A Few More Thoughts on Smoking and Drinking

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WINE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

In the last blog  we talked about Jesus drinking wine and then about things to consider when thinking about drinking/smoking in moderation (when legal). Here are some additional things to consider:

In New Testament times, wine was different then it is today. That is, they mixed it with water but that is not to say that it was Welch’s Grape Juice. In Homer’s Odyssey, it mentions that wine had a ratio of 20 parts water to one part wine. Other sources say the ratio was eight parts water to one part wine. The ratio ranged from 20 parts water to 1 part wine on the one side and 1 part water to 1 part wine on the other. However, the 1 to 1 mixture was considered “strong wine.” “The ratio of water might vary, but only barbarians drank it unmixed, and a mixture of wine and water of equal parts was seen as “strong drink” and frowned upon. The term “wine” or oinos in the ancient world, then, did not mean wine as we understand it today but wine mixed with water.”[1] The wine that Jesus drank at the Passover was very likely three parts water to one part wine.

Why was wine so often mixed? Mixing water and wine was a safety measure since the water was often not good to drink alone. The easiest way to make water safe to drink was to mix it with wine. In 2 Maccabees it says, “It is harmful to drink wine alone, or again, to drink water alone.”[2] This is saying that water by itself could make you sick and ill and wine by itself could make you sick and foolish. As you can see, there is a big deference between drinking alcohol today and drinking wine in the New Testament.

SOME STATISTICS

Half the people in America drink and 10 percent are alcoholics but more than 30 percent of Americans have had problems with alcoholism. “More than 22,000 people lost their lives in alcohol-related traffic crashes in 1989.”[3] “Alcohol is a factor in 57.6 percent of all marital violence, 41.3 percent of all child molestation, 59.6 percent of all murders, 53.9 percent of all rapes, and 45.9 percent of all theft cases.”[4] Therefore, we can clearly see that alcohol is the means of much heartache and grief in America and it is no wonder that many conservative Christians think it is always wrong to drink. An example of this: I have a friend that got a virgin drink at a restaurant that looked like an alcohol drink and a kid from her V.B.S. saw her and thought she was getting alcohol. The kid got upset no doubt because of what the kid’s parents acted like or did after they had alcohol. The kid never returned to that church, likely because of that incident. It is not good to drink alcohol and make someone else stumble (Romans 14:21).

SMOKING

As Christians our bodies are temples of God, therefore we should take care of them (1 Cor. 4:16-17; 6:19-20). People use this argument to say that people should not smoke (I agree in most cases) but this can be taken much too far. God has also given us things to enjoy so that we may glorify Him for those gifts but those gifts should never become addictions and harm us as the temple of the living, all-powerful God. 

Another thing that must be realized here is that cigarettes are not the only thing that harms our health, our temples of God. Twinkies, ice cream, chocolate, and all these wonderful things can be very bad, even exercising to much can harm our health in a similar way that smoking can. If we cannot control these things, we should not do them at all (Matthew 18:9). If we can control them, I do not see why chocolate, ice cream, (and perhaps even smoking occasionally) and other such things would be wrong, though one must still consider if it is going to make another stumble (Romans 14:21), be profitable (Titus 3:8), and glorify God (1 Cor. 6:20, 10:31).

Once again, I know this is a controversial topic, if you would like to talk about this with me let me know! Understand that if you smoke or drink or whatever I do not think you are some kind of crazy heathen. As I said above, I don’t think those things are always sin. We see principles about these things, not blanket commands.  I also realize that addictions are very difficult to overcome. So do not think that I am judging you if you struggle with a certain sin, we all do, but I would like to help if I can. A book on addictions that I would suggest is Edward T. Welch’s book Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave as well as Jerry Bridges’ The Pursuit of Holiness. 


[1] Robert H. Stein, “Wine Drinking in the New Testament Times,” Christianity Today, 20 June 1975, 10.

[2] 2 Maccabees 15:39

[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,   Public Health Service, Prevention Resource Guide: Impaired Driving (Washington, D.C., October 1991, 1.)

[4] Fact sheet published by the South Carolina Commission on Alcohol and drug abuse.