“Social” is an interesting word. It can be a noun, as in “church social,” referring to a gathering of people to socialize. Usually, it is an adjective–“social studies, ” “social club,” “social butterfly,” and “social grace.” “Social” modifies another word to form a phrase ordinarily found only in the constraints of religious discussion. The phrase is “social drinking.”
Social drinking implies situations such as guests in the home, friends at a meal or bar, or business dinner or pary where a typically smaller amount of alcohol is consumed. Certainly, this is an issue that often gets swept under the church-house rug, where silent pulpits, bulletins, and Bible classes turn the collective head on the subject. Well, fools go where angels fear to tread. Therefore, allow me to ask a few questions about “social drinking.” What constitutes the limit on social drinking? In other words, when does one cross the social line in social drinking? If one of the drinkers has two rather than one, is it still social drinking? Three rather than two? Four rather than three? When is it excessive? Who, of the other drinkers, is to be the judge of that (Christians are encouraged to use “righteous judgment,” John 7:24)?
Often, there are those in the “social drinking” crowd who try not to miss a shot, hit, refill, or round. For all the sippers, there are guzzlers, too. Yet, what makes four wrong and one right? What positive social messages does it send? Sophistication? Success? With social drinking, what is the Christian hoping to achieve? A soul-winning opportunity? A Christ-like influence? A demonstration of the transformed life (cf. Romans 12:1-2)? Or, is it simply anohter way of conforming, bowing to the social pressures of a worldly-minded society? It does not edify the body of Christ (Romans 14:19. Could it rather often simply be a way to seek the acceptance and approval of secular friends, co-workers, and employers (cf. James 4:4)? Are there negative social implications? YES! It can send a conflicting message to non-Christian or new-Christian fellow-drinkers, to whom we express disdain and condemnation for drunkenness (Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:7-8). Also, the social landscape is changing. Social drinking, to high school and college party-goers, stretches all the way to bald-faced drunkenness.
It is not uncommon to hear stories of “social drinkers” passed out or worse from drinking or even alcohol poisoning. Can we envision a soul-winner sitting down to a Bible study with a lost person with a mixed drink in hand? Or a preacher gesturing carefully during his sermon as he holds his glass of wine? Or an elder pleading with a wayward Christian to come home, laying his shot of whiskey down long enough to pray with them? Or a church fellowship, complete with the deacon of bartending on hand? Far greater social destruction has come from alcohol than social salvation (i.e., medical benefits, etc.).
The Bible does preach moderation and self-control in all things (Galatians 5:23). But, are we sure that this is tacit endorsement of something so filled with potentially negative side-effects, socially as well as physically? Certainly, you will ultimately decide on which side of the ledger social drinking falls. But consider this a loving plea. Be careful with the precious commodities you possess as God’s child–your inlfuence, example, holiness, and righteousness. “Respect what is right in the sigh of all men” (Romans 12:17b).