I’m not a coffee drinker (I prefer tea, and also Cherry Coke).
In fact, the only time I’ve ever drunk an entire cup of coffee was while I was in Japan and did not want to offend my host in the midst of her generous and sacrificial hospitality.
Aside from being nasty tasting, I find that there is a peculiarly permissive perspective about coffee drinking, especially among Christians.
For many people, coffee drinking is a hobby, a preferred beverage to accompany a dessert or a social engagement. Fine. But for others, coffee drinking is a habit, even an addictive one. The day cannot begin without a cup. A meeting cannot start unless the pot has brewed. There is no ability to focus, converse, or work unless the coffee-carried caffeine is coursing through one’s veins.
What frightens me is the extent to which this dependency upon coffee is regarded with levity. We consider it funny that someone can’t worship at church unless they’ve grabbed a cup on the way in. We laugh when someone excuses their wandering words in prayer through a recourse to not having had enough coffee that morning. Indeed, Sunday morning worship often surrounds the “coffee fellowship hour.” Even at church, it seems that God is not enough for us.
Just yesterday, I was sitting next to a woman on a plane, and she happened to be a Christian. She was so thankful that our connecting flight was only an hour long–that way, she could soon hop off and grab a cup of coffee. She hadn’t had one yet and she was feeling it. Sure enough, as soon as we landed, she made haste to the Starbucks kiosk and finally got her day started.
Why are we so comfortable with this utter reliance upon coffee? Why are we so willing to let coffee occupy the center of our interactive universe? Why do we laugh and accept the utter need for coffee?
We Christians often talk about ultimately needing nothing but God alone, but we–as a community–are so very content to let many of our brothers and sisters live in bondage to coffee. We use jokes, laughter, and appeals to the modern culture to downplay the fact that what we really need is to deeply consider and reflect upon our potential hypocrisy. If we are addicted to coffee, if–in some cases–we have elevated coffee to have an inappropriately central role in our life, let’s be honest about it and deal with it. Let’s not continue to tolerate it.
Coffee should not control us, it should not dictate the pace or timing of our work, service, or worship.
Instead of coffee, if we had elevated an alcoholic beverage to this central role, we would catch our own attention. But we have allowed coffee to slip in unchecked.
Is coffee inherently evil? Absolutely not. But do we abuse it, do we give it prominence far beyond the role that any beverage should rightfully occupy? Do we laugh at our chemical dependency? Do we strive to supply rather than caution to correct? We do.
I’m not issuing a call to stop drinking coffee. I’m hoping to surface a level of awareness, so that we can look at ourselves and see what we are doing. Are we submitting ourselves to another master? Are we permissive of others’ idolatry (or our own)? Are we making a conscious choice to drink, or are we releasing ourselves to the whims of a hunger?
As in all things, my concern is simply this: let us live with intentionality.