why drink?

Jesus said, “for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (Lk 16.8)

An article by an admitted drinker demonstrates how often this is true. He asks and answers my question this way:

Why drink?

Oh, I know the stock answers as well as anyone. Because of the taste. Because of the camaraderie it encourages. Because it helps me relax. All of which are true, up to a point, and all of which bring to mind government ads of young, attractive twenty-somethings responsibly enjoying a single glass of wine over a candle-lit dinner (rather than binge-drinking, which is what they normally do).

The truth, in my experience, can be more ragged and dark. We drink because at the end of the day we feel like we have a wolverine sitting on our chests and a drink is the only thing that helps us breathe. We drink because our jobs suck. We drink because we want to be someone else. We drink to feel attractive. We drink because we sometimes feel the need to be bad. We drink because we fear the future. We drink because the world is sobering enough as it is.

Why is it that Christians who drink want to claim the fairy-tale view of the wine ads?

By the way, if you read the whole article, you will see that the author is no supporter of my views. He is arguing against further taxation of alcohol in our province, saying that increasing costs are very unlikely to have any effect on reducing problem drinking. I tend to agree with him on that conclusion, but I don’t have any problem sticking it to the drinkers.



  1. While I don’t think Luke 16 requires an application to our use of money, I think your application is incorrect. I think a proper application would concentrate on the Pharisees’ love of money and that our eternal future should prompt us to live to spread the Gospel and gather up Heavenly treasures. The passage isn’t saying is that because an unbeliever sees the potential for the improper use of alcohol that an unsaved person has a better worldview than a Christian.

    • Hi Matt

      I think, rather, that it the general principle is that believers are often quite naive about some things and ought to learn from something from worldly wisdom. The specific context doesn’t mean we can’t derive a general principle and apply it to other situations.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. Shayne says:


    This is good discussion on this subject. Instead of focusing on debatable passages that require a large amount of historical interpretation, the scripture passages that most easily cut the hearts of my local culture are ones like these. This is frankly, more convincing.

    Regarding interpreting the passage, I think you would both agree that the more tangential the application to the text, the harder it is for a teacher to say “these are the words of God for you,” even though I agree with a sort of prophetic preaching where pastors need to make strong application to daily living depending on the struggles of the day.



  3. Matt says:

    I think you are looking at the verse apart from the scripture surrounding it (it also helps to use a better translation like the ESV). Parables are meant to teach one thing. The thing, in this case, is how we use our money. The point is that children of this world spend their whole lives planning how to create and spend money. They are calculating, or shrewd, in their business practices. The manager spends a lot of time thinking of how he can make everyone in the situation happy and secure his future.

    We as Christians need to carefully invest our failing resources in unfailing ways (see Luke 16:9).

    For example, instead of buying a new car, maybe I should give to a mission fund that takes kids off the streets and teaches them the Bible. This would be a way to improve someone’s life, much like the dishonest manager did when he forgave part of people’s debts.

    Perhaps you could say there are other things we could learn from those of the world; however, I think it is a stretch to make this passage say that the unsaved know better sometimes when it comes to matter of Christian liberty.

    • Hi Matt and Shayne

      The parable is a notoriously difficult passage to interpret. And I should say that I partly misunderstood Matt’s first comment, so my earlier comment is at least partly off.

      Here is a comment from Tom Constable with respect to this passage:

      Jesus commended the agent’s shrewdness or prudence (Gr. phronimos, i.e., practical wisdom) in spending his wealth to secure his future (cf. 12:42). He did not, of course, approve of his squandering his master’s money earlier through incompetence or dishonesty (v. 1), whichever may have characterized him. That simply marked him as an unrighteous man. The fact that he had not been shrewd at first sets off his later shrewdness as even more commendable.

      The sons of this age are unrighteous unbelievers who live simply by the principles that govern most people in the present age. Sons of the light are people who live in the light of God’s revelation and are therefore believers (cf. 11:33–36; Eph. 5:8). The implication is that they are believers who are in fellowship with God (cf. 1 John 1:7). Jesus’ point was that prudent dealings characterize unbelievers more than believers. Disciples can do well by learning from them as we anticipate the future. ((Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, Lk 16:8 (Galaxie Software, 2003; 2003).))

      The point I am making with the use of this verse is that the children of this world are often more clear in their understanding and use of worldly things than believers are. Believers often seem to be naive concerning the things of this world. They would do well to take into consideration the things the worldlings say concerning the things of this world.

      Regardless of the correct interpretation of the verse, my larger point is that the sophistry of the stock answers of the ‘responsible’ drinkers for why they drink is countered by the wisdom of the world. The worldlings know why they drink. I think Christians who drink are at least self-deceived concerning their motivations, if not worse.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      P. S. I don’t think the versions make a difference. The esv is essentially identical to the kjv here. FWIW, here is the nau, which surprisingly is a little less literal in this verse, but gets the gist of the idiomatic expression a little better than the kjv and esv:

      NAU Luke 16:8 “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.

  4. Shayne says:


    In the same sense that believers should consult certain authorities in the world for information on how to behave, I agree with you. For example, we should talk to doctors, lawyers, wise social commentators, and even psychologists for some helpful information. However, there are ways that Christians can do BETTER than the wisdom of this world.

    Let me ask this question: in the same way that believers are to treasure Christ instead of money, is there a possibility that this passage also could lead Christians who choose to drink according to conscience, a different reason for and way of drinking?

    You may be interested (or angered probably) by Tim Keller’s discussion on the miracle at Cana. Check out his Q&A on iTunes U from RTS this is “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World.” Session 18 Q&A. Start about minute 15. This is an evangelical distinguishing the difference between drunkeness and drinking. In interest of knowing other arguments, you may want to check this out.



    • Of course Christians can do better than the wisdom of the world, but often they seem to be frightfully deceived. Of course, it is an open question whether we are talking about true Christians or not in some circumstances.

      I can’t say I’ll have time to check out Keller but I may at some point. He has many serious problems in other areas, but we won’t get into that here.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3