“not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous” (1 Timothy 3:3).
The next quality that should mark the life of a congregational leader is this: “He must not be a heavy drinker…” (NLT). While this directive represents a prohibition against drunkenness, it also encompasses the negative behavioral qualities that may accompany intoxication as well. (1)
As mentioned previously, the Scriptures do not mandate complete abstinence from alcohol (see John 2:1-11 and 1 Timothy 5:23). However a decision to voluntarily limit one’s freedom in this area will often prove to be the wisest and most appropriate course of action. We should also remember the counsel of 1 Corinthians 8:9 in regard to alcohol consumption: “…beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” An overseer who chooses to abstain from drinking (even in moderation) can justify his position based upon this passage from 1 Corinthians 8:9.
Unlike those who may elect to relax and unwind by indulging in a few alcoholic beverages at the end of a stressful day, an overseer must always be conscious of how such actions may be interpreted by others. Therefore, a congregational leader should not be “given to wine” in deference to those who may be weak in this area.
If alcohol abstinence is realistically achievable, then an overseer would do well to avoid leaving the impression that social drinking or moderate alcohol consumption is acceptable. We can turn to the Apostle Paul’s discussion of Christian liberty in the New Testament book of Romans for additional guidance on this subject…
“…Try instead to live in such a way that you will never make your brother stumble by letting him see you doing something he thinks is wrong” (Romans 14:13 TLB).
“Don’t do anything that will cause criticism against yourself even though you know that what you do is right” (Romans 14:16 TLB).
“The right thing to do is to quit eating meat or drinking wine or doing anything else that offends your brother or makes him sin” (Romans 14:21 TLB).
Therefore, the question of Christian liberty does not simply concern the right to exercise one’s freedom- it must be broadened to include the exercise of those freedoms and their potential impact upon others. While some may object to these restrictions, the larger question is this: if these teachings on Christian liberty are applicable to the church at large, then how much more applicable are they for those who are called to lead the church?
(1) See William Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/paroinos