Q I like to relax with a glass of wine after I come home from work. Sometimes I drink two or three glasses at social occasions with friends. Is this wrong? Am I on a slippery slope toward alcoholism?
A It can be helpful to think of addictions in functional (and dysfunctional) terms. All of us need ways to relax, reduce stress, and find comfort; we usually develop and maintain activities that enhance these. Many people develop functional “addictions” such as daily exercise, reading, or playing an instrument. We eat snacks or drink tea, coffee, or other drinks that serve that purpose. Most of us “crave” the substance (coffee, for instance) at the time we are used to having it.
The only distinction in howbenign or potent a food or drink or activity is depends on its undesirable properties with respect to our health. For instance, “addicting” to herbal tea is safe and therefore needs no monitoring; addicting to wine after work and relaxing over drinks with friends needs guidelines because wine is a potent substance that can be harmful to our health. The same is true of eating cake or watching television.
If you find yourself craving more alcohol over time and are breaking the rules you set for yourself, alcohol may be too tempting for you. Be honest with yourself, but don’t struggle for answers alone. Talk to friends and family about this question—it’s an important one that many of us need to face.
—Judy Cook is a family therapist and a member of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ontario.
Q Jesus said, “Give to everyone who asks of you. . . .” In our town, people often stand on a street corner holding a “Hungry and homeless” sign. Handing out a few dollars seems like a Band-Aid solution, but driving by feels wrong. I know my kids are watching and wondering what Jesus would do.
A The verse you referred to (Luke 6:30) needs to be understood in its context of Jesus teaching us to love our enemies (see vv. 27-36). Jesus was giving examples of how to love our enemies. This includes blessing them, praying for them, not fighting back, and not withholding from them if they ask of you nor resisting them if they take from you. It is not an absolute injunction to give to anyone who asks or begs.
Of course, this does not absolve us from helping the poor. Maybe you can explain to your children that although giving a little bit of cash now might make us feel better, it is not the best help that person needs in the long term. When you donate to charities that provide relief and to justice groups that work to prevent the causes of homelessness, make sure you explain to your children that supporting these organizations ensures that people get the help they need for the long term.
Try keeping an oatmeal bar handy to give to a hungry person instead of cash so that you know you are feeding the person and not an addiction. Also consider bringing your children along occasionally to volunteer in homeless shelters or food banks.
In addition to the above—not instead of—ask your children to pray for the person, even out loud together in the car.
—Shaio Chong is a chaplain at York University in Toronto, Ontario.
Q If Adam and Eve were the first and only people God created, wouldn’t their offspring have been our genetic parents? Are we not then children of incestuous lineage?
A Back when I was a 5th-grader, I asked my Bible teacher this exact same question. We came up with other tricky questions too: “Teacher, if Cain went to live in the land of Nod before Seth was even born, where did his wife come from?” “If Seth had a son, who was the son’s mother, and where did she come from?” You get the idea. My Bible teacher was a very wise man. To all such questions he would simply say, “The Bible doesn’t tell us.” We couldn’t argue with that!
The Bible intends to tell us big things: that human beings were created by God in his image, that God’s creation was very good, that creation has meaning only because God made it all in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:16), and that evil is the result of human pride.
The Bible is not a textbook in science or genetics or history with the kind of detail we might like. It’s the Spirit-filled narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Some people answer your question by saying that the entire story of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden is the “how it all began” myth of the Israelites, just as the Babylonians and the Egyptians had myths about the origins of the world.
The Bible doesn’t teach us that Adam and Eve were figments of human imagination. So exactly how this all went down is something God has not chosen to reveal to us. And I’m fine with that.
—Henry De Moor is professor of church polity emeritus, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He’s the author of Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary.