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My pastoral ministry included many counseling sessions, which dealt with people’s personal and family problems, domestic and spiritual issues and vocational and financial concerns. During those sessions I heard a wide variety of personal ideas. However, during all of those times, there is one statement I never heard.
When counseling troubled wives about their spouses, I have heard some of them say,“My husband is a good man, a good husband, a good provider and a good father, except when he has been drinking. If he has been drinking he becomes mentally and physically abusive, causing the children and me to be afraid of him and to be deprived of some necessities.”
A business owner or supervisor spoke about an employee, saying “He is a good worker, dependable and gets along well with others, but I may have to let him go because he goes on drinking binges that result in his being absent, inefficient, and dangerous to himself and other workers.”
Having heard similar statements about people for whom drinking had endangered their employment, it became obvious to me that there was one remark I never heard. Never! Not even once!
Never have I heard a tearful and fearful wife say, “My husband or son is a good man, a good provider and a good father, but he would be even better if he would drink more.”
Never have I heard an employer or supervisor say, “He is a good worker, but he would be more reliable if he would just drink more.”
Nor have I ever heard it said about a wife, mother, teacher, coach, athlete, student, bus driver, military person, plane pilot, railroad engineer, pharmacist, doctor, judge or ship’s captain that their performance would be enhanced “if they would just drink more.”
Many years ago, my wife and I were on a driving trip to the West Coast when our car’s generator died. We managed to reach Pueblo, Colorado, and went to a garage for repairs. During our waiting time I had a conversation with a power company lineman who was also waiting for repairs. He told me he worked on high-voltage transmission lines, and that when there was trouble he would drive the line’s right-of-way to find the problem. He would then climb a pole or tower to reach the wires, but before daring to touch a highly charged wire, he would talk by radio with a co-worker, at an unseen distant switch, telling him when to turn off the power.
I commented to him about the need for dependability in the person at the switch. He was quick to say, “You get to working with fellows and you know who to trust. We never trust a man who drinks. He’s just not dependable.”
Think about it! Who would knowingly permit a tipsy surgeon to operate on him or her? Who would knowingly fly on a plane with a drinking pilot? Who would travel on a train, ship or bus if they suspected the operator was under the influence? No sensible person would! And why is that? Because when it really counts, when lives are at stake, we want those people to be cold sober.
Manufacturers and business owners endure significant losses as a result of absenteeism, poor performance, discipline problems, damages to the workplace and products and work-related accidents, which are often directly related to alcohol and drug abuse.
Occasional police road checks almost always result in the discovery of intoxicated drivers, which reveals that the public roads have added dangers because of irresponsible people who drink and drive.
Even the ancient writer of Proverbs (23:29-35) knew about the physical and mental effects of intemperance, and left a classic and descriptive statement about it. “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things.”
A soldier once told me he didn’t see any difference between drinking beer and drinking a soft drink. I asked him, “Have you ever seen a person sit for an hour or two and drink as much or more than a gallon of Coca Cola?”
He answered, “No, and I can see there is a difference.”
According to a U.S. Department of Education statement I once read, alcohol is the No. 1 drug problem among youth. The easy availability, widespread acceptability and extensive promotion of alcoholic beverages make alcohol the most widely used and abused drug.
Alcohol producers use television, movies, newspapers, magazines and billboards to promote alcohol in its many forms, and sometimes with apparent hypocritical advice to “Drink responsibly.”
History reveals that many great civilizations have fallen apart, more often than not, from internal decay than from outside aggression. By comparison, the United States is still a young country. Will alcohol and drug abuse be our national downfall?
Ray Hodge is a retired Baptist pastor living in Smithfield who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.