By Michael E. Brooks
?No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach?s sake and your frequent infirmities? (1 Timothy 5:23).
One of the frequent questions I am asked about traveling in developing nations is, ?Do you drink the water?? My answer is usually, ?No, and the local people don?t either, if they have any choice.? Most of those who ask the question are thinking of the frequently repeated idea that each area has its own micro-biology, and a person becomes accustomed to that of his own home. Microbes which are not actually harmful may never-the-less upset a visitor?s system and cause unpleasant effects.
While this is true, it is not the whole truth. The fact is that there are many dangerous and harmful substances which may be in ground water anywhere in the world. These include bacteria and other organisms which cause deadly disease, and various poisons and contaminants which also may sicken or kill. Untreated water is hazardous, to anyone, anywhere. In Bangladesh there are many disease causing organisms, plus abundant pollutants, and, additionally in much of the country, high concentrations of arsenic. No one drinks the water, if they can avoid it!
Spiritually there is also the general idea that some types of behavior are harmful only to those ?who cannot handle them?. Alcohol, for example, may be a danger to others, but ?It won?t bother me?. Between our own assumed capacity to manage ourselves, and the common philosophy of situational ethics, sin has become relative, with only limited consequences. It is merely the occasional ?visitor? who needs to abstain from ?drinking the water? (i.e., indulging in questionable activities). The rest are immune from any risk.
The truth is that sin is harmful, period. God has not withheld from us that which would fulfill and complete our lives. He does not refuse us pleasure. Rather his laws identify those actions, words and attitudes which work evil in our lives and those of others. The works of the flesh, for instance, are ?evident? (Galatians 5:19) because of the results of indulgence. Those who do them inevitably pay the price of physical suffering, damage to relationships, and loss of the soul. It is not merely the weak or undisciplined who fall prey to excess. These things are evil, and they bring harm to all who use them.
Paul?s words in Romans 3:10-18 describe sinful people, and include all humans, but they could also be written to warn us of the true nature of sinful actions. Sin itself is ?unprofitable? (verse 12), like ?poison? (verse 13), and marked by ?destruction and misery? (verse 16). Worst of all, sin separates from God (verse 18). The prudent person avoids every form of evil, not risking infection by that which can sicken and kill. Take the advice of the apostle and ?Don?t drink the water!?
By Michael E. Brooks