June 1, 2009


The past weeks have seen a steady increase in reports about swine flu outbreaks, and the world community is nervously looking at the potential for destruction of this dangerous virus. Millions of dollars are being spent by governments all over the world to monitor and contain this disease.
However, at the same time, more than 10 percent of the U.S. population is considered to be alcohol dependent, and the majority of road deaths, violent crime, incest, and other perturbing acts are somewhat linked to alcohol consumption.* Alcohol is freely available to anybody over the age of 18 in most parts of the world—though not in the United States—and sometimes even earlier. Companies selling alcoholic beverages commit huge advertising budgets to push their legal drug.
2009 1516 page6No, this editorial is not the place to look at Scripture’s take on the consumption of alcohol, even though I am happy that the Seventh-day Adventist Church maintains a teetotaling position. Rather, I am shocked about proportions. The dozens of deaths related to the swine flu are tragic and horrible—as any death is—but somehow we have become used to the worldwide count of thousands and millions of deaths related to drunken drivers, abusive parents who hit children while under the influence, or the careless indifference that alcohol creates in addicts, destroying families and entire communities.
Perspective is the watchword of this editorial. Perspective is what you need when you are taking a picture with a camera. A warped perspective will result in a warped picture. An unbalanced or extreme position will lead to unbalanced or extreme outcomes.
As parents of three wonderful daughters, trying to find their own perspectives on life, my wife and I are concerned about the well-being and balanced intake of all necessary components of a healthful diet. However, do we take the same carefulness to monitor their intellectual or emotional “intake,” or do we also sometimes use the flashing and bright square chatter-box as a cheap babysitter? Again, the issue is perspective.
Jesus speaks a lot about perspective. In His famous Sermon on the Mount He reminds me that my worries and concerns that seem to eat up most of my time (eating, drinking, clothing, etc.) need to be put into the right perspective. Jesus does not advocate that we should just forget about planning and looking ahead. That would be a warped reading of Matthew 6:25-34. What He is telling us, however, is that first things need to come first. When dealing with the must-dos and the struggles of daily life, Jesus reminds us that our first look needs to go upward and not forward or backward. When I am concerned about my children’s health I need to look beyond vitamins, proteins, and amino acids to the larger picture of their wholistic development and what really feeds their souls and fills their minds.
In the hustle-bustle of daily life I find it hard to always maintain this heaven-bound perspective. At times like this, I remember the words of a chorus my wife and I wrote nearly two decades ago in South Africa for the youth section of our camp meeting:

First things first—we seek Your face
First things first—renew us by Your grace
First things first—please take first place
We want to spend some time with You!
Lord, grant me this perspective today and the humility and willingness to put You first. n
*I need to know all these facts since I am preparing for my Maryland driver’s license, which requires a three-hour alcohol and drug education program. You need to register to see the three-hour program and lessons. Registration is free.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review.