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Gin, Stout, and Guinness’s 9,000 Year Lease

Series: Arthur Guinness and the Call to Create
Devotional: 2 of 4
Published: February 15, 2021

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11)

If you’ve ever launched anything new into the world—a business, a book, a new initiative at work—you know how much thought and planning goes into launching well. 

That perspective makes John’s account of the launch of Jesus’s public ministry all the more remarkable. For the launch event of his Kingdom, Jesus wasn’t preaching. He was turning water into wine. He was beginning to make all things new.

New Testament scholar N.T. Wright points out that Jesus’s “signs” and miracles “were all about new creation: water into wine, healings, food for the hungry, sight for the blind, life for the dead.”

In other words, Jesus didn’t come just to save our souls and mend the spiritual realm. Jesus came to save the world—including the material world—as the launch of his public ministry so clearly demonstrates.

Why does this matter for our work? Because God uses our vocations as a means of mending his broken creation! The life of Arthur Guinness provides a vivid case study of this truth.

When Guinness moved to Dublin in the mid-1700s, he found a city in desperate need of spiritual and physical redemption. At that time, people routinely drank from the same water in which they dumped their garbage and sewage, often dying as a result. This led many to avoid water altogether. Instead, they drank alcohol, as the process of making alcoholic beverages killed the germs in water that led to disease. But soon, excessive drinking set in, leading to “the Gin Craze.” Drunkenness became a major problem, leading to an increase in crime and poverty.

It was against this backdrop that Guinness saw an opportunity to put his Christian faith into action. Given his background as a beer-brewing apprentice, Guinness believed he could brew a new style of beer (which would come to be known as stout) which would be nutritious, filling, and much lower in alcohol than gin. 

As the author of The Search for God and Guinness points out, upon seeing this opportunity to redeem his corner of the material world, Arthur “would have come to see his chosen profession as a service to his fellow man” and “brewing…a moral mandate.”

So confident was Arthur that this was the work God created him to do, he signed a 9,000-year lease on the land his brewery still sits on more than 250 years later.

Like Guinness, the work you and I do today is about bringing about the new creation Jesus inaugurated during his time on earth. What happens when that work produces more personal or business income than we need? That’s the question God’s Word and the example of Guinness will help us answer next week.

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