Topics in this Q&A: Taking out insurance and drinking alcohol

What should we as Christians think about drinking alcohol?

One of the benefits of lockdown has been the rather obvious benefit to society at large when alcohol is banned for a month. Hospital emergency rooms, police investigators, and emergency response teams, and the road accident fund have had their work significantly reduced because of the temporary closure of taverns, pubs, and alcohol retailers. It is no secret that alcohol makes a significant contribution to the sin and suffering in this world.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

Proverbs 20:1

However, as Christians we understand that alcohol itself is not the real problem. All sin and suffering is a result of sinful desires (Jam 1:14-15; 4:1-2)—alcohol is merely the no-self-control occasion for those passions to vent. Nowhere in the Scriptures is the drinking of alcohol forbidden, but the effects of drunkenness are clearly seen (Gen 9:21; 1 Sam 25:36; 1 Cor 11:21-22) and the sin of drunkenness with alcohol is expressly forbidden (Eph 5:18). There is even a curse pronounced on those who boast of their alcohol intake and pervert justice thereby (Is 5:11, 22).

Scripture makes a distinction between wine and strong drink. Although both were alcoholic, wine was drunk for rejoicing (Eccl 9:7) and health (1 Tim 5:23), but strong drink was a sign of dissipation, folly, and ungodliness (Pro 23:29-35).

The appropriate use of alcohol is clearly demonstrate in the instruction to kings found in Proverbs 31. In Proverbs 31:4-5 those responsible for justice are advised not to take any strong drink, but in the very next verse, Proverbs 31:6, those who are suffering are permitted ‘strong drink’ as a form of sedation under extreme distress. Similarly for wine, the servants of the Lord were at time forbidden wine (Lev 10:9; Luk 1:15), but Timothy was advised to make an exception for his health (1 Tim 5:23).

One unusual account in the Scriptures of drunkenness demonstrates that even when a faithful man is made drunk by another, he still proves his godliness . When Uriah was made drunk to cover the sin of his wife and king David, he maintained his military integrity (2 Sam 11:13). Truly that is a standard for us as Christians to maintain—being so godly in heart, that even when our self-control has been compromised, we still remain faithful!

How does all this relate to us as Christians today? First, we must realise that the devastating effect of drunkenness are nothing new, but have been recorded for us in Scripture ever since Noah’s (accidental?) drunkenness. We must pay attention to the sinfulness and folly of drunkenness. Secondly, we must admit that God has not placed a universal ban on anything containing alcohol as though it was inherently evil. Instead, non-intoxicating alcohol use needs to be subjected to glorifying God (1 Cor 10:31). A special word of caution with even non-intoxicating use of alcohol needs to be given to all in leadership positions, and especially those in Christian ministry roles.

Individually we might make different personal convictions about the Christian’s use of alcohol, but as far as God’s Word is concerned, we may not get drunk with wine, but need to be Spirit-filled instead (Eph 5:18-21), we need to consider the weaknesses of others (Rom 14:14-17), and in all this we should not be quarrelsome (Rom 14:1-4).

Is it right for a Christian to take out life insurance?

“Is it right for a Christian to take out insurance?” Christians tend to fall into three different categories in responding to that question. Some think insurance is a sign of distrusting the Lord and consider it worldly, and therefore forbidden for true believers. On the other extreme, some respond with insurance being one of the most practical ways prudently to provide for your household in the day of trouble. Most Christians are probably in the third category of being quite indifferent to it, doing whatever their upbringing or financial advisor suggests. No matter what category you might fall into, each of us need to transform our thinking by the renewal of our minds instead of merely conforming ourselves to the world’s extremes or indifference (Rom 12:2).

As with all matters of life, we ask first if God has spoken directly on the particular matter. The topic of insurance (life, medical, asset, income, all-risk, etc) is not address clearly in Scripture. There are no clear commands or prohibitions in Scripture on the topic of insurance. This immediate informs us that this topic is not one of clear right/wrong, but rather a matter of wisdom/folly. We ask next, therefore, if Scripture speaks indirectly on the topic of insurance. Here much is found.

Warnings against wrong thinking about insurance might include that believers trust in the Lord, and not in any of man’s inventions (Jer 17:5, Ps 52:7), that we should not befriend the world’s ways (James 4:4), and that we should not think we are in control of our futures (James 4:13-16), and that friends are there to help in time of trouble (Pro 27:10).

Encouragements to consider taking out various insurances might include that wise believers foresee the day of trouble and prepare for it (Pro 27:12), that believers are to provide for themselves and not be a burden on others (1 Tim 5:8), and that believers need to take care of their own burdens (Gal 6:5), help with the burdens of others (Gal 6:2), and not be a burden (1 Thess 4:12).

Putting principles like these together, you might be a little confused as to what God’s opinion on insurance is. However, when you go back and look at the various principles, you find that the principles to consider insurance are more tightly connected to the topic than the principles that warn against it. For example, the wisdom of foreseeing evil and preparing for it is very much in keeping with the very design of insurance—knowing, for example, that you will die one day, and insuring your ‘life’ (somewhat of a misnomer!), so your relatives are not left destitute trying to pay for the required services to dispose of a your body. The warnings against worldliness are not necessarily against insurance, but merely against trusting insurance.

In other words, when it comes to insuring your assets, income, life, etc, a Christian has an obligation to examine his heart for all ungodliness and worldliness, and fulfil his financial responsibilities as best as he is able. Consequently, one Christian might decide to take out life insurance as a matter of prudent foresight in providing for his family, while another might decide against taking out life insurance because he cannot afford it, has a weak faith, doesn’t understand insurance, or something like that.

Either way, we as Christians cannot claim convictions on these matters any stronger than God does. Where God has spoken clearly, we believe with clear conviction; where God has spoken in balancing principles, we hold our convictions with lesser resolve. That is why Scripture has many black-and-white topics, but also contains various chapters on the grey areas of life that might produce different decisions among believers (e.g., Rom 14).

Insurance is an available tool for a Christian to provide for his own family in the day of potential trouble or inevitable death. However, it must never displace our faith in God or make us trust in man.