"Vices" and Moderation

Last night I fixed myself an espresso made from my Cafe Duran coffee I picked up in Panama. I used my little range-top espresso maker and drank it from my little espresso cups that Jamie got me for Christmas. I was lovin' life. I love coffee and I love it strong. It pours out of my espresso maker looking a little like mud. It's extremely dark and the Panamanian stuff always has some deep red tints to it, too. A little bit of sugar and a dash of milk - it was about 15 minutes of heaven.

Even though I love and appreciate good coffee, I only drink it once or twice a week. I could drink it more, but I don't. I don't like the idea of being addicted to anything. I've seen too many people with unhealthy caffeine addictions and I just don't want to go there. Is a caffeine addiction going to send you to hell? Not likely, but self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit and Proverbs 25:28 says "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls."

There are some things that God calls us to abstain from and some things where he calls us to exercise moderation. For instance - smoking. I grew up in a church environment where smoking was prevalent. The deacons were the first ones out the front door and lighting up on the church porch. We would often go out to a diner after church and church-members would sit around smoking and talking for several hours.

Times are different now, though. Smoking has become much more of a taboo in our country. It's still done a lot, but not as widely accepted. Heck, I remember when I was in elementary school and we made clay ashtrays as gifts for our parents! Can you imagine the outcry if our schools sent home ashtrays with the kids today?!

But I'm not one who puts smoking in the "sin" category. I try to be careful to only name as sin those things that the Bible names as sin. The Bible's hard enough to follow without adding to it. For myself, I put smoking in the "unwise" category. I have to be honest - I myself enjoy a good cigar. I hardly ever smoke them (probably once every year or two), but once in a great while I enjoy one. Not enough to get hooked, not enough to do any serious damage to my body, just enough to enjoy.

Same thing with alcohol. I personally rarely ever have a drink. Not because I think it's wrong, but because I honestly don't care for the taste of alcohol. But I have several Christian friends who enjoy a beer with their pizza or a glass of wine at a party. Again, the key is moderation. Does the Bible say alcohol is sinful? No, drunkenness is sinful. God wants us to exercise self-control in our lives.

If I'm honest the one "vice" I need to use better moderation with in my life is portion size at meals. I need to learn to push away from the plate when I'm satisfied and not wait till I'm full and miserable.

Self-control is important in the life of a Christian. What areas of your life could you be exercising better self-control?


Brian said...

What else can I do in moderation? Can I cheat on my wife as long as I only do it once or twice a year and don't get addicted? Is it okay for me lie, gossip, steal, lust, etc. as long as I only do it in moderation? Drinking seems to be the only thing people think is okay in moderation, but wrong when done in excess. Are there other things that are okay to do moderately, but become sin when done in excess?

We agree that being drunk is wrong. How do we define what "drunk" is. Do we go by the states legal blood alcohol limit? Is one beer okay, but 2 beers excessive? Some people get a buzz after just a little alcohol while others can drink much more before getting a buzz. Is drunkenness defined by how well you can handle your alcohol? I think God expects us to use some common sense. The Bible is very very clear that drunkenness is wrong. I think we can draw the conclusion that we should avoid the beverages that cause us to become drunk.

Dorthy said...

Now you're calling me a coffee addict aren't you? Guess what, you're probably right!

Jeff Myers said...

You should apply moderation to those things that the Bible is silent about and abstinence to those things that the Bible says to abstain from. You should also follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life on issues, too. Those issues you listed in the first half of your first paragraph are to be completely abstained from because the Bible is quite clear that they are sins. Other things we should abstain from are those things that are government says are illegal (i.e. - illegal narcotics, etc...), because we are to obey the laws of our governments.

The whole point of my post was that as Christians we need to try to reach a place where we are free from addictions of any kind. If your method of freeing yourself from the addiction of harmful substances or behaviors is total abstinence, then more power to you. But I believe we have the freedom in Christ to exercise moderation as well.

Thanks for the input.


Brian said...

So if our government ever legalizes marijuana then it will be ok for me to occasionally smoke a little pot as long as I do it in moderation? The Bible does not say anything about marijuana so as long as it is legal it is ok in moderation?

What about the second paragraph of my first post. How do you define drunk?

Jeff Myers said...


As far as illegal drugs becoming legal, I'll let you work that one out with the Holy Spirit. Is it possible to do illegal drugs in such moderation that they don't alter your mind? Not that I'm aware of. I don't think anyone's smoking pot because they enjoy the taste (but maybe I'm wrong).

A person is definitely drunk if they are over the legal B/A limits. Again if you've had enough alcohol, that you're impaired or altered in any way, I would define that as drunk. There are wine and beer lovers out there that appreciate the taste that have enough self-control to have a drink and stop. There are also people out there that are three-sheets-to-the-wind after one drink and they should just abstain.

The truth is that sometimes there are no neat, black/white answers. Sometimes God leaves us to use good judgment that we get from His Word, the Holy Spirit's leading, and what is practical in our individual lives.


Brian said...

Doesn't the truth then become relative rather than absolute? Drinking in moderation is fine for some individuals but a sin for others depending upon "what is practical in our individual lives?"

Jeff Myers said...


Wow, this is a hot-button issue for you isn't it? Concerning truth, I ABSOLUTELY believe in the absolute truth found in God's Word. However, the issues I'm speaking of for the purposes of this post are those issues that are either not addressed in Scripture or are not clearly addressed in Scripture.

To this end I believe that the Holy Spirit can impress upon you the importance of abstaining from certain behavior that He may or may not impress upon me. I believe the Holy Spirit wants to help us guard ourselves in the weak areas of our lives. For instance, I had a friend who was a talented guitar player, but when he accepted Christ he felt strongly he needed to give up the guitar. For him, the guitar was an idol in his life and a painful reminder of his rebellious life without Jesus. It was a clear decision to him. I even tried to talk him out of this decision, but he assured me this was the Holy Spirit protecting him from wandering from God. I on the other hand don't have the guitar "baggage" of my friend and enjoy playing - even to the glory of God.

Our lives, circumstances, DNA, weaknesses, and cultural settings are all unique. I believe God considers that when he reveals his will and direction for our lives to us. What God will never do is tell a person that it's OK for them to disobey a clear principle of Scripture because of their circumstances. That's where people stumble into the realm of making the truth relative vs. absolute.


Anonymous said...

Brian, you ought to listen to a song titled "A New Law" by Derek Webb. It's off his "Mockingbird" album.

Brian, you ought also read Rev. 22:18 pertaining to the dangers of adding to God's Word...not pretty stuff.

Matt. 11:19 makes it clear that Jesus did drink during His ministry here on earth, though not a drunkard as the pharisees claimed.

So go have fun holding up a standard of righteousness that Jesus Himself did not attain to.


Jamie said...

Yeah... what Jason said! My goal as a Christian is to be "Christ-like". I certainly can't surpass that. He has extended grace to me that I don't deserve and I'm thankful that no matter how hard I may try - I don't have to earn it by following the letter of the law!! I will, however, in response to his abundant love, do my best to live a life that is pleasing to Him according to scripture. I'm also thankful for His Holy Spirit's guidance to show me through scripture what is appropriate and what is not. It's not my job to listen to other people, but to listen to God's word.

Mookie said...

In fairness, almost anything we consume that can be addictive, be it illegal drugs, caffeine, cigarettes, etc, has a mind altering affect. The neuro-receptors of our brain determine these things. I am a smoker, and there are certain receptors in my brain that crave nicotine throughout the day, and oftentimes their is a psychological addiction based on certain activities (ie- waking up and smoking, having one with my morning coffee, or the very occasional beer)
It seems to me that Brian is of the Nietzschean school of thought with his relative morality argument. Beware, that's a strange road to go down, and if you don't exercise moderation in your absorption of his words, it could lead you to the ultimate fascist mindset of making ones rules as you see fit for the moment, with no underlying principles with which to guide you.

Jedidiah said...

I'm pretty sure God wan't thinking of coffee when talking of moderation. It's kind of like sex. There are some things that are only better with quantity.