Blue Ridge Christian News
By Pastor Matthew Mills
Senior Pastor, Grassy Creek Baptist Church, Spruce Pine, NC
The most dangerous drug in America is alcohol. It is dangerous because of its availability, because of its acceptance, and because of its affect on those who drink it and those who are affected by those who drink it.
Here in Spruce Pine a referendum committee called “Partners for Progress” recently secured enough signatures to bring the matter to a vote within the city limits. According to their literature, alcohol will keep jobs here, create jobs here, end unfair competition, and encourage redevelopment. The real question is, will it?
Unemployment numbers from December 2008 show unemployment in Mitchell County at 9.4% and 8.6% in Yancey County. What about our neighbors that sell alcohol? McDowell- 12.2%, Rutherford- 12.8% , Burke- 11.7%, Avery- 7.6%, Caldwell- 10.7%, Madison- 7.5% .
Again the question we should ask before we vote to allow alcohol sales in Spruce Pine is, will it do what is promised? Or will it simply benefit a handful of people whose sole desire is personal consumption and personal profit?
Here’s what we do know about alcohol, according to the Alcohol/Drug Council of North Carolina, 2002 report- for every one ($1) dollar generated in tax revenue from alcohol sales in NC, there is a corresponding expenditure of $21.42 due to the cost of alcohol related problems.i
Taxpayers fund over 57% of all alcohol treatment services with public funds (taxes); with state and local governments picking up the largest portion of the public tab – 19.2%, not including Medicaid. Can our local governments afford the 19.2% increase in expenditures when we can’t properly funds our schools or build our own jail?
According to George Washington Univ. Medical Center, alcohol-related problems cost every man, woman and child in America roughly $683 each year.ii
This year it is estimated that the brewers and the distillers will spend 4.5 billion telling you that you ought to drink alcohol thru sophisticated and slick advertisements. By the time young people reach the drinking age of 21, they have seen 75 thousand incidents of drinking on television. Every 7½ minutes, there is a scene in which drinking is depicted.
Lobbying efforts in local, state and national government are working hard to relax alcohol related laws to help people to drink more. Our friends say, “Drink it!” Our neighbors say, “Drink it!” Local business owners say, “Drink it!” Advertisers say, “Drink it;” Movies and films say, “Drink it;” some in the medical field says, “Drink it!” Even some religious leaders say, “Drink it.” When you sit down in a nice restaurant, the first question asked by the server is, “Could I get you a drink?”
Does all this effort by the purveyors of alcohol work? You decide…
- Last year Americans drank enough for every American (301 million) to down 7 bottles of liquor, 12 bottles of wine, and 230 cans of beer!
- According to statistics, 63% of adult Americans drink alcohol in some form or fashion.
- 71% of American drinkers said they had a drink in the last week
- Those who drink alcohol report drinking an average of 4.5 drinks per week (up from 2.8 drinks in 1996)
- Of the 63% of adult Americans that drink, approx. 41% report heavy drinking on one or more occasions in the last month.
- 51% of 12-to-14 year-old drinkers, 65% of 15-to 17-year-old drinkers and 71% of 18- to 20-year-old drinkers report heavy drinking in the past month.iii (the legal age is 21!)
- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that 11 percent of eighth-graders, 22 percent of 10th-graders and 29 percent of 12th-graders had engaged in binge drinking in the two weeks before being surveyed.
- Underage drinkers are estimated to consume 12% of the total 4.21 billion drinks consumed every month in the U.S.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that a combined $276 billion was spent or lost in 2005 on health care, lost productivity, premature death, auto accidents and crime relating to drug and alcohol abuse. Approximately three-quarters of that money came from public sources (taxes!).iv
President Abraham Lincoln once said alcohol has many defenders, but alcohol has no defense.
Perhaps it is just me, but I see a pattern developing that suggests strongly that permitting alcohol sales will not be the great savior of our fair city.
The statistics about the problems that alcohol creates in this country go on and on. And I would like to continue my argument against it on economic grounds, but that would be a disservice to my calling as a preacher of the Gospel.
I realize that alcoholic consumption is controversial for some; and it has been stressed to me that if alcohol is voted in, it will be at the hand of church members. However, just because it is controversial to some “Christians” it isn’t because the Bible has nothing to say about it.
The Bible posts warning signs along the way to help us make good decisions. Take Proverbs 20:1… “Wine is a mocker; strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” That’s a warning label! But if you say something often enough and long enough, people will believe it. It seems that the majority of adults in America have bought the lie that alcohol sales and consumption is a good thing.
Proverbs 23:31 says, “Look not thou upon the wine, when it is red, when it giveth discolor in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” That word “moves itself aright” means when it’s fermented. And the words “look not upon it” means don’t desire it, don’t crave it, don’t lust after it. That is, leave this stuff alone– don’t drink it!
When we talk about intoxicating beverages there are several words in the Bible that are used to describe them. Take the word shekar, it is a Hebrew word that is translated as strong drink. Jerome, who wrote about 400 A.D., said: “Shekar… means every kind of drink which can intoxicate….”
The use of shekar is condemned in the Bible. The Bible universally condemns strong drink, with one exception; Proverbs 31:6. There strong drink was used as a narcotic for those who were about die.
Just for informational purposes, practically every alcoholic beverage made today falls into the category of strong drink because of modern distillation processes used to increase the alcohol content. That’s why the “Biblical” argument to justify the use of alcoholic beverages is so shaky!
Naturally fermented wine has an alcoholic content of from 9-11%. (For an alcoholic beverage such as brandy to have a higher content, it must be artificially fortified by distilling already-fermented wine.)
An early Christian work called The Apostolic Tradition says that the early church followed the custom of using only mixed wine. If mixed half and half, the wine would have had less than 6% alcohol. But ancient writers say that it was normally mixed three parts water to one part wine, putting the alcohol content no higher than 2.25-2.75%-well below the 3.2% considered necessary to classify a beverage as alcoholic today.
So what does the Bible say about “strong drink”? Proverbs 23:29-35 asks a series of questions about the use of alcohol that ought to be answered by everyone, especially Christians, before they vote in favor of alcohol.
The first question is Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? The word WOE means anguish. Who has heartache? Who has sorrow? Who has grief? It is saying that those who use alcohol are inviting emotional difficulties to come into their life. Many people drink to ease some pain they are experiencing. They are trying to find temporary relief from some pain they feel. But alcohol does not eliminate emotional pain, it just gives you another grievous problem to deal with on top of all the other problems you have.
On the misery index, Alcohol gets a perfect ten. Alcohol has brought unparalleled suffering to this world. Sorrow, not happiness, follows out of the mouth of the bottle.
The second question asks– who hath contentions? Contention means warfare, disagreement, strife, enmity. Anybody who has lived very long knows that strife, arguments, violence, and even murder come from the bottle. Time Magazine reported that one-half of all murders are alcohol related and 80% of all crime is alcohol related.
A third question asks– who hath babbling? Have you ever listened to a drunk talk? Shakespeare said, “What fools men are to put in their mouths that which will steal their brains away.” Thomas Edison said, “Alcohol in the body is like putting sand on the bearings of an engine. It doesn’t belong. I have better use for my brain than to poison it with alcohol.”
A fourth question asks– “Who hath wounds without a cause?” In the latest statistics that I could readily find, nearly 43,000 people died on our highways in 2004, of that amount 17,000 were alcohol related (39.5%). Also, 41% of all deaths from falls, 30% of drowning deaths, 25% of boating deaths, 45 – 55% of fire fatalities are alcohol related.v
Did you know that this week, as in every week, over 500 Americans will die will die because of alcohol related accidents?
A fifth question asks– who hath redness of eyes? Redness of eyes depicts weeping and speaks of mental anguish. He’s talking about the effects or consequences that follow. People who drink a lot often talk about having a good time; too bad they can’t remember it. The Bible says, “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh full and bringeth no sorrow with it.” My translation… “I can have a good time being a Christian without a hangover.”
Have you ever thought about the word intoxicated? Do you know what toxic means? Poison! If a man is intoxicated, he is poisoned. Do you know why a man throws up when he gets drunk? Poison! He’s got more sense in his stomach than he has in his head. Alcohol is a poison that affects the liver, the heart, the mind, the muscles, and the digestion.
Nearly 40% of all patients in U.S. general hospital beds (not in maternity or intensive care) are being treated for complications of alcohol-related problems.vi The total cost of alcohol problems is $175.9 billion a year (compared to $114.2 billion for other drug problems and $137 billion for smoking).vii
People tell us alcoholism is a disease, it’s not. We’re not in the habit of putting diseases in bottles, advertising them and selling them across the counter for human consumption. It’s not like diphtheria, polio, or Hepatitis. Alcohol is a self-inflicted problem!
Proverbs goes on to teach us about the immorality factor in verse 33. The reference to strange women doesn’t mean she’s funny looking. Verse 27 clarifies the statement when he references a whore….” When a person drinks, restraint is taken away. God only knows the lives that have been damaged and the homes that have been broken because of the immorality brought about by someone whose inhibitions have been broken down through alcohol.
Finally, the Bible mentions the addiction factor (35). “when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.” In other words, when he wakes up and sobers up, he wants to do it all again! It is estimated that 18.5 million Americans exhibit signs of alcoholism or alcohol dependence, while another 7.2 million shows persistent patterns of drinking behaviors associated with impaired health and social functioning.viii
The Japanese have a Proverb that says, “First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink and then the drink takes the man.
In the words of Paul Harvey, and now you know the rest of the story!
Will it help or hurt? You decide!
i Alcohol/Drug Council of North Carolina, 2002 report.
ii George Washington Univ. Medical Center
iii Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Drink in America: Myths,
Realities, and Prevention Policy. August, 2002, and Foster et al. Alcohol
Consumption and Expenditures for Underage Drinking and Adult Excessive Drinking.
JAMA Feb 26, 2003 Vol 289, No. 8
vi Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University, The Cost of Substance Abuse to America’s Health Care System, Report 1: Medicaid Hospital Costs, 1994
vii Economic costs of substance abuse, 1995. Dorothy P. Rice. Proceedings of the Association of American Physicians 111(2): 119-125. 1999.