Should a Christian Use Medication? 1 Timothy 5:23Oct 29, 2023
23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
Now, this seems to come out of nowhere! Unless you put it in the context of someone in leadership, who has stomach troubles, ulcers, or other worry-induced ailments. In Timothy's case, Paul refers to his "frequent illnesses." Apparently, Paul was around him enough to know that for Timothy, this was not just an occasional thing.
And maybe there was pressure for abstinence from alcohol - like a Nazarite vow - that was keeping Timothy from caring for himself as well as he should.
One at a time.
I remember a teenager when I was growing up who had ulcers that were really impacting his life. And I remember my mother asking him what he was eating that would be causes of these flare-ups. And I'll never forget his answer: "Auntie Dot, it's not what I'm eating. It's what's eating me."
The stuff that goes on can eat us alive, if we let it. My dad always had a very sensitive stomach, which was often affected by the stuff that was going on a work, in the family, and at church. He took everything very seriously, and I know there were many evenings when supper involved only home-made cream of potato soup, because it was soothing.
I know what it's like to have the stuff that's going on around me cause stomach problems. I got out of many school tests because I had a stomach ache! Of course, I always had to retake them on another day, but you probably know what I'm talking about. Until the last few years, when I've lost about 40 pounds, I really didn't know what it was like to go to bed without some kind of heartburn or gastric reflux issue. Tums, Rolaids, and Gaviscon were just part of how I got through the night!
Now I realize that Christians don't have "problems" - we just have "concerns" - but so far, I haven't actually been able to figure out the difference. "Why worry, when you can pray?" they say. "Are you weak and heavy burdened? Take it to the Lord in prayer!" they say. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Phil. 4:6) they say.
Oh, if only. If only. We know that we can take any care to the Lord, and he's in control, and we could and should just leave it there in His hands, but so often, we don't. We think we've got this. And the Lord seems to say, "Okay. I'll be right here when you realize that you need me."
And some times, like with Paul and Timothy here, what Timothy really needs is a little medication in the form of some wine to settle his stomach. God does work in mysterious ways some times, doesn't he?
I also have to wonder about the abstinence issue here.
I grew up in the teetotalling world of The Salvation Army. Historically, there were some very good reasons for the stance of this international church, going back to its earliest days in the east of London where the power of drink was so destructive to so many lives. Social drinking was unheard of within the ranks, except where there were problems, and usually they indicated that there were deeper problems. I get it.
But there would also be no problems with taking some cough syrup that had alcohol in it - for medicinal purposes. It makes me think of Granny on The Beverley Hillbillies TV show and her "Medicine," which was really hooch.
The Biblical expectations around alcohol are really pretty simple: Don't get drunk. Drinking alcohol is expected, and even celebrated, such as Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast, so the bridegroom's family wouldn't be embarrassed. There are examples of abstinence, such as the Nazarite vow demonstrating separation or consecration, but that seems to be both temporary (for a time) and specific (abstain from all wine and anything else made from the grape vine, while other types of alcohol were permitted).
So I guess Paul's encouragement to Timothy is "Look after yourself. You're of no use to the kingdom if you don't." Good advice for us all.