by Shaw, McMurry, and TAC Team
Whenever Jesus mentions drunkenness in the Bible, it’s important to take a good look at the context.
Luke 21 is chocked full of warnings about the future, and this is one place Jesus brings up a warning about being drunk. Throughout this chapter, Jesus is speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem, wars, persecution, the destruction of the temple, and the calamity of the end times. While some of this instruction is specifically for the people who were alive then, much of His instruction is for us today.
Clearly Jesus is predicting upheaval in Luke 21, and we are certainly experiencing that today. This particular warning, that applies today, from Luke 21:34-36 says:
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (ESV)
What’s Wrong with a Little Drink or Two?
In this Luke passage are three examples from Jesus of activities that can weigh you down:
- Cares of this life
At The Addiction Connection, we always point you to Jesus as the “hope of the Gospel for the heart of addiction,” so let’s first consider the word “drunkenness” that Jesus mentions.
In the book The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective Dr. Shaw says:
You may ask, “Am I really sinning if I just feel a little out of control?” If you try to split hairs about whether you are feeling the effects of a “buzz” from the intoxicant or that you are drunk and out of control, then you are missing the point and allowing pride to get in the way of obeying God. Your attempts to do this are minimizing your heart’s motives in the matter. In reality this is an effort to justify your using behaviors.
Is it a sin to drink alcohol? No. Alcohol, by itself, is the amount of tiny, fermented microbes in the liquid that produces the intoxicating results. Does God want you to count the number of microscopic fermented molecules that are in your drink? No, because the bigger question here is “what is the motivating desire in your heart when you want to drink or use the intoxicant?” This question applies to the use and misuse of prescription drugs as well as alcohol and illicit drugs. Mark E. Shaw, The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective, p.63-64
A Warning in Love from Jesus: Drunkenness Weighs you Down
- So how do you know if you are falling into the biblical category of drunkenness that Jesus is lovingly warning us about?
- Is there a way to know from Scripture how much alcohol is too much?
- Can you get drunk from things other than alcohol?
- Was Jesus focusing on the blood alcohol levels and the local laws about public intoxication for his day?
Jesus doesn’t mention man’s laws here in this passage. Jesus lovingly instructs us why we should avoid drunkenness.
Dr. Shaw mentioned that the word for drunkenness in this passage is the Greek word “methē”—a noun which can indicate any intoxicant.
When asked about this “weighed down” passage, CJ McMurry first emphasized how incapable a person becomes while under the influence of intoxicating drugs including alcohol. Then he added:
“You’re definitely not sober-minded and so you’re not able to accomplish the things that you’re called to accomplish.
But I Just Drink Socially
As a point of clarification, McMurry expounded upon the concept of drinking socially.
“The point I was trying to communicate here [in the podcast] was there are a lot of folks (even in the church) who cross the line from “social drinking” to drunkenness, and they do it in the name of “Christian liberty.” Just because you don’t get Driving While Intoxicated and Public Intoxication charges doesn’t automatically make you a social drinker. There is a line here that is crossed by many who think they are in control that are not. This leads to bad places. When you have multiple drinks, and you start acting out of character, you’ve crossed that line. You’re definitely not sober-minded, and so you’re not able to accomplish the things that you’re called to accomplish. From the outside world, they seem to be people who can go to work and kind of maintain day-to-day activities without any real glaring issues, but those who know them best see what’s really going on underneath the facade. And at some point they end up dropping the ball somewhere whether it’s at home with their wife and kids or at work. Eventually, they just kind of check out and the train goes off the track. So there are different levels of “social drinkers” and “functioning drunkards” that are not really as functioning as they might try to convince themselves or convince others.”
Alcohol Doesn’t Make us Better People: And Airlines Have Taken Notice!
In thinking about the sins that so often accompany drunkenness, McMurry warned: “You are very susceptible to a lot of things when you are drunk.” And Dr. Shaw has written extensively about alcohol “exaggerating the expressions of the sin of mankind.”
Poor decisions are made under the influence.
Dr. Shaw announced recently that even airlines seem to have an awareness of the potential hazard of having passengers influenced by drunkenness while flying the friendly skies. Some airlines established dry main cabins. Other flights forbid passengers from consuming alcohol that has been brought on board themselves. Passengers on board these flights must purchase alcohol from a flight attendant, which decreases the likelihood of serving it to an already intoxicated passenger. It appears that airlines have counted the cost of drunkenness.
Perhaps the airline industry is wisely creating restrictions on personal freedom for the sake of all on board.
Leadership, Pastoral Care, and Alcohol
Dr. Shaw said that he wants to be sober and ready to aid any of those souls for whom he cares. Drinking alcohol, he explained, would hinder his ability to serve people who call on him for help, which is quite often.
“As a leader I have to be someone who has a clear head. People call on me. They ask me questions, and if I’m weighed down with drunkenness, I’m not there for them.”
Seeking a Little Escape from the Problems of the Day
Shaw believes the escapism mentality is universal in our hearts:
“I think it’s easy to want to escape. [It makes sense] when we think of all of these horrible things that Jesus is predicting for us to go through [in Luke 21]. The idea of escape is something we all tend to struggle with.”
We use ineffective and often sinful tools to comfort ourselves while failing to run to Jesus.
Our souls truly are thirsting for God as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 42:1-2
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (ESV)
Dr. Shaw writes and teaches extensively about how to run to Jesus instead of the tools of idolatry in The Heart of Addiction book. In referring to his book, Mark said:
“I emphasize running to (or escaping to) Jesus. Let’s spend time with Him in His Word, in prayer, and in fellowship with other believers.”
- Addictions biblical counselors have a different description (it’s a matter of the heart).
- We see a different cause of drunkenness (the thoughts and intentions of the heart).
- We offer a far superior alternative (living a life to please and honor and glorify God).
Thoughts and Intentions of the Heart Toward Addiction
God’s wisdom is so much better. Drunkenness and dissipation are problems that start and end at the thought level. Jesus loves you and tells you to avoid them both.
Going to the Scriptures, addictions biblical counselors lovingly call you back to how the Bible describes your actions and your thought motives. (Hebrews 4:12) Living a life of idolatry of self cannot please God. At The Addiction Connection, we help you discern from God’s Word what you may be lacking in a true understanding of God, and a right understanding of yourself and your condition before Him.
We don’t put you into a stigmatizing group that has you always and forever identified by your choices! Instead, we offer the Hope from the Word that says, “such were some of you… but you were washed…” (1 Cor. 6:11)
We don’t call you a group of “addicts” or “alcoholics” or give you any sort of stigmatizing label. We offer the Gospel, your true, lasting Hope, so you can live your life to the glory of God. This is good news—you can be free and live a life of joy and contentment in serving and loving your Creator.
The Addiction Connection is Here for You!
The Addiction Connection is a network of ministries who offer the hope of transformed lives through Jesus Christ for anyone struggling with addiction of any kind. Our network of encouraging resources, ministries, and biblical programs that stretch across America and the world will always point people to Jesus Christ and the Word of God for answers.
Launch an Outreach Today
Do you want to start a Biblical outreach to those in addiction? Check out this disciple-making curriculum for those in addiction entitled Next Steps: Be TRANSFORMED.
Your church can reach out to families of those in addiction using this 12-week curriculum Family Help for Addiction: A Care Group Study
The Addiction Connection offers hope and healing to those struggling with addiction. Start your search for biblical programs here.
Consider contacting one of our Commissioned Addictions Biblical Counselors who are available to help you.
Residential Programs for addiction that we recommend.
Non-residential Programs (weekly addiction meetings) that we recommend.
- Looking for biblical addiction counseling training? Find out about our Commissioning Program HERE.
- Are you a leader who wants to help those who are addicted? Check out this disciple-making curriculum we created just for you entitled Next Steps: Be TRANSFORMED.
- Looking for addiction resources, courses, curriculum? Find out more HERE.
- Are you more of a podcast-listener-while-you-get-things-done? The Addiction Connection Podcast is just for you!
 Mark E. Shaw, The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective, (Bemidji: Focus Publishing, 2008, 2018) 63-64.
 Blue Letter Bible, Lexicon, Strong’s G3178, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3178/esv/mgnt/0-1/
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