Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
This whole chapter is remarkably down to earth, and easily translates from the 1st Century to the 21st. Back then it was the matter of meat from animals that had been sacrificed to idols, whereas today it is all sorts of eating fads. People avoid gluten without really knowing what it is, much less having celiac disease! Dietary issues have loomed large for much of history in one way or another, but for the vast majority of that time it has simply been a matter of getting enough to eat. That Americans obsess over so many things about food – along with the very high rate of obesity – is an indication of the incredible abundance that is available. As has come out recently, overindulgence in anything isn’t good stewardship, but what Paul is stressing here is the whole matter of priorities. It’s not that dietary issues are completely unimportant, but rather that they are way down the line in terms of the kingdom of God. Distraction is one of the devil’s favorite tools. That’s why Jesus told us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) The problem comes when people define righteousness in terms of such externals as what we eat.
For me, the reference to drinking wine in verse 21 clicks home, because I grew up in a tea-totaling family but have known many people with alcohol abuse problems. One time in college, out of curiosity as much as anything, I tried to get drunk on bourbon coke, but never even felt a buzz. Whether that means I have an abundant supply of liver enzymes or that God put a supernatural block on it I don’t know, but that was my experience. I have felt very little temptation in that direction in the many years since (plus I don’t like the taste of beer at all) but that doesn’t make me any better than someone who has a daily drink. I think it all comes down to what we seek, and the test Jesus gave us applies in every area of our lives.
Father, help me indeed seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, because peace and joy in the Holy Spirit are what truly satisfy my soul. Help me submit all my appetites to You so that they will serve me well rather than the other way around, and I will be fully available and useful to You. Thank You. Praise God!