Wine, Whiskey and Faith – cures for what ails you

[An archived post apropos to cold and flu season.]

Alcohol has been used for medicinal purposes for millennia, even finding it’s way into the Bible when an older Christian advised a young friend:

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. (1 Timothy 5:23.)

I don’t think Paul knew of Quinine Whiskey, though.

If he had, his letter to Timothy might have read like this:

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and [quinine whiskey for] your frequent illnesses [like grippe, colds and malaria]. (1 Timothy 5:23, my revised version.)

Of course, there is such a thing as having too much to drink, as I’ve learned first-hand. The Bible says that’s bad. (E.g., Ecclesiastes 10:17.) But it also says drinking watered-down cheap stuff isn’t so good either.

Your silver has become dross,
    your choice wine is diluted with water.
(Isaiah 1:22.)

What’s the lesson there? Don’t dilute the good stuff.

Diluted Faith

A few years before I became a Christian I had a chance to sit in on a class at a Bible college. (It’s a long story, but the thing to keep in mind is that I was not a believer in Jesus.)

The class was on hermeneutics, a subject I not only didn’t know about but one I’d never even heard of before. It turned out to be a class where students learn how to study the Bible. The lecture that day focused on John 2, where Jesus turned water into wine when the wedding he was attending in Cana had run out of drink for the guests.

 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:7-10.)

After reading the passage, the professor asked the students, “When you see the word ‘wine’ in that passage, what do you think it means?”

The students – most of whom I gathered were from strict conservative backgrounds when it came to their understanding of all things Christian – gave a couple different answers, ranging from “Back then they drank really strong grape juice and called it wine” to “It was wine but a lot more watered down than what people drink today.”

It looks like quite a party: Marriage at Cana by Marten de Vos (Wikimedia)

It looks like quite a party: Marriage at Cana by Marten de Vos

The professor surprised them when he said, “Actually, it was wine. It was real wine, it was really good wine, and Jesus made it for everyone to drink.”

I think most of those college kids had never heard someone teach that Jesus actually drank alcohol, let alone that he made a boatload of the good stuff for everyone to drink up at a party.

The students looked at that passage through their own cultural lens, one developed over the years by people who continuously told them that alcohol is evil and if they drink they are in danger of being in league with the devil. It’s the mindset behind phrases like

“Lips that touch wine will never touch mine”

or as one of my old pastors put it when describing the mindset

“Don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do.”

The problem with this way of thinking about wine or other alcoholic drinks is that the rules people put on them are legalistic tools that take the place of Spirit-led decision-making.

The rules also end up preventing Christians like the students at that Bible college from being able to see the real purpose of the passages they read; as soon as they see the word “wine” they read the passage based on their assumption that it is evil.

They dilute Scripture’s text and in turn dilute their own faith.

Wine for God’s Glory

Running out of wine at that wedding would have been embarrassing, but it turns out Jesus did not create more wine from plain water just to save the host from humiliation in front of his friends. There was a much higher purpose in view, revealing the glory of Jesus the Messiah:

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11.)

The wine led people not to the devils’ doorstep but to the throne of God.

People do trade their silver for dross – the waste left over when refining precious metal like silver and gold. They are offered a relationship with God, but choose something weak and watered down instead. That is the point of Isaiah 1:22.

Your silver has become dross,
    your choice wine is diluted with water.

Isaiah wrote that prophecy about trading a relationship with God for lesser things hundreds of years before Jesus turned the water into wine, but when Jesus  created that wine and everyone tasted how good it was I wonder if some guests might have remembered Isaiah’s words about not diluting the choice wine. Did they remember that this was not really about wine, but about God?

Because when it comes to God and all he offers his people, let’s not water down the good stuff.


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13 Responses to Wine, Whiskey and Faith – cures for what ails you


    Christians will search for any and all excuses in order to justify drinking alcohol. How does that work in reality?

    One to two drinks of alcohol impair mental and physical abilities; mental process such as restraint, awareness, concentration and judgment are affected, reaction time slowed, and an inability to perform complicated tasks. [The Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs,” Motor Safety Foundation, Irvine, Ca, 1991]

    As a Christian would you approve of your heart surgeon having a couple of beers before your operation?

    As a Christian who believes social drinking is acceptable, would you …


    [Edited for brevity by blog host. You can visit Steve’s blog to read more of Steve’s thoughts.]

    • Tim says:

      Steve, you are welcome to add your thoughts but writing or reproducing an entire blog post in the comments section does not foster discussion. Feel free to link to your posts if they pertain to what I’ve written on my blog.

    • Tim says:

      P.S. Nothing in my post can be construed as a “search for any and all excuses in order to justify drinking alcohol” so I’m not at all clear on why you wrote your comment. This post is about having a robust fairh.

      • Greg Hahn says:

        Steve, I commented on your blog that I noticed you didn’t even bother to give any scriptural support for your contention. That’s because Scripture is against you. I hope you approve my comments.

        • Tim says:

          Greg, I just checked and see that there are still no comments up on that post on Steve’s blog. I’m not sure Steve is really open to dialog as much as just holding forth. I hope I am mistaken and he will approve your comment and engage you on it.

        • Greg Hahn says:

          Steve followed that post on his blog with two consecutive posts about honoring the Bible above the traditions of men, so I was going to be sorely disappointed if he didn’t post my comment. But he did allow my comment, so kudos to Steve for doing that.

  2. I think I would have been one of those students who tried to explain away the wine reference. It is not easy to recognize legalism in our lives, especially when we’re young and absorbing what we’ve been taught. We’re all susceptible to it, I think. “Spirit-led decision making” can sound a lot scarier than just following the rules. I’m very sympathetic to that way of thinking because I have been there.

  3. Kentucky whiskey would have been pretty difficult for a malaria ridden Timothy to get his trembling hands on, the same with South American quinine. Not unless he had some Mormon friends. Would the Gaulish druids brewing Absinthe have helped? Absinthe is made from wormwood and would have contained the anti malarial artemisinin.

  4. Pastor Bob says:

    I have shared much the same but from a different perspective.
    Thanks for the reinforcement.

  5. julielelder says:

    I’ve known quite a few legalistic tools….thanks for always sharing a balanced view.

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