Wellbeing and Restraint (1 Timothy 5:23)

Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often. (1 Timothy 5:23)

It seems to us like an odd command Paul gives to Timothy here to "drink a little wine" especially coming right after a command to "keep himself pure". But Paul was certainly not encouraging drunkenness or even "social drinking".

Water supplies in those days were not as pure as what comes out of our taps today and it appears as though Timothy suffered stomach ailments tied to his drinking of water. It seems that an accepted remedy in such situations was to add a little wine to the water, limiting the effects felt from drinking water only.

Some speculate that Timothy knew that wine would help but had been reluctant to use it in order to set a good example to those he led to not drink wine which may tempt them towards drunkenness.

Whether this is true or not, it gives us a good principle to follow: at times we will choose to limit our freedoms in order not to create a stumbling block to others (see 1 Corinthians 8:9-13). This extends beyond careful and restrained use of alcohol to other areas such as our use of social media as well as the movies and TV programmes we watch, the way we dress, etc. 

Some actions are not necessarily wrong in themselves but can be misinterpreted, misunderstood or misused by those we lead. Drinking a little alcohol may not be wrong but some leaders choose to abstain completely, out of concern that their understanding of "a little" may not be the same as a young person's. Better to set an example by saying, "I don't drink" than to try to quantify what acceptable drinking is and what it isn't.

A further point worth noting here is that Paul's concern for Timothy extends beyond his spiritual health to his physical health. It leads us to ask the question, how well am I caring for my physical wellbeing? 

Our spiritual health and our physical health are interrelated. If you don't regularly get sufficient sleep, you'll feel lethargic and your capacity and desire to read God's word and pray will be compromised. Furthermore, when you turn up to lead, your tiredness will limit your effectiveness.

Similarly, if your diet is poor and you consume more junk food than healthy options, your energy levels will be affected and illness may limit your ability to meet all your leadership obligations.

The same goes for regular exercise and anything else that doesn't constitute "healthy living". if you're not looking after your body, the spirit suffers and so does our ability to lead well.


Is there any activity I need to limit or abstain from, not because it is wrong in itself but because it may potentially cause those I lead to sin, or at very least, give them a wrong impression about my lifestyle?

Am I maintaining healthy physical practices (sleep, diet, exercise) in order to maintain spiritual health and enhance my ability to lead well?