For a bishop must be… not given to wine. (Titus 1:7)
Paul told Titus to look for leaders for the many new churches on the island of Crete, and he told him to look for the best leaders possible. The measure of the men suited for leadership was not to be found in their talent, their prestige, or their charisma. The measure of the men suited for leadership was found in their character.
So, Paul listed several character qualities that should mark the Christian leader. Here in Titus 1:7 another is mentioned: an overseer or bishop must be… not given to wine.
One mark of a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led person is that they have self-control (Galatians 5:23 and 2 Peter 1:6). To be given to wine is to give up some of that self-control unto the power of alcohol or other things that intoxicate (as in the many kinds of drug abuse).
In Ephesians 5:18 Paul made a contrast: be not drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul called drunkenness a big waste (dissipation). Paul’s wisdom has been proven both spiritually and practically.
Spiritually, alcoholism and drug addiction have been the ruin of many a man and woman. The power of those addictions keep many from coming to Jesus at all, and they severely stunt the spiritual growth of those who trust Jesus yet have to battle their addictions. We should listen to what Proverbs tells us about drunkenness in passages such as Proverbs 20:1 and 23:29-33.
Practically, the world pays a high price for the ruin of alcoholism and drug addiction. To speak of alcohol alone, according to the United States Center for Disease Control, in 2010 88,000 people died of alcohol related causes in the USA, and excessive drinking cost the USA economy $249 billion dollars – almost a quarter of a trillion dollars. I’m sure that in many other nations the figures are comparable if not worse.
In Bible times diluted wine was a common drink and it was often healthier than the available water (1 Timothy 5:23). We can’t honestly say that the Bible prohibits the drinking of alcohol, but it does absolutely forbid drunkenness, excessive drinking, and drinking that might be a bad influence on those vulnerable to drunkenness (1 Corinthians 8:12-13). We should also be sensitive to how culture around us perceives the Christian and drinking—some cultures are more restrictive and others more permissive. I personally believe that in American culture, it’s responsible and wise for the Christian leader to abstain from alcohol, but the matter of abstinence from alcohol is something left between the leader, his conscience, his calling, and most of all the Master he serves.
What is plain is that if any Christian leader is to drink, it must be in moderation, occasional, and never to drunkenness. If this is a weakness in your life, put your trust in Jesus and rest in your standing of no condemnation (Romans 8:1-2). As you day by day draw close to Jesus, let His habits of holiness replace being given over to any intoxicating substance, and especially be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).