Of all the expectations of a Biblical Elder it is amazing that two areas usually are hit the hardest. We discussed the first one, (marriage/divorce) in previous blogs but today's is the second. We read in 1st Timothy 3:3, "not addicted to wine or pugnacious----". Of course we all bring an understanding to the first section, which I will come back to, but pugnacious is a rare word and in deed is only used two times in scripture. Both in regards to leadership qualities. How interesting that addicted to wine and pugnacious are included together. The Greek word, NASB translates pugnacious, literally translates to "striker". A man given to violence and in specific fighting or abuse. We only need open the local papers to see the result of a night at the bar and the results of drinking to much. Lets turn our attention quickly to the first part of this verse. Not addicted to wine or in several other translations drunkenness, is needlessly more controversial than it need be. Jesus says in Matthew 15:11 that it is not what goes into the mouth but what comes out that defiles the man. This qualification for elder does not say they cannot consume alcohol but that they should use it wisely if they choose to. I know many people who use this section of scripture to say alcohol is evil and Christians should not drink. I will simply say two things Jesus at a wedding turned water to wine, we must reconcile why He would do that. Secondly at the passover we see wine was present. Here is how I would sum it up. First if a person chooses to use alcohol they need to control it not allow the alcohol to control them, moderation is of the utmost importance. Secondly, if a Christian uses alcohol he/she must be willing to give up this freedom for the sake of a weaker Christian. We should never intentionally cause a brother/sister to stumble. How would you feel if you offered a recovering alcoholic a glass of wine not knowing this was their weakness and they have a relapse? Thirdly is if an individual uses alcohol to do so with a clear conscience. If you are doing it and feel guilty you should refrain and discontinue. Fourthly, you should meet the legal requirements. Finally it should never be used to gain advantage over another person. I mean that in a general sense of business, or pleasure.
Back to the verse it is clearly talking about a man who abuses alcohol and even to the point of striking another. Just another example of God's desire for us not to have vices. Addicted to wine is literally consistently drinking and being around alcohol. You can see how this would not only hurt the witness of the individual but also the witness of the church in general.
One final note, Paul tells Timothy to use wine medicinally (1st Tim 5:23) for his ailments but this in no way should be construed as a command for us to drink. I have met proponents on both extremes and I fully believe in keeping the "main thing the main thing" and that is what the Word of God says. This may not always make us happy but there is much danger in making scripture say what it doesn't. I understand the controversy with youth and alcohol and recognize that there is a legal age in which anyone under the age designated should not use. Alcohol is the most abused substance among youth and adults and if used scripture should be honored as discussed above. Hope this was a help and a blessing. Please share your comments and views on this matter as next time we look at what an elder should be,must be, indeed. Till then, I'm in it with ya.