23Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.
1 Timothy 5:23 NLT
Today’s Passage is another one that I plan to single out in order to focus on the context of the Verse. We see here that Paul tells Timothy that he should drink a little wine in order to settle his stomach while at the same time, he has already told him that Christian Leaders should abstain from strong drink.
This seems like contradictory teaching but as with yesterday’s Passage, if looked at in the context of the time, the area in which Timothy was serving, and the situation the younger man was dealing with, it all makes perfect sense.
In Verse 3 of Chapter 3 of this same Book, Paul gives Timothy some of the Standards and Traits that Christian Leaders should adhere to. It clearly states that they should be “Not given to wine,”. However, as contradictory as this may look, Paul is once again displaying his care and concern for his young protégé rather than harsh and limiting Doctrine.
It is one thing to faithfully observe the Traits and Standards of a Church Leader but it is another altogether to cause a deterrent to one’s health by being so staunch in the observation of those parameters that it harms the individual in question.
Timothy had apparently developed some stomach issues stemming from the water they were drinking in Ephesus. It was highly alkaline which is harmful to the stomach and digestion among other things.
Drinking “new wine” that is the juice of grapes that has yet to be pressed or fermented, has qualities that neutralize those alkaline properties of the water, becoming a medicinal elixir when mixed with the water or drunk warmed by itself.
Besides that, the “wine” Paul referred to was not typically fermented, so, therefore, the alcohol content of the elixir was negligible at most and nonexistent at best. The admonition that Paul gave Timothy in Chapter 3 to be not given to wine would have seen the Leadership of the Church abstaining from drinking wine in any form if only to be seen as steering clear of even the perception of wrongdoing.
However, in his suggestion to Timothy, we see two things. The first is his knowledge of rudimentary medicine of the time. He understands the issues of “bad water” and he urges Timothy to take care of himself, regardless of whether it conflicts with his former instruction.
The second thing Paul displays is his Love for the Leaders under his authority. He has given them rules to follow but if those rules negatively affect the health of the people and there is no harm of sinning, the rules can be augmented to some degree.
That is not to say that drinking is approved for those courting Christian Leadership, that is not what this is saying at all. The effect of strong drink on an individual’s psyche and personality is well documented, even back then.
This is not an invitation to drink in excess if you think it’ll help. In today’s context, this is not an invitation to smoking medical marijuana if it calms you down. This is a genuine medical remedy for the rumbly tummy and that is all. It is not to be taken and run with, it is to be sparsely administered for medicinal purposes only and then only as needed.
As so often happens with the Bible and people’s desire to bend God’s Standards to fit their personal desires, this Verse can be taken out of context and made to seem like permission to do what has already been established as wrong.
We are never to add our own connotation to God’s Word but to take it at its True Meaning. In order to do that we must read it in context, which may mean reading the subsequent Verses or Chapters to get the history and inflection that the writer intended through God’s Divine Guidance.
Studying to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, may require more than a cursory skimming of the Word. It may require extensive reading and analysis before it is assimilated and applied correctly.
This is the burden of Christian Leadership; getting it right the first time through hard work and dedication. The cost of getting it wrong can often mean the forfeiture of a soul, not the least of which, being your own. God’s Standards don’t change, even if the times do. Therefore, knowing His Word, which is where His Blueprint for our lives is found, is paramount. The price is too high to get it wrong!
Have a Terrific Tuesday and Stay Safe out there!