What does it mean to be sober-minded?

Ellen Huff

From the pulpit, drinking and smoking have been presented as a black and white issue. Drinking and smoking of any kind of substance appears to be wrong. If one is involved in such things, the individual in question is supposedly living the most explicitly immoral life. But, very rarely does the audience truly understand the reasons why these presumably iniquitous actions are immoral.

The professional definition of sober mindedness from dictionary.com is to be rational or sensible. The Bible takes the idea of being of sober mind a step farther. Throughout the Old Testament, drinking wine is mentioned revolving around situations which were explicitly sinful. The Proverbs mention several occasions where Solomon advises against drinking great sums of wine.

Throughout the Old Testament, God commands presumably strange laws such as not eating certain foods. If one takes a moment to study the reasoning behind this command in context of the writing, it is clear God commanded this in order to protect his people. Not to make mindless boundaries. The old covenant, which was the covenant with God and man before Christ came and fulfilled the law, advised against drinking alcohol in a similar way in order to protect God’s people.

The new covenant explicitly encourages sober mindedness.

In the New Testament in 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul reiterates, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Paul is exhorting Timothy to live like Christ and pursue “sober-mindedness.”

The New Testament continues to include sober mindedness in the list of holy qualities in which the Christian should pursue.

In the context of these scriptures, Timothy was living rightly, as he was not taking part in intoxicating influences such as drugs or alcohol.

This leads the reader to look at sober mindedness more broadly. Intoxication of the mind is anything that leads away from holiness.

The only way to pursue a sober mind is to constantly renew the mind as Romans 12:2 states, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Anything can stray the mind to do evil due to the human condition and the world we are bound to currently. Therefore, Christians need to be constantly on guard against the temptations of this world in order to retain a sober mind.

After considering what the Bible says regarding the boundaries of a sober mind, one can look at being under the influence of alcohol or high on drugs and conclude these practices are in contradiction to God’s commands.

This does not mean drinking alcohol is an objective sin by any means, but the line from feeling good to feeling great is commonly hard to discern. Great wisdom and self-control are advised.

The question then continues, is one sober minded if the individual is influenced by socially acceptable drugs such as caffeine or nicotine? These drugs do not necessarily portray such a simply discernable depiction. When considering the question of sober mindedness, being stimulated in order to focus can be a good motive, as long as it is in moderation.

The sobriety of the mind is not altered and judgments are not impaired when ingesting or inhaling these particular drugs. However, if one is dependent on the drug, a different argument can be made. Once the consumption of the product is an addictive chemical, which is necessary to keep one’s composure, a line has been crossed. Just as one is not of sober mind when he is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the opposite effect can occur if he is consumed with the lack of the substance.

Paul encourages in II Corinthians 12:9 speaking of God in regard to the thorn in his side, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

The bad news is, when pursuing sanctification, holiness should be the process of denying oneself daily and running from sinful nature, not riding the boundary of right and wrong. The good news is God uses our weakness to glorify Him and we can be strengthened by Him through prayer and fellow believers.

That being said, the logical argument can go as follows: if God is omnibenevolent, God wants what is best for our good and his glory. God gives us commands to protect us. If we follow those commands and pursue love, we will live a more fulfilling life of goodness, truth and beauty. 
God commands us to be sober minded. Therefore, if we want to live a soul satisfying life, we will strive to be sober minded in regard to being intoxicated by both substances and evil thoughts. 
It is tempting to try and blur the lines of being in the world and not of it; however, it is important to seek the right answers and pursue the holy life. Mary Estelle, a profound modern philosopher, wrote “to know what is to be known and to believe what is to be believed is the property of a wise person.” 

Christians should be encouraged to challenge what is known in order to be confident in how you live. Stand up for what you believe is right and know what is to be known, because the devil is prowling like a roaring lion in order to corrupt the mind. Sober mindedness is broad and challenging to achieve, but, just like sanctification, the meaning is found in the pursuit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: