Alcohol and Wasted Time

My friend Preston Sprinkle recently published an excellent article in Relevant mag concerning alcohol and Christianity. He does a fine job presenting a biblical understanding of an issue that is still of major concern in the church, particularly in the USA (not so much in the UK or France; I speak from personal experience).

As a follow-on to Preston’s article, I offer the following excerpt from Carl Trueman:

The greatest testament to the power of wasted time in the history of the church is surely Luther’s Table Talk. A collection of anecdotes and sayings collected by Luther’s closest friends, it reflects the full range of Luther as pastor, mentor, Christian, and friend. Reading the comments, from advice to young preachers (“The sixth mark of a good preacher is knowing when to stop”) to comments on lawyers (“One only studies something as dirty as law in order to make money”) to general observations on life, some of which don’t bear repeating on a polite blog such as this. I suspect Luther’s table companions learned more about life and ministry while drinking beer and having a laugh with the Meister than in the university lecture hall.

Numerous applications come to mind: seminary is the people with whom you strike up friendships (a point that must be taken into account as seminaries move toward more distance education); friendships (real, embodied friendships that are not exclusively mediated through pixels) are crucial to staying the course of ministry—laughter in the face of adversity and hardship not only being vital in this regard but also, of course, an almost exclusively social phenomenon that requires company; drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform; and wasting time with a choice friend or two on a regular basis might be the best investment of time you ever make.

Perhaps, then, the issue we should be most concerned about is not, ‘can I drink beer?’ but rather, ‘do I invest in other people by spending “wasted” time with them drinking beer or (insert your drink of choice)?’ In the latter, alcohol fills a similar role as coffee: it brings people together for the sake of mutual reflection and camaraderie, with those who are believers, and those who are not.


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