As we continue in our ethics series, we will consider drinking and gambling together. We remember that the Gospel is not a ‘how-to’ process by which we can be saved. We know that salvation is entirely a work of Christ and, in response to the gift of salvation, we seek to be holy. Let us think on these issues together.
First, it should be known that neither drinking or gambling are explicitly condemned or condoned in the text of Scripture. No matter who we ask, even in the church, there are diverse opinions about these things.
Thus, we look to gambling and drinking:
Hebrews 13:5 HCSB
Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.
Love of money
In our context, about 65% of people believe gambling to be morally acceptable. In most cases, I think, people gamble because they do love money. I want to, for a second, consider what it means to love money. The love of money, essentially, is the trusting of something other than God for provision and satisfaction. We all think it at one juncture or another. If only I made more money. If only I could get more hours at work. I can’t go to church today because my boss is requiring me to come in. What is this, but trusting something other than God for provision and satisfaction. All of these things represent the love that we have for money in our time and in our land. It is idolatry, plain and simple, and this is a difficult concept to engage because virtually everyone in our context worships money unapologetically.
Ephesians 5:18-21 HCSB
And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:
speaking to one another
in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
singing and making music
from your heart to the Lord,
giving thanks always for everything
to God the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
submitting to one another
in the fear of Christ.
Filled with the spirit
Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus, telling them not to get drunk with wine. Drunkenness is the giving of one’s self to something other than God. If God is sovereign. If He is the one who saves; if He is the object of our affection; if He desires to be our one and only, the lover of our souls, then it is an abomination when we give ourselves over to anything other than God. Yet, we become people pleasers. We allow our work schedules to dictate everything about our lives. We are ruled by our desire to fit in, to be successful, to be powerful, to be rich, to have a position, and to be recognized. We give ourselves to so many things and are left sorely disappointed. God truly desires to be our one and only.
Paul went on, “…but be filled by the Spirit.” He described what that meant. It was not that people were speaking in tongues and going crazy: speaking to one another in song, speaking to God in song with music from the heart, always giving thanks to God, and submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. There was no room for boasting in anything, but, instead, a call to humility. Be filled with the Spirit. This requires a denial of self.
How, then, do we live in response to God’s great grace in our lives? In Romans 14:13-23, Paul writes:
Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead, decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat. Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men.
So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats. It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble. Do you have a conviction? Keep it to yourself before God. The man who does not condemn himself by what he approves is blessed. But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from a conviction, and everything that is not from a conviction is sin (HCSB).
In light of this instruction, we live by these principles:
- We resolve not to criticize because of personal preference.
- Following personal conviction honors God.
- We resolve not to be a stumbling block regarding someone’s personal conviction.
Each one must decide for himself, without making an idol for himself regarding the issues of drinking and gambling. Above all, Christ is king. We are to deny ourselves in favor of pursuing and knowing Him. He has saved us, and this is all we need.