Firstly, lets get the air clear. I used to drink alcohol and also do drugs. I have drunk as much booze as anyone else, and I still to this day enjoy a cold beer or a jim beam and gingerale. I also have a medical condition which now prevents me from drinking at all, however, my decision to choose not to drink based on my reasoning that follows, was made several years ago, and at that time I stopped drinking alcohol (I stopped using drugs nearly 2 decades ago). The fact that I am a Christian does not immediately mean I am opposed to alcohol, in fact, I find no prescription against the drinking of alcohol in the bible, but I do find a prescription against its misuse.
So, if there is no Scriptural reason for me not to drink, why should I not have the occasional wine? Well, there is one fairly major reason. Lets first look at some statistics about alcohol.
According to http://crime.co.nz:
– Criminal and traffic offences are often linked to alcohol. Much family violence happens because of alcohol. Alcohol also affects the road toll, street crime, and petty dishonesty. It is related to:
– 60 per cent of all incidents reported to the Police
– 41 per cent of all fatal motor accidents
– 77 per cent of street disorder and fighting offences
– 40 per cent of serious assaults
From the National Crime Prevention unit conference in 2005:
– Intimate partner violence – 30%
– Violence from someone else well known to them – 40%
– Sexual violence – 46%
Now, the problem with these statistics is that they only relate to reported crime. We can expect these figures to be alot higher.
Even more startling are the numbers relating to what this costs our country, in 2005/6 for example, the cost to NZ communities was nearly 5.3 BILLION dollars. Surveys of prison inmates show that 70% of female, and 75% of male inmates suffered from alcohol and drug dependancies at some point in their lives.
Now, I live in South Auckland, in New Zealand, in an area that is notorious as a lower socio-economic area, where drug and alcohol use is common. However, New Zealand has a drinking culture, so even though where I live is bad, the same problems prevail in all communities in the country to some extent.
All around me I see the evidence of peoples lives being ruined by alcohol use. When I was a young man I was sharing a house with a man who was an alcoholic, and I know just how it can destroy a person. We have parties going on around us, people wandering the streets drunk, stoned, wasted on “P”, and so forth. It’s not just my neighbourhood, you can drive anywhere in Auckland late at night, especially thursday through sunday and see the same thing.
In 2004, 81% of people between 12-84 reporting drinking alcohol in a 12 month period. In 2007, alcohol consumption for age 15 and over was just over 9l per year, per person. Statistics from Statistics NZ show that New Zealand’s per capita consumption rates are slightly higher than the United States (US) and Canada but lower than Ireland, the UK, and Australia.
Now, I’m not responsible for other peoples actions. I cant make them behave a certain way. The government can make as many laws as they want, but they can not legislate people into changing their character. People will just continue on doing what ever they want to do. The majority of people in New Zealand drink alcohol, and to make it illegal to drink would be unfair to the majority, and it wouldn’t stop people from drinking.
Recently in the news the drinking age, alcohol provided by adults to minors, and several deaths from teenagers have been in the news. People are saying it’s a problem, and something needs be done; raise the limits, lower the tolerance, etc, and take personal responsibility. But the problem is, as I said, changing the rules wont change peoples behaviour. Well, it might to a little extent, but in the case of alcohol, once you start drinking, your inibitions fly out the window. As for taking personal responsibility, thats ok for those of us who are ALREADY responsible, but many are not, and many young people have no respect for anyone, let alone themselves, so this is a nice ideal, but will never work.
So, now to the reasons why I dont drink, and why I think these reasons should be part of the solution to try and restore personal responsibility to our drinking culture.
First, I am responsible to myself, and my family. I need to be an example to my family, and not do things that might be cause, or condone, or be used to justify someone else’s behaviour. This does not only relate to drinking, of course, but all aspects of life. Of course, I am not perfect, and I do things which might cause someone else to behave badly, or condone someone else’s actions, or be used to justify someone elses actions.
Secondly, I am responsible to the community at large. The things I am seen to stand for, and the things I do are visible in the community. If I go and buy alcohol from an off license, and people see me, then they guess I am going to drink it. They might well see me going to church next sunday too. I am to be an example to them, and if my example is “hey, its ok to drink, see, I do it”, then that is what is reflected to the community. That person who sees me drinking, buying drink, discussing the last time I had a few drinks, talking about going to the bar for a few drinks, etc, thinks, see, he is a good guy, he can do it, I can too. They get drunk and then can’t handle it, and become one of our statistics.
AS GOOD, RESPONSIBLE COMMUNITY MEMBERS WE SHOULD NOT CONDONE BY OUR ACTIONS AND WORDS, THINGS WHICH MIGHT CAUSE, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, OTHERS TO “FALL”.
But, you might say, I am not responsible for someone else’s actions. And, yes, directly you are not, but indirectly you are. Firstly, in the sense I mentioned above, and secondly, because you as a tax payer are footing the bill for the destruction in the community. By not standing up and putting the needs of the community first, we are responsible, albeit indirectly, for other people’s actions.
Now, as a Christian there is a mandate for this way of thinking. For a non-Christian, there is only “the greater good” – which should be motivation enough. The Apostle Paul expounds this principle in Romans 14:
1 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. 5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God. 13 Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.
The principle is this, do not do things which might cause issues for other people, that might cause them to stumble, and so forth. If I was on a diet and someone put chocolate in front of me, I might eat it. If I was a drug addict, and I was offered drugs, I might take them. If I was to see someone I respected drinking, I might drink. This does not apply to drinking alone, but a whole bunch of things in life. I think it bears consideration.