Pastors are not forbidden to drink

It is generally asserted that pastors are forbidden to drink. This is not exactly true, however, though their are clear restrictions for pastors and deacons.

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A commonly misunderstood verse regarding the subject of alcohol consumption comes from the third chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy. In this section, the apostle lays out the regulations for both pastors and deacons. 1 Timothy 3:3 says in the King James Version that a pastor should be “Not given to wine.” Since verse 8 of the same chapter says deacons should be “not given to much wine,” it is often assumed that pastors cannot drink at all. Yet, although the English words are the same, the Greek uses different words, both generally translated “given to wine,” which is an okay translation for both verses, but misses the nuance of what Paul is saying.

Verse 3, referring to pastors, uses the word πάροινος, pároinos, and refers to being “addicted to wine.” That is, a man should not be a pastor who cannot pull himself away after one or two glasses but has to finish the bottle. The NIV renders the word, “not given to drunkenness,” but that is not exactly accurate either, for it would still be wrong for a pastor to drink until he was a little tipsy or had a bit of a buzz. Verse 2 really puts this verse in the proper context, a pastor must be completely in control of himself in all matters. For one, even if a pastor is alone with his wife and the two of them finish a bottle together, he would likely have a bit of a buzz or be a little tipsy, most likely not drunk, but just tipsy enough that he would not be able to minister to a church member if an emergency arose. He is allowed to drink, but he must be very careful and self-controlled in so doing.

Regarding deacons, however, Paul uses a completely different Greek word, “not given to much wine” being a rendering of the phrase μή οίνω πολλω προσέχοντας, mé oíno pollō proséchontas. This could be better translated, “not very devoted to wine.” That is, deacons should not make a habit of recreational drinking, routinely going to wine tastings, etc. One might say that a deacon should not be known as a connoisseur of wine (or beer) and his favorite drinks should not be a focal point of his conversations with others. For one, such can often give off a snobbish attitude toward those in the church that may like a simple Bud Light. Yet, also, a deacon’s life should not revolve around alcohol, whether he is getting drunk or not. If a deacon has come to the point where he drinks a glass every night and simply has to have it, even if he’s not getting drunk, it still has a hold over him which should not exist. That kind of hold should be avoided by all Christians, but especially deacons who are to be a kind of example for other church members. If a Christian simply “needs a drink,” then it is likely time to stop drinking for a period of time.

I personally do not drink, alcohol simply not tasting good to me. Although, I have heard from a pastor that comes in Kroger often that it really depends on the kind of beer or wine, their being good kinds and bad kinds. That much I understand from my experience with coffee; I generally like a good cup of coffee but I think we all know that bad cups of coffee do exist. Yet, I have yet to find a kind of wine or beer that I like, so it is easy for me to have self-control to put the glass down.

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