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Over the Limit?

I work in a restaurant where I'm require to serve alcoholic beverages. Am I sinning?

Q. I work in a restaurant where I'm required to serve alcoholic beverages. It really bothers me—I feel like it's a sin. But in our small town, this is the only job I'm qualified for, at which I can make enough money to pay my bills. I do everything I can to be a good witness. I'm open about my faith. I don't hesitate to reach out to my customers and let them know I'm praying for them and their loved ones. But deep down, I still feel it's not right. What should I do?
—Name Withheld

A. That's a tough question! You know, the Bible doesn't say that either drinking or serving alcohol is a sin. Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-11). However, there are plenty of verses that forbid drunkenness and the immorality that often accompanies it (Rom.3:13; 1 Cor.5:11; 6:10; Eph 5:18; 1 Tim.3:3). That's why many Christians choose not to drink or serve alcohol, rather than risk falling into sin themselves or encouraging it in others. For those of us working in the service industry, trying to make a living and support our families, it can be a real challenge: Where is the line between reaching out to people lost in sin—and encouraging or enabling them to go on sinning?

If the overall atmosphere of the restaurant and the behavior of the guests is not inappropriate, and if you're following the law (not serving excessive amounts of alcohol or serving people who are obviously drunk), and if you feel called to be a "light in the darkness," then it's probably okay for you to stay where you are. You don't need to feel condemnation about something that is not (in and of itself) a sin. You can have a real ministry there, consistently living out your faith in front of your coworkers and customers. But if being required to serve alcohol continues to trouble you, then for you it is a sin (Rom. 14:5-8, 14). Be true to yourself; don't violate your own conscience.

God may be using your discomfort over the situation to prompt you to make some life changes. Look into classes you can take (and financial aid you can apply for) to train for a different career. Consider relocating to an area with more opportunities. Be willing to do whatever it takes! The most important thing is that your conscience is clear and your heart is at peace, knowing you're doing everything you can to honor God in every part of your life.

 Christin Ditchfield is the host of the syndicated radio program Take It to Heart, and author of The Three Wise Women: A Christmas Reflection (Crossway).

Looking for answers? Send your questions to
Everyday Theology,
Today's Christian,
465 Gundersen Drive,
Carol Stream, IL 60188, or to tceditor@todays-christian.com. If we use your questions, you'll receive a free copy of Christin's latest book, Take It to Heart: 60 Meditations on God and His Word, compliments of Crossway Books.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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