The most destructive drug in general use today is alcohol. Alcoholism is one of our most serious national problems. Recent statistics indicate that in the United States two out of every three adults drink. There are 18,000,000 problem drinkers, of which 10,000,000 are confirmed alcoholics. Children and youth are increasingly using alcoholic beverages. Nearly four out of five high school seniors have drunk alcohol within the past month. More than sixty percent of our nation’s seventh graders drink. One-third of the high school students in our country boast of getting drunk at least once a month.
Evangeline Booth (of Salvation Army fame) spoke true words when she said that alcohol has drained more blood, hung more crepe, plunged more people into bankruptcy, armed more villains, slain more children, broken more marriages, wrecked more manhood, dishonored more womanhood, broken more hearts, blasted more lives, and dug more graves than any other poisonous scourge that ever swept across the world.
There are a variety of reasons for drinking. Some want to celebrate. Others say that drinking relaxes them. Younger persons often want to belong to “the smart set.” Others drink to try and drown their troubles. In other words, most people begin to drink in order to show off, to relieve tensions, to forget worries, or to escape from reality. The media advertises alcoholic beverages by portraying images of happiness, success, power, independence, romance, and sexual fulfillment. Yet these are precisely the qualities that are destroyed by the alcohol user.
In recent years, the national preoccupation with the threat of AIDS and the widespread use of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and “crack”—have overshadowed the awful magnitude of the alcohol problem. Yet if we add the number of those who die from AIDS to the number who die from the use of illegal drugs each year, the total does not even come close to the number of persons who die from alcohol-related illnesses and accidents and crimes. Alcohol is killing people faster than the deadliest wars of history. It is killing seventy times as many Americans each year as the Vietnam War did.
1. Harmful Effects
Abraham Lincoln once said that drinking alcoholic beverages is “a cancer to society, eating out its vitals and threatening its destruction.” Places where alcoholic beverages are sold and used, are the first places a police officer will look for crime, and the last places he will look for virtue.
Alcohol does much to bring deterioration to one’s physical well-being. U.S. News and World Report (November 30, 1987) describes the toll which alcohol takes on the human body: Longterm alcohol abuse causes a striking increase in cancers in the liver, stomach, and colon. Alcohol destroys thousands of irreplaceable brain cells with every drink. Wine and beer cause the lining of the stomach to become inflamed, often leading to the formation of peptic ulcers. Chronic abuse of alcohol frequently causes high blood pressure which increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks. In fact, alcohol “begins to alter the functioning of virtually every organ from the moment it enters the body.” Alcoholics live ten to twelve years less than nondrinkers. Alcohol can even pass through the placenta to the developing fetus inside the body of an expectant mother, and harmful effects can be transmitted through breast milk to newborns.
Furthermore, alcohol often leads to a variety of criminal activities. U. S. News and World Report (November 30, 1987) declares that “alcohol is a factor in nearly half of America’s murders, suicides, and accidental deaths. In all, it claims 100,000 lives per year—25 times as many deaths as all illegal drugs combined.” The National Safety Council reports that well over half of the 1,000 persons who lose their lives each week on America’s highways are victims of drunk drivers. Sixty percent of sex crimes against children are related to alcohol abuse. Alcohol is responsible for more admissions to hospitals than any other single cause. Eighty percent of all persons in prison are there because of alcohol-related crimes.
Add to all these deaths and injuries—the financial waste, the broken lives, the fractured homes, the heartaches, the fights, the misery, and the agony caused by drink—and we begin to get a picture of the harmful effects of alcohol. Surely these facts alone should be enough to convince thinking persons not to drink.
2. Moderate Use
Ordinarily people do not drink five or six cocktails the first time they taste alcohol. Drinking usually begins as a social act—something that is done to be agreeable in the group—like having a Coke. However, to use alcohol in moderation most often leads to more frequent use. My father gave good advice to me when I was a teenager. He said, “Harold, if you never touch alcoholic beverages, you’ll never become a drunkard.” And indeed that statement is true! A large proportion of people who drink, intend to confine themselves to occasional use of alcohol, but they are eventually hooked into habitual use.
Most of us have seen what alcohol does to people—to individuals, families, and homes—and so our attitude should be a refusal to take the so-called friendly drink. I know the Apostle Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his “stomach’s sake” (1 Timothy 5:23), but obviously he was advising a small amount of wine to be used as a medicine. And note too that Christ’s turning water into wine (John 2:1-11) is no argument at all for the use of alcohol. The word translated “wine” may have referred merely to unfermented fruit juice, but even if what Jesus made was a fermented wine, the wines and distilled beverages of today are much stronger, and their evil effects are much greater. (It is amazing how many people who hate the Bible, and do not read the Bible, then want to use the Bible as an excuse for drinking).
Those who justify the “social drink” are ignoring the recognized fact that one of every ten persons who takes the first drink eventually becomes a compulsive user. And for those who have once embraced the habit of drinking, life is a runaway roller coaster that leads to disaster. For the user of alcoholic beverages, even the most innocent gathering of family or friends—a wedding, a casual gathering on a sidewalk, or a holiday get-together—can turn into a nightmare of temptation and indulgence.
Some say drinking is wrong only if alcohol is not used in moderation. If a person is temperate in his use of alcohol, then, they say, drinking is permissible and legitimate. They ridicule the concept of totally abstaining. It is true that total abstinence cannot be defended as a direct Bible command, but (as in the matter of slavery and polygamy) a good case for totally abstaining from alcohol can be built upon basic biblical principles. The use of beverage alcohol has never brought one good thing to the human family. It spoils family life, harms the physical body, and creates a setting for violence and wickedness. When we talk about alcoholic beverages, we are not dealing with an ordinary beverage like lemonade. We are dealing with an extremely harmful and habit-forming drug! Surely, even drinking in moderation is a dangerous practice.
3. God’s Warning
Some try to humorously pass off drinking as an innocent pastime, but from God’s point of view, drinking intoxicating beverages is no joke.
The directors of some treatment centers are explaining that alcoholism is a disease with a genetic basis. They blame drinking on “neurochemical imbalances.” The American Medical Association has formally declared alcoholism a disease. The idea that alcoholism is a sickness is not new. Benjamin Rush (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) concluded that drinking alcohol was done involuntarily by those who used it. A recent Gallup Poll found that 87 percent of our nation’s population endorse the disease concept. This growing opinion (which labels alcoholism a disease) has taken much of the stigma away from drinking. People view consumption as an illness rather than a sign of moral backsliding.
From God’s point of view, those who use alcohol are not sick, but sinful. When the Judgment Day comes, this lame excuse which claims alcoholism is a disease, will not pass. The drunkard is listed in Scripture with thieves, liars, extortioners, and murderers—as being in danger of missing Heaven—unless the individual repents (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The Bible says of alcohol: “At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder” (Proverbs 23:32). And again, God speaks, as recorded in Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
God clearly condemns the use of intoxicating beverages. In fact, He says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, . . . nor drunkards, . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Make no mistake about it, the Lord God strongly condemns the use of alcohol! Alcoholism is a sin that keeps people out of Heaven! The preacher who never lifts his voice against the use of alcohol is not being true to the message of the Bible.
The Bible passage which says that drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God concludes (in 1 Corinthians 6:11) by saying in essence, “And such were some of you, but (now) ye are washed, . . . sanctified, . . . (and) justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In other words, some of the people to whom the Apostle Paul was writing had experienced God’s cure for alcoholism. And just so, my friend, if you are caught in the habit of using strong drink, please know that Jesus Christ can deliver you. To get victory over any sin, we must get help from God, and certainly that is true for the person who seeks deliverance from the drinking habit.
The best treatment-goal for persons inclined to use alcoholic beverages is total abstinence. The longer one abuses alcohol, the harder it is to change behavior. Why not resolve today to say honestly to the Lord Jesus, “Come and change my life; give me rest from the craving inside me”? Jesus Christ is the great Emancipator who can set us free from slavery to sin. He came to “preach deliverance to captives” (Luke 4:18), and surely He can deliver you. When you make a decision of your will—and resolve to stick by it—you will gain a sense of purpose in life and you will feel clean inside. It can be done if you really want to. We have a merciful God who will forgive you, if you will come and repent of your wicked habit. Tell the old crowd that you are going to serve the Lord from now on. Turn your back on alcohol and come to a sweet, forgiving Saviour. Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).