COVID-19 has caused countless cancellations, stirred numerous debates, driven wider political wedges, and most notably, taken millions of human lives across the world. After about a year of its known existence, approximately 1.85 million deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. Some would argue that many, if not the majority of those deaths were… preventable. This suggestion is rooted in the belief that if everyone practiced the recommended procedures of mask wearing, social distancing, and quarantining until a cure or vaccine was found, that the death toll would be significantly lower. Probably so. But I’m no medical expert, so I’ll refrain from comment.
Whether right or wrong, these practices have not been implemented to the degree that many would like, and so we’re left to wonder how many more COVID-19 deaths are on the horizon. One million? Five million? Ten million more? Many would admirably suggest that we should be doing everything in our power to save human lives, while others debate about whether these practices are truly effective in combatting COVID-19. But, if you knew that there was a way to “absolutely-positively” save millions of lives, wouldn’t you do it?
Would it surprise you to learn there is a specific practice that, if implemented worldwide today, would prevent 10 million deaths in this year alone? This health practice doesn’t require a special mask or physical distancing. It doesn’t even require buying anything – in fact, you save money when it’s implemented. There’s no vaccination or pill to ingest. It doesn’t even require a medical degree or license to administer (much less to see its positive, life-saving effects). Not only could this practice save 10 million lives this year, but it will also improve the quality of life for those that practice it. In fact, it even improves the quality of life of your friends and family members when you practice it!
Sadly, there’s a low likelihood that this revolutionary practice will take hold in any substantial way. What’s more, this life-saving approach has been known about since the arrival of COVID-19, and in truth, has been known about for centuries. If one would just open their Bible, they would see numerous passages that suggest the worthiness of this practice. So, what is it? The practice that would, without a doubt, save 10 million lives this year is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
According to the WHO, “…worldwide, 3 million deaths every year result from harmful use of alcohol…” According to the CDC, “worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year.” That’s 10 million preventable deaths every year! This is not to make light of the loss of life that has been suffered due to COVID-19. It is, indeed, a tragedy. However, it is both ironic and sad that so much emphasis is placed on saving lives through COVID protocols (though admirable), while so little emphasis is placed on saving lives through intoxicant abstinence.
With all of that being said, would it surprise you to know that the Bible has less to say about intoxicants leading to physical death and instead much more to say concerning its usage leading to spiritual death? Sure, Proverbs 20:1 and 23:20-35 speak of its ill-effects on one’s health and economic well-being – and they absolutely should be noted. But much more of the Bible’s emphasis when speaking of intoxicants is in regard to their leading to things like drunkenness, which is debauchery (Eph. 5:18), a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21), and something that prevents one from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10). And so, while though intoxicant abstinence is great for prolonging physical death, even more important is its aid in avoiding spiritual death!
The world has become consumed with preventing the inevitable: death. So, a relevant question to conclude with is this: while understandable is the desire to delay my physical death, am I more concerned with and spending more time on the one death that is actually preventable (spiritual death and its prevention), or with the one that is inevitable?