenness and wild and noisy
Misuse of strong drinks brought God’s curse and
condemnations on individuals and tribes.
The Christian is warned against the excess use
Drunkenness is prohibited
In context the Bible has many warnings
prohibitions and denigrate the use of alcohol.
For the sake of their commission and their
missions God’s servants were prohibited from taking it for a time
for its influence and implication on true worship and service
offered to God in the spirit.
The Christian is to be filled with the Holy
Spirit instead of being controlled by alcoholic drink.
Considerate and mature Christians are admonished
to abstain from drinking for the sake of the weak in the faith.
As far as food or drink is concerned
the Bible as a rule does not lay emphasis on the food as it does on
the person eating. It is concerned with the heart and the attitude.
It certainly abhors and condemns both the abuse and making laws
about food. It appeals however to the conscience of the individual
in the light of his calling to faith, holy living and to God’s
We Say Now?
Here my dear reader, I am sure is
expecting a definite ‘Policy’ statement. Two questions must be
uppermost in your mind at this point. Should I as a Christian drink
or not drink? Is it sinful or not?
In appealing to the Bible we had
agreed (I think) that it should speak to settle and answer both
questions of drink and its sinfulness. And together we agree with
But are we really concerned with the
verdict? I think we should. Because it will affects two vital areas
of our Christian life.
One, the verdict will affect our
approach to Evangelism in places where alcoholic drink is ‘food’.
And the way we view those who drink or don’t drink. And two, it will
affect our consecration to holy Christian living.
Whether a Christian should drink or
not, may I with due respect throw this question back to the reader.
We were also asking the Bible if
drinking is a sin or not when we agreed to let it speak in our brief
survey and the observations we made I believe the question was
adequately answered. I can understand if some think I am being
evasive. If there is an uneasiness tilting towards a feeling of
There are those who would wish I
summarized in few words what the Bible has said. Something like, “It
is a sin for a Christian to drink or “It is not a sin for a
Christian to drink”. While I understand with their expectation I
equally suspect a wrong motivation for wanting a summery statement
from this author. I suspect a desire to stay away from objectivity
in order to avoid responsibility.
It is easy for people to shift blames
to others. They want to quote others in this case, a Christian
author who has written to encourage drinking alcohol or condemned
drinking it. I see this tendency coming mare from fellow Christians
who have made laws concerning food. Well, in playing into the hands
of such believers let me also quote another author.
“I wish the Bible did teach that
drinking is a sin, but it doesn’t. It contains numerous warnings
against the abuse of alcohol, but nowhere does it say it is a sin.
And we are not free to make the Bible say what it doesn’t say just
to make our decision easier.”
He gives a profound principle of
Bible application. “Don’t bend and twist the meaning of the Biblical
text to avoid an unpleasant conclusion” then he went on to say:
“If we convolute the meaning of a
text to avoid a conclusion that we find unpleasant, we might as well
give up the doctrine of inerrancy if we reject the clear meaning for
an interpretation that is more palatable.”
We render such a doctrine irrelevant.
Indeed Christians in my position have a very strong reason to want
to make drinking a sin. What after seeing the ruins it has brought
to individuals close to me. After seeing the backwardness it has
brought to a whole tribe? After seeing how a whole region is
colonized economically and politically by its neighbors. While the
sons and daughters who provide the bulk of manpower in the civil
service were busy drinking those of lesser intelligent and academic
attainments took over the political power and wielded it to their
own economic and structural developmental advantages. As a
missionary I should be happy if drinking was definitely a sin. The
challenge posed by the issue of drinking in my work is enormous and
often to the point of despair and discouragement.
In spite of all my wishes, the Bible
does not say drinking is a sin. “Don’ts for the sake of food
destroy what God has done. All foods may be eaten, but it is wrong
to eat anything that will cause someone else to fall into sin”
(Romans 14: 19, 20).
“But food does not bring us near to
God. We are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do. Be
careful however that the exercise of your freedom does not become a
stumbling block to the weak.”
“When you sin against your brother in
this way and wound their weak conscience you sin against Christ.
Therefore if what I eat causes my brothers to fall into sin I will
never eat meat so that I will not cause him to fall 1 Corinthians
“Jesus called the crowd to him and
said, ‘Listen and understand’. What goes into a man’s mouth does not
make him unclean. But what comes out of his mouth. That is what
makes him unclean… Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes
into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come
out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean.
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adultery sexual
immorality, theft, false testimony slander. These are what make a
man unclean; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him
unclean” Mathew 15: 10-11, 17 –20.
These are what make a man unclean. As
if that is not enough, the Bible is not only silent about drinking
being a sin or not, it records of great Bible figures who drank.
Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-11) and that he actually
drank (Mathew 11:19) I sometimes wish that such places are edited
out of the Bible. But, “It does scripture no honor to invent ways to
make offensive events palatable to us when scripture itself records
them and makes no effort to scrutinize them.”
We must however examine the argument
for or against drinking in the light of the Bible’s call to freedom
in Christ, to holiness, to righteous living, to building up one
another in faith, to a befitting witness to the expansion of his
kingdom in the hearts of men and to living for the glory and honor
of God in whatever we eat, drink or do. And when we stand on an
issue with a clear conscience before God and man who is there to
condemn if we drink or not?
“Let us therefore make every effort
to what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19 NIV.
“So then we must always aim at those
things that brings peace and that help
strengthen one another.”
Drunkenness is a state of being
intoxicated after consuming (in this context) an alcoholic beverage
such as wine, beer or distilled liquor.
“When an alcoholic beverage is
ingested, the alcohol is rapidly absorbed in the stomach and
intestine because it does not undergo any digestive processes. It is
distributed to the rest of the body through the blood, and has a
pronounced depressant action on the brain. Under the influence of
alcohol, the drinker is less alert, less able to discern objects in
the environment, slower in reacting to stimuli and generally –prone
People get drunk when they come under
the influence of alcohol. It is brought about by excessive habitual
consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Whatever a man does under this state
is dictated and controlled by the effect of the alcohol.
In drunkenness, the drinker’s will
power and intellect is over come by the alcohol ingested. The sense
is dulled to sound judgment. Drunkenness renders one “Insensible and
imperceptive, a social nuisance, an economic ruin and a moral and
spiritual reprobate. This is caused through its power to deceive
conveying a false sense of clear perception, intelligence and power.”2
The power of alcohol to deceive is so
great that, “It has come to symbolize human folly and the
deceitfulness of false gods. Hence it characterizes also general,
moral and spiritual practices of habitual injustice and idolatry”
Drunkenness results into “False consciousness, false values and
practices sponsored by other gods.”
Drunken people are often
characterized by careless and senseless disposition, a state in
which they cannot use the senses unsteady movement on their feet,
vomiting, loss of mental control, addiction and often of necessity
poverty or wretchedness.
In Bible Times
In the Bible times, people drank and
got intoxicated. Their drunkenness led to immorality and other
behaviours that displeased God.
Noah after the flood got drunk and
indecently exposed his body (Genesis 9: 20 –27) Lot got into
incestuous relationship with his daughters after he got drunk
Genesis 19:30 – 38.
The drunk rich people perpetuated
injustice (Amos 2:8); they took undue advantage to see the exposed
body of the drunken (Habakkuk 2:8). Drunkenness marked the hopeless
and rebellious children (Deuteronomy 21:20-21), It dulled their
minds (Hosea 4:11) and made them irresponsible (Proverb 31:4).
The Bible condemns drunkenness. It
has no commendation for drunkards. Instead it portrays them as being
foolish or mad (Jeremiah 51:7).
Drunkenness is portrayed as a
companion to sorrow (Ezekiel 23:33); a threat to missing out on
being occupied for God (Luke 21:34). It is one of the sinful
behaviours, the Christian is commanded not to live in Romans 13:13.
It is one of the fruit of the flesh or acts of the sinful nature
which except if repented from, those who live in it will not inherit
the kingdom of God Galatians 5:21. God’s servants are commanded not
to get drunk I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7. Living in drunkenness is a
pagan and ungodly lifestyle.
The Bible does not encourage
drunkenness. It calls it sin. It describes those who live in
drunkenness as being wicked, shameless, immoral, irresponsible and
dirty people; greedy poor and wretched; meddlers in others affair;
and irresponsible truants (Deuteronomy 21:20-21; Isaiah 19:14; Luke
7:34; Proverbs 23:21; Psalms 69:12; Mathew 24:49).
The sin of drunkenness is so grave
that God calls for repentance from it (Joel 1:5) a very stiff
punishment is recommended in the fellowship of believers against the
Christian living in drunkenness. The Bible calls for a
disassociation from such a fellow (1 Corinthians 5:11) It went on to
say that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (1
It is clearly seen that drunkenness from the excessive use of
alcohol is a sin. “ Sin is a transgression of God’s law (John 3:4)
by thought, word, deed or omission. It is wickedness, evil,
iniquity. Every departure from God’s small, known or unknown,
intended or accidental. On the others hand only what is at variance
with God’s law is sin”3
Here the Law is about drunkenness.
Besides condemning it as habit, the Bible expressly says,
“Do not get drunk on wine which
leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the spirit Ephesians
5:18. (New International Version)
“Do not get drunk with wine which
will only ruin you, instead, be filled with the spirit” (Good News
“Do not,” makes, the
statement in this an absolute command. It is non-conditional, non
negotiable and non optional. It is a command that demands only
How is drunkenness a sin? It is a sin
because it is defiance of God’s command “Do not be drunk”. It leads
to other sinful or evil acts that ruins ones life and makes God
unhappy. The Bible does not mince word in condemning drunkenness and
drunkards. Drunkenness does not in anyway encourage, promote,
enhance or lead to a life that glorifies God.
Some have asked what if I drink and
do not get drunk? Or even get drunk but do nothing sinful?
In answering the first question we
need again to ask what should guide us in choosing to drink or not
to drink in the first place. We have seen that, motive, the
consciousness of the Christian’s mission and purpose on earth and
his sensitivity to the feeling of others are among the factors that
need to be considered.
People say, “I just drink a little”.
But how much little is little? Just one calabash? And another? And
another? Then a little pot? And a bigger pot? As it stand its been
observed practically that people rarely stop at the little they
started with. They soon get hooked and addicted. The little, often
leads to a lot and ultimately to drunkenness.
Now is it possible to be drunk
without sinning? Drunkenness is not used in the scripture in the
sense of qualifying other sins; though it may lead to them.
It is a sin in itself. There
shouldn’t be any debate about this.
However if we grant that the word
drunkenness qualifies or rather is the root of other sins we
wouldn’t be saying anything different. The issue is that of control,
who or what is in control of the mind, the will, the intellect and
the emotion in the drunken state. One is a slave to who or whatever
The Bible compares wine and the Holy
Spirit in their controlling ability (Ephesians 5:18). Both take
control or charge of whoever they possess. The man filled with wine
acts under the directives of the alcohol that has taken control of
his senses or the mind. He does exactly what he is prompted to do.
So is the Christian filled with the Holy Spirit. He walks and works
under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He does not choose to do as
he pleases. He is a slave and does as directed by the Holy Spirit.
God is also jealous for the mind of
the believer. He does not want the mind that should be controlled by
his Spirit being controlled and ruled by alcohol or any food for
Those who are controlled by the
spirit will please God. It is doubtful if the same persons can
please God under the control of alcohol.
The one that controls the Christian
is actually his owner and master. Drunkenness is listed in the acts
of the sinful nature that controls a man. Those who are
controlled by such cannot please God (Romans 8:8). The Christian
however is not controlled by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit of
God. “And if any one does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not
belong to Christ”. But “The spirit himself testifies with our spirit
that we are God’s Children” (Romans 8:16).
Now many people have problem in
defining what is sinful. They see only the outward and physical
manifestations of sin. But we defined sin above as “Any thought,
words, deeds motive etc that is at variance with the word of God.
James 4:17 says, any one who knows the good he ought to do and
doesn’t do it, sins.
I suppose there are many goods –
towards family members, wives, neighbours, selves, and God that
drunken Christians know and ought to do; but are not able because
they are always drunk. They are enslaved to something they were so
sure they could control. By now they know that they are wrong. The
way out is to do something before they go wrong.
Effects of Drunkenness
If we see drunkenness as the root of
other sins, it should be a matter of great concern to the serious
Christian. The experiences of drunken Characters in the Bible and
our contemporaries tells us that drunkenness always leads to acts or
behaviours that are scripturally and morally unsound. Even
non-Christians testify this is so. Here we can list some of these
unsound behaviours and acts produced by the drunken state. They are
the same today as they were in the Bible times.
Generally these effect results from
the lost of sound judgment and discernment. The alcohol controlling
the mind gives a false sense of reality about the world around the
drunkard. He sees himself on top of the word with his false
perception to both the material and the spiritual world and with his
dead conscience he does everything contrary to the rule. He cannot
therefore meet the Christian moral and spiritual responsibilities
and expectations. The drunkard:
Displays indecent behaviour Genesis 9:20-23
He into sexual perversions such as incest
(Genesis 19:30-38) rape, beastialism, homosexuality, lesbianism.
Uses Physical and or verbal violence against
family members, neighbours and other innocent people.
Wanton oppression and injustice (Amos 2:8)
People see themselves as creators of others with the right to do
with them as they please.
Wanton destruction of life and property
Disgraceful and shameful bodily exposure
Insubordination and rebellion (Deuteronomy
Irresponsible behaviours (Proverbs 31:4)
Cause sorrow and misery to others
They end up poor and wretched. These in turn
give birth to more sins.
These effects are serious on the
drunkard, his human and physical environment. But more serious is
the effect on his relationship and communion with God.
The writer of Ecclesiastes after
examining and explaining what life is all about, he summed up the
purpose of man on earth: “… fear God and Keep his commandments. For
this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
“He has showed you O! Man what is
good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to
love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)
“To fear the Lord is to hate evil.
(Proverb 8: 13). This includes all the sins that are caused by
drunkenness. To relate well with God and do what he expect of us we
must face him in viewing sin the way he sees it and have an awful
reverence for his person or name. We must exhibit reverence and
wonder and to see that fulfilling our whole duty an earth involves
the lifestyle we live.
“So for us, the
fear of the Lord should do two thing. First, produce in us the same
attitude towards sin that God has, which is to hate it. Second, to
give us a deep respect for and understand of the power of God and
the total sufficiency of God to meet man’s need.”4
The way out of
drunkenness as in any other sin is repentance. It takes a close and
objective look at one’s way of life. Realizing it as the wrong way;
one stops and says to himself I am on the wrong way to where I am
supposed to go. Repentance tells God I am sorry that I have left
your way and chose to follow mine. Now that I see that I made the
wrong choice, I want to came back to your own way on your own
terms.” With a genuine remorse and determination on the one
repenting changes his mind against his former way and turn to the
way of God. Here, “The concept is that of a complete alteration of
the basic motivation and direction of one’s life, and is often
equivalent to conversion.”
Repentance is also defined as a
“Genuine sorrow towards God on account of sin and an extreme dislike
of sin, followed by the actual forsaking of it and humble surrender
to the will and service of God.” 6
In repenting we
will do well to name our sin by name. “You wont learn to reverse
self-destructive patterns if you can’t identify them by name.” 7
The joy of repenting is in the fact
that it is the Lord Himself calling us to it.
He is the one promising to forgive.
He will forgive and restore the good relationship that the life of
drunkenness has destroyed.
The pleasure that alcohol offers is
but for a moment. At the end it leads to self-destructive habit that
ultimately destroy our happiness, our relationship and even our very
lives. The ruin it brings is devastating, to soul and body. But the
forgiveness, the healing and the restoration the Lord offers is
Though the scars of the wounds the
alcohol inflicted may remain there is however a divine assurance
that the pains will not remain.
The Lord Jesus Christ died for
drunkards. He loves them. He wants them to enjoy life abundantly.
Let not the evil one cheat you from receiving this free and eternal
gift of life. Let not what God himself has created for your pleasure
be the hindrance to attaining to a blessed relationship with him.
To the believer who is caught in this
deadly sin, he needs to in addition to repentance remember.
Not to allow any part of his body to
be used for sin to be master over him Romans 6:12 – 14
To offer his body as a living
sacrifice and not to conform to the standards of this world Romans
That his body is a holy dwelling place of the Holy
Spirit I Corinthians 6: 19 – 20
There is an absolute command to the believer not to get
drunk Ephesians 5:18
We ought to hate sin the way God hates
We do recognize that drunkards are in
strong chains. But the grace of God through Jesus Christ is much
stronger. It can set the captive free.
“Jesus died to pay
Sin’s debt, Forgiveness to bestow; but all who try to make excuse
His grace will never know.” 8
So far this book has been concerned
with the strong drink and how its affects Evangelism and Christian
Christianity is a way of life in its
own class. It lays and makes absolute claims and demands on the life
of anyone, who hear and answers its call.
Christianity points to the person of
the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the ‘author’ and the ‘finisher’ of
faith of those who accept to follow him on his own terms,
Christianity is therefore following and practicing the teachings and
living the life of Christ after a conscious surrender of ones life
and all to Him.
This total surrender is the beginning
of the Christian life. It starts with realizing the need for the
forgiveness of ones evil against God. This evil – sin is the only
obstacle standing in the way of relating well with him.
Christianity makes a bold claim that
true forgiveness can be obtained only in Jesus Christ. The one who
offered his own life to please God so that he will forgive men?
How sad, that many people including
some preachers are ignorant of how the Christian life begins. J.C
Ryle writes on this:
“So too, how little most people know
of the main design of Christianity, though they live in a Christian
land. They fancy they are to go to church to learn their duty and
hear morality enforced, and for no other purpose. They forget that
the heathen philosophers could have told them as much as this.
They forget that such men as Plato
and Seneca gave instructions, which ought to put to shame the
Christian liar, the Christian drunkard and the Christian thief. They
have yet to learn that the leading mark of Christianity is the
remedy it provides for sin. This is the glory and excellence of the
On how to obtain this forgiveness
Ryle writes further:
“That way is simply to trust in the
Lord – Jesus Christ as your Saviour. It is to cast your soul, with
all its sins unreservedly on Christ – to cease completely from any
dependence on your own works or doings either in whole or in parts,
- and to rest on no other work but Christ’s work, no other
righteousness but Christ righteousness, not other merit but Christ
merit as your ground of hope.” 2
This ‘ground of hope’ is the death
and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He died and arose
from the grave that we may live and enjoy life fully.
This is what Christianity offers. For
it is all about, “A relationship which people enjoy with Jesus
Christ who was once crucified but subsequently rose to a new life.”
“For this Jesus who died on the cross and rose again three days after
holds the key to what life was meant to be what it could be.” 4
However, we must agree with M B Green
when he observes in His book, Man Alive that:
“Anybody in thoughtful mood will
admit that there are various things which spoil this life, things
which stop us living life to the full and limit our satisfaction.
Christianity claims that the resurrection of Jesus makes a real
difference to these frustrations.” 5 So Christianity
anchored on faith in the resurrection of Christ, provides the way
out. For without the living Christ there is no hope for humanity.
And Who is a Christian?
A Christian is the one who has found
hope in Christ. He is, “A person who believes in Jesus Christ as his
personal savior from sin, eternal death and the devil; one who knows
that he has eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ as his
personal Saviour from Sin, eternal death and the devil; one who
knows that he has eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ who
died for him and rose again.” 6
The Christian is therefore the one
who has come to his senses to see the ugliness of sins, the havoc it
wrecks and the shame it brings. He becomes desperate only to another
realization that he cannot help himself out of the mess he has found
himself. He bemoans and groans the pain and the weight of sin.
But there comes a time he admits a raging conflict within himself
and sincerely agree that he cannot handle it himself .In the words
or Paul, such a man cries,
“What an unhappy man I am! Who will
rescue me from this body that is taking me to death”. Romans 7:24.
Happy is the man who discovers what the great apostle discovered,
that is, Freedom from sin and eternal death. Sensible and wise
people in the ages past to date have found that salvation is in
Christ alone. They accepted this fact appropriated it in their lives
and they lived happily. For the secret to the power of living the
real life that is enjoyable is to be properly related to God through
the Lord Jesus Christ.
People get properly related to God
only when they have a change of mind and will to live the why God
designs it to be. And this begins after the person has gone through
the “born again experience.”
Becoming a Christian is only the
beginning of a wonderful new life. God rarely takes people the
moment they become Christians to heaven. He has a purpose for each
and every one who come to relate with him through the Lord Jesus
But we can never find or fulfill that
wonderful and God glorifying purpose unless, one is growing as a
Christian after conversion.
Conversion is the experience of
moving from darkness to light, from death to life. Salvation brings
transformation, which is a process. It begins at conversion and
continues daily until you are fully transformed into the image of
In nature growth takes place under favorable factors. So the
Christian must go for all that makes, for a healthy Christian growth
to maturity. He must maintain the discipline required to grow.
The Christian Message
The Christian message is that God
came down to man, full of love, truth, grace and glory. That he came
to reconcile man with himself and to demonstrate how to live life
the way he designed and purposed it to be. It is a message of hope
and freedom to life in Christ Jesus. When one becomes a Christian he
sees Christ more than being a historical or religious figure. To
such a person, Christ becomes an ever-present reality. He becomes to
the Christian what Michael Green says,
“But to us the greatest thing is that
he is still with us though we can not see him he shares our very
lives. He talks with us and we with him everyday. He came by his
Holy Spirit to take up residence in our own personalities. He is no
past hero to us. He is our living God. Our aim becomes to allow him
to take control and transform our characters and to help us in
introducing others to God”
Christianity brings a message of
change. It brings a fresh and new perspective to life and all that
it entails. Above all the message is about a change of ownership.
The one who surrenders his life to
Christ has by that act or declaration signed off from being owned by
Satan to being the sole property of Jesus Christ. His allegiance
changes to Christ too. Then under the control of Christ you will
begin to acquire new ideals, many of your taste will alter
completely not from conscious effort of your will, but because of
the change within you. Some of the things you once did you will stop
doing. Some of the things you once shunned you will do. For many
this change will come suddenly, for others it will be a slow
transformation of outlook, and way of life as you gradually assume
the likeness of Christ.” 10
The Christian message therefore
brings a change in Character, a new vitality in life, a new attitude
to things, a new sense of forgiveness and its accompanying joy. It
gives us a new habit in place of those self ruining ones, it given
us Joy, a new focus a fulfilled and a happy relationship with God
and man. Above all the Christian message shifts our attention from
self-centeredness to Christ centered life.
With a complete change of priorities
in life, the new Christian begins to live a new life. “The ordinary
things in life takes a new look when undertaken with Christ as
companion” Christ becomes the domineering power and the driving
motivation in all that the Christian is and does in life.
The evidence of this new life is seen
in having a new sense of forgiveness, a desire to please God, new
attitude to other people, new love for other Christians, new power
over evil, new Joy and confidence new experience of prayer. In short
the Christian enters a new dimension of life because:
“Anyone who is joined to Christ is a
new being; the old is gone, the new has come. All this is done by
God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and
gave us the task of making others his friends also. Our message is
that God was making the whole human race his friends, through
Christ. God did not keep on account of their sins, and he has given
us the message which tells how he makes us his friends” 2
Corinthians 5: 17 –19. In other words the quality of our worship and
service to God done in Obedience and faith to his word is the true
test of our commitment to Christ. For those willing to live this
life, there is a divine backing and resources to depend on. The
Father designed it, the Son came to demonstrate it practically and
the Holy Spirit gives the enabling power to live the God life, here
Expectations From the Christian
If Christianity is a commitment to
relate with Christ, then whether the Christian knows it or not he
has taken the strongest oath on earth at his initiation into the
Christian family. He makes a pledge to be faithful, loyal and
devoted to God and the body of Christ.
He promised to abide by the code of
conduct and ethics of the new kingdom he is joining. He also binds
himself with the most solemn obligation to glorify the Lord Jesus
Christ with his body, soul and spirit. He says, “I shall no longer
live for myself, but for the one who gave his life in death that I
may live” And like Paul he says, “I am dead… in order that I might
live for God, I have been put to death with Christ on his cross, so
that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who live by faith
in the son of God who loved me and gave his life for me” (Galatians
2: 10,20 GNB).
The one who makes such a declaration
goes with courage and against the tide to honor Christ in his
feeding habit and other actions.
Living like Jesus did. The one desire
of the Christian becomes to live as Christ lived. He begins to see
that God wants him to manifest His (God’s) character and nature.
Knowing that Jesus has done it before, the Christian desires to copy
him. For “Jesus has not only redeemed us through his death but also
shown us through his life on earth, how God intend man to live. He
is not only our Saviour, but also our forerunner (Hebrews 6:20) He
has given us an example to live at all times and in all situations
in perfect obedience to God” The Obedient Christian will do all that
is expected to recognize and fulfill God’s purpose in this life. He
will seek to serve and worship God in true holiness and humility. He
will love God and his people instead of living to satisfy his carnal
desires, he will lead him to do the will of God moment by moment. He
will hardly want to go his way to do his own thing. Thus will he
live a successful Christian life as he learns to be like Christ.
A wise Christian will also desire to
grow in prayer, in knowing God’s mind through His word, in his
Obedience to the will of God and in his willingness to introduce
others to Christ.
It is expected that the Christian
will aim at going deeper in his relationship with God. “That life in
the spirit that is denoted by the term deeper life is far wider and
richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory maybe.
It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God
consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the
Joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the
Trinity, the Practice of the presence of God, the communion of
saints and prayer without ceasing”. These expectations from the
Christian are not mere wishes or optional. They are the very essence
of Christian living and the evidence of vital and vibrant
Strong Drink and the Kingdom
Christianity demands a very unique
lifestyle from that offered by other religions and philosophies.
This lifestyle differentiates the Christians from those who are not.
A lifestyle is supposed to be a
discipline one practices in order to achieve a certain goal in life.
Institutions and organizations have their lifestyles expected of the
individuals in them. An individual coming into such an institution
or group must have prepared to adapt to it if he does not, he will
find it difficult to fit into the group.
The goal of the Christian is to be
come like Christ. He wants to reach a point where the glory of God
becomes his preoccupation. Now how we feed, how we dress, our
sleeping and resting habits among others greatly influences our
lifestyles. People in varying occupations and callings respond
differently to these factors that affect one’s lifestyle. For
example the athletic ‘watches’ his weight as regards to dieting, the
farmer watches his sleeping time, a soldiers goes only for those
things that keeps him physically fit and at an alert. He is
conscious of how he dresses or not?
Now as Christians, no one should
deprive us of our personal freedom to decide on disputable matters.
When we make up our mind no one should make us feel guilty about
whatever decision we made.
Nevertheless, the Christian freedom
has it limits. He is limited by the demands and the disciplines of
the kingdom lifestyle. He is bound to consider exercising his
freedom to enhance his spiritual growth, to build up fellow
believers, to be a faithful representative of Christ on earth and to
glorify God. Regards to eating food offered to idols, the Corinthian
Christians had a consoling statement. “Everything is permissible for
“Yes” Paul agreed, and went further
to balance their statement, “Not everything is beneficial.
Everything is permissible for me but I will not be mastered by
anything” 1 Corinthians 8:
The Christian who is faced with
choice to drink or not to drink should ask himself, “Are these
perfectly legitimate things going to rob me of my freedom by
bringing me into new bondage by gripping me in a habit I cant break
it? “ 13
what will the exercise of my freedom have on people who are looking to
me for moral, spiritual and ethical examples? Would my drinking or
not drinking make unbelievers see Christ through me and be drawn to
On if my drinking will commend Christ
to unbelievers, there is a general feeling among non-Christians that
true Christians are not supposed. I think it is easier to abstain
than to explain that Christianity is not against alcohol. I would
rather take the time and energy to be used in this explanation to
preach the gospel of salvation to such an inquirer.
People often ask, “Would I be allowed
to continue my drinking after I accept Christ? My response to such
people has been: in accepting Christ you are agreeing to enter into
a living relationship with the person of Christ. By accepting him
you yield the total control of your life to him. If after you enter
into that relationship, he directs you to continue drinking, who am
I to say otherwise? After this, I usually ask the inquirer my own
question. “Supposing you become a Christian and the Lord says stop
drinking, because of the harm he sees drinking will cause you; will
you obey? I guess the ‘harm’ that the Lord will want to protect such
a one from will include falling into the sin of drunkenness. This is
“Many people seem to have a built in weakness towards alcohol abuse.
The only way to avoid that abuse or addiction is to completely stay
away from any king of alcoholic drink if a person does not drink
alcohol at all; they are certainly not going to be on alcohol
abuser. The effect of alcohol abuse or addiction in the world is
unfathomable. There are countless broken homes, broken health,
poverty and other problems that are direct result of alcohol abuse.
The alcohol industry is making a huge profit on the suffering of
many innocent people. Therefore one should not encourage the
industry that is creating so much suffering by even buying anything
“One of the strongest reasons against
drinking alcohol is the concern about offending a weaker brother
(Romans 14). Paul specifically state, it is better not to eat meat
or dink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to
fall (Romans 14:21) To jeopardize one’s Christian testimony and
ministry for the small pleasure that comes from alcohol is too big a
risk. Combining all these arguments, many feel that the safest
position for the Christian is to abstain completely from alcoholic
Need to Get Charged?
I once visited my neighbor’s house in
the evening. I met the man cooking while the wife sat down watching.
It was a very unusual domestic scene in his culture, I was curious,
because the man hardly stays at home. Being younger than myself
I commended him and also commented in a light mood that, if he
continues to stay this long at home helping his wife; his
would be a happy home.
The wife who I later learnt was
having a painful boil in her armpit, raised her neck teased him with
her tongue outside. She then turned to me and said, “Will drinking
allow him to stay at home?” we all laughed.
Then the man as if agreeing that his
wife was making a point began to tell me of another woman who nearly
broke her eye. She was returning to her home late and drunk. She
fell and hit her face on a stone.
After he was finished with the story
I said, you can now see what drinking is doing to you people why
don’t you take ‘kunu’ if you are hungry? His face changed and began
to stare at me like a small boy who didn’t know what he was saying.
‘Kunu?’ he later re echoed and asked
shaking his head. But that will not ‘charge’ (to get intoxicated and
have good feeling of delight) me, he said and went back to his
The neighbour professes to be a
Christian. He summarized in a word why many Christians drink
alcohol. They have a need to be charged. That is to say they want to
get intoxicated and have a feeling of being on top of the world.
“It comes to this really” asked
Michael Green, “Where do you reckon to get your stimuli – Christ or
drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.” 15
It seems many Christians are trying
to find escape routes from the realities of our time. There is so
much tension of modern living that people are trying to diffuse or
run away from. But the Christian are looking in the wrong place.
Getting stimulated in order to forget life’s problem over is a wrong
The kingdom lifestyle demands a clear
mind in order to face he who is the true reality on a daily basis.
Until Christians learn to get ‘charged’ or ‘high’ on Jesus
they will continue to miss what life is all about. Only by
sustaining the right relationship with Christ, living by the power
of God and experiencing the fruit of the spirit can satisfy and keep
one delighted in life.
Eating to Live or Living to Eat
If the Christian drinks for the sake
of the stomach, then I think his attitude should be that of
moderation. The Bible calls it temperance. As in eating any other
food, the Christian should be able to control the eating.
Nobody has the night to dictate what
food another Christian should eat. Since “Food is the ultimate
appetite, since it is necessary for survival. So we eat to live, but
when we begin to live to eat, food no longer satisfies. Instead in
consumes us, and millions of people feel powerless to control their
appetite for food. When your body is deprived of necessary nutrient,
you naturally crave those foods, which will keep you healthy and
your immune system functioning. If you eat to satisfy those natural
cravings you will stay healthy and free. But when you turn to food
to relieve anxiety or satisfy a lust for sweets, salts etc you will
lose control and the result will negatively affect your health.”
I have seen many Christians whose
physical and spiritual health has been destroyed by alcohol.
The Christian who sees strong drink
as food need to ask himself, “Who is in control, me or the food I
There are many professing Christians
who are enslaved by alcohol. By so allowing drink to control their
lives they unwittingly switch from Jesus to alcohol as their master
but the kingdom’s lifestyle demands that absolute control of the
citizen’s life be control by Jesus Christ. He should be Lord at all
times or not at all.
Is it Gluttony?
If alcohol is taken as food, then
allowing it to control the ‘eater’ has a name. It is gluttony – “
The habit or practice of eating too much.”
Gluttony I believe is a lifestyle
unbefitting of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Even in daily
life no one seems to be comfortable having a glutton around. The
“One given habitually to greedy and veracious eating and drinking”
is a social misfit. I have asked several parents and adults how they
will feel seeing their children and wards going to eat from one
house to the other so frequently and regularly. None felt
comfortable with the question. None wants a gluttonous child,
because it is disgraceful. But the same adults don’t see themselves
as gluttons and their drinking from morning to might as gluttony.
For them glutton seem to be only in eating the regular heavy foods
like rice, tuwo yams, plantain served at official family meal
In the screw tape Letters’ C.S. Lewis
puts words in the mouth of a senior devil, lecturing a junior devil
about gluttony. The senior devil said:
“The contemptuous way in which you
spoke of gluttony as a means of catching souls in your last letter,
only shows your ignorance. One of the great achievements of the last
hundred years has been to deaden the human conscience on that
subject, so that by now you will hardly find a sermon preached or a
conscience troubled about it… this has largely been affected by
concentrating all our effort on gluttony of delicacy, not gluttony
of excess.” 17
On the category of the humans that
fall easy victims of the devils use of gluttony to catch souls, the
senior devil has this to say:
“Males are best turned into gluttons
with the help of their vanity… what begins as vanity can then be
gradually turned into a habit. But however you approach it, the
great thing is to bring him into the state in which the denial of
any one indulgence – it matters not which, Champaign or tea. Or
cigarette put him out. For then his charity, justice and obedience
are all at your mercy… keep him wondering what pride or lack of
faith has delivered him into your hand, when a simple inquiry into
what he has been eating or drinking in the last twenty four hours
would show him whence your ammunition comes and thus enable him by a
very little abstinence to imperil your lines of communication.”
There are Christians who are
controlled by their stomach. They hardly see glutton as greed and
greed as sin. They are so self centered that they will their
appetites and desires before the Lord’s will. Of such people the
Apostle Paul lamented and shed tears.
“I have told you this many times
before and now I repeat it with tears: there are many whose lives
makes them enemies of Christ death on the cross.
They are going to end up in hell
because their god is their bodily desires…” Philippians 3:18 –
The NIV translates bodily desires as?
“Their god is their stomach.”
Eating food is necessary. But we are
asked to eat or drink in conformity to the disciplines of the
kingdom lifestyle. For we are citizens of heaven and we eagerly wait
for our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ to come from heaven.
(Philippians 3:20) What should please the Lord we are waiting for
should be our main preoccupation. “We should please Christ and act
as his responsible agents in society”.
To Those Already Hooked
For the Christians who have, “Pushed
beyond the will of God’s boundary”, to abuse drinks, and find that
they didn’t like the result, there is hope of for them. They can be
restored. As a rule, the person abusing the alcohol must accept that
he is in a sin that heed to be repented of.
The devil must have suggested that
depending on alcohol for living is a means of finding self worth and
esteem. It is a full lie meant to fool you. Asking you to satisfy
your appetite through drink is a ploy to fuddle your mind so that
you cannot understand and do the will of God. But you are far more
above living only to eat. You have a better and nobler purpose in
life than to impulsively continue to chase after food that turns you
into an irresponsible person.
It is frightening to know that most
of the things that takes us outside God’s will have demonic
connections. Because it is their business to make us disobey God.
However, the liberator from demonic
and self-imposed bondages is around. He can set you free if you are
willing. Confess and repent of your sin of abusing what God has
created and meant it to be taken with thanks to Him.
If as a Christian you are hocked on
alcohol and you want to be set free, may I suggest the prayer Neil T
Anderson suggest to victims of substance abuse?
“Lord I confess that I have misused
substances (alcohol, tobacco, food, prescription or street drugs)
for the purpose of pleasure, to escape from reality or to cope with
difficulty situations resulting in the abuse of my body, the harmful
programming of my mind and the quenching of the Holy Spirit. I ask
your forgiveness and renounce any satanic connection or influence in
my life through my misuse of chemicals or food. I cast my anxiety
onto Christ who loves me, and I commit myself to no longer yield to
substance abuse, but to the Holy Spirit. I ask you heavenly father
to fill me with your Holy Spirit in Jesus name. Amen.” 19
“So if the Son sets you free, you
will be free indeed.” John 6:36.
1. The complete Christian dictionary
2. Intervarsity Christian Fellowship of the
U.SA. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospel copyright 1992
3. David O’Brien: Today’s Handbook for Solving
Bible Difficulties page 367
4. The complete Christian dictionary
5. David O’Brien Today’s Handbook for Solving
Bible Difficulties. Page 367
6. David Werner et al: Where There Is No Doctor –A
village health care hand book for Africa
1. R.B Bunnet general geography in diagram
copyright 1973 Long Man Group London England page 232
1. C S Lewis Mere Christianity. Macmillan
publishing co Inc 1960 27th printing 1978
1. The Complete Christian dictionary
4. Derek Prime: Bible guidelines- Finding out
God’s plan, spiritual direction and personal guidance from the Bible.
Christian focus publication TI Tain Ross-shine reprinted 1997
5. John Allen: Rescue Shop Ten Workshop To Give
Christians The Skills They Need To Recover People For Jesus Exeter The
7. David O’Brien :Today’s Handbook for Solving
8. A.W. Tozer: This World: Play Ground Or Battle
Ground Published under permission by Evangel publication publishing
arm of evangel bookshop RR1-4 Nasarawa road Kaduna p .o box 3953
1. Dictionary of Jesus
2. N.I.V. exhaustive concordance –Hebrew to
English dictionary and index
3. The new concise bible dictionary intervarsity
press pg 581
4. David O’Brien
1. Encyclopedias Britannica inc. copyright 2002
3. The complete
4. Joy Dawson- intimate friendships with God.
Chosen book cc1986 Fleming h Revel Company. Old Tappan. New jersey
5. The new concise
6. The complete Christian dictionary
7. Reverting self-destructive patterns. A product
of the chapel of the air cc Multimoh press 10209 s e divisions
Portland oregon 97266 box 30 Wheaton illionois 60189-6030
8. From our daily bread quoted by Joy Dawson
9. David O’Brien page 369
10. A W. Tozer: this world playground or
1. The cc dictionary
2. JC Ryle: Forgiveness and the cross of Christ.
Worldwide Ministries, 1998. Sound books publishing Cheshire England.
3. Ibid page 16- 17
4. M B. Green: Man Alive pg 14
5. ibid pg17
7. Jamie Buckingham: Power for living cc 1993
revised 1999. Arthur s demos foundation pg 65
8. ibid page 66
9. M B. Green –Man Alive page 24
10. Billy Graham: the Jesus generation cc1971
page 152 –153
11. Zac Poonen –living as Jesus lived published
in Nigeria by focus Christian publishers FCS book center, 6 Noad
Avenue P O. Box 1413 Jos page 5
12. AW Tozer the world play ground or battle
ground page 42
13. M B Green: new life new lifestyle
14. Joseph A. Ilori (editor): Manual for teachers
of Christian Religious Knowledge in Junior Secondary schools. Cc 2002
International Institute for Christian studies Jos Nigeria. Page 150
15. M B Green: new life new lifestyle page 108
16. Neil t Anderson- the bondage breakerpg135
17. C S Lewis: the Screwtape letters-letters from
a senior to a junior devil. Fontana books sixth impression 1959 page
18. ibid page 89
19. Neil T Anderson: The Bondage Breaker. Harvest
house publishers Eugene, Oregon, 97402, USA cc 1993 page 205
About the Author
Namani J. Nharrel (BSc. Agriculture) is a
missionary with Calvary Ministries (CAPRO) –an indigenous Cross
Cultural Nigerian Mission Agency.
Nharrel with Laku his wife works as pioneer
church planters. They have four children Yammune, Seramkong Kamduhl
and Yamkwada. They come from Lapan in Gombe State of Nigeria.
Nharrel has written and published four books:
Frankly Speaking Dear Lord,
This Over Familiar God and
An Eye for God
He has also written several other
books that are yet to be published.