Judging Another Man’s Coffee

The State of Texas has done it again.

Highly credible internet sources (duh!) report that Texas resident Andrew Chifari ordered the most expensive Starbucks drink in history, a $54.75 monstrosity containing 60 shots of espresso, chocolate syrup, protein powder, and apparently gold leaf.

That’s right: the state that gave the nation Ross Perot, Gary Busey, and the Cadillac Ranch managed to produce someone with both the imagination and the cardiac fortitude to create and consume a 128-ounce caffeinated beverage, all on a free-drink coupon.  The teeming masses of our grateful and quite frankly stunned nation should have expected this development.  After all, this is Texas, a place where gun ownership, excessive highway speeds, and endemic artheriosclerosis exist more as social obligations than options.

Welcome to the state fair of Texas!  What fried food item can I get you?
Two fried pickles, a fried Twinkie and…let’s see.  Got any fried dung on a stick?
Sure!  Pork be alright?
I’m sorta partial to beef, if ya don’t mind.
No problem, hun.  Be out in a jiff.  You need ammo with that?
Just a box or two.

An armed man driving at high speeds while 60 chocolate-sweeted shots of espresso race through his plaque-narrowed arteries is simply part of the beauty and appeal of Texas’ unique culture.

I raise no objections; I am, after all, Texas-bred and Texas-raised.  My mother always transforms into a humiliated 6th-grader whose pants have fallen down while in front of the class when I mention being Texas-bred.  “Ethan!  Those people don’t need to know where your father and I….well…where you were bred!  Some things are private, dontcha know.”  I defend myself by pointing out that I’ve never given out the address.

Back to our main story – irrational judgmentalism.

So what if Mr. Chifari has gone to such extremes that the National Tuning Fork Association signs him as their spokesman.  Provided the low-frequency vibrations from our protagonist’s skeletal frame avoid unsettling any tectonic plates, what does it matter if he elicits a response from a Geiger counter?  Are we his doctors, tasked with warning him that the 4,500 milligrams of caffeine in his glass exceed the Mayo Clinic’s daily recommended 400 milligram cap?

Who are we to judge that which is not truly wrong?

Paul takes us all to task on this very subject in Romans 14.  An apparent source of dissension had arisen among Christians, seemingly centered on rather mundane habits such as eating and drinking and celebrating certain holidays.  I say “apparent” because we have no solid evidence for why Paul chooses to address the matter; in the great human tradition, we’ll just assume our conclusions are correct.

Paul can get wordy, so here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

“In all matters that could conceivably be subject to debate, find a way to accept each other without using the fact of your disapproval as evidence of the other guy’s sin.  Pursue, eat, drink, believe, create what you will in all areas in which the authoritative commands of God are lacking.  Again, in all matters that can be disputed, accept one another’s choices as choices made for the glory of God, allowing Him to determine whether we’ve messed up.  After all, who are we to evaluate someone else’s servant?”

The key phrase in all of this is “…matters that can be disputed…”  In the US, everything can be discussed.  Freedom of speech and individual rights come together to breed a worldview that rejects absolutes.  As Dave recently penned, not all things have a rational, dissenting point of view.  There ARE absolutes.  However, once we get past those absolutes, the sky is the limit.

Use bongos in worship.  Follow a vegan diet.  Host a Bible study for unapologetic sinners.  Hire people who agree with your theology.  Hire people who don’t agree with your theology.  Use Toby Mac during worship.  Join a megachurch.  Be bivocational.  Profit from your books sales.  Don’t profit from your book sales.  Support the Affordable Care Act.  Oppose the Affordable Car Act.  Exercise a ton.  Don’t exercise at all.  Avoid problematic personalities.  Engage problematic personalities.  Create art that challenges theology.  Don’t create art at all.  Whatever.  Just understand: God determines the the morality of the choice, not you and certainly not me.

Unless we’re talking about coffee – coffee sweetened by anything at all is just gross.



  1. says

    One of the most profound, cogent, and perspicacious observations I have ever had the privelige to read. Yes. Coffee sweetend by anything at all IS just gross.

    I want to thank SBC Voices for bringing such wisdom to the fore, enlightening a nation, and making us all better people.

    Oh, and the rest of the article is pretty good too.

  2. Greg Harvey says

    I think the SBC would cease to exist…if we all agreed on how to prepare our coffee on Sunday morning. I amuse the local sbux with the request for a single Splenda and a single Sweet-n-Low in my (grande/medium) cappuccino. (Disclosure: my new startup is working on a new mobile payment approach and I have to test the system regularly…)

    I have to use artificial sweetener and adding it after the milk froth is in place is ineffective since the artificial aren’t heavy and won’t settle through the foam. The two mixed together are a decent combination of foretaste and aftertaste (to me at least). But I also learned to put cream in my tea from some of our missionaries in Hong Kong in the summer of ’73…I’m a unreformed and unredeemed “if-you-like-it-and-it-isn’t-illegal-then-stick-to-your-guns”-ist.

    The Pauline passage reverberates against several passages on eating meats sacrificed to idols. Taken together–especially with Peter’s vision if the descending sheet and the ceremonial legal dietary restrictions introduced by Moses as competing backdrops–and it is very difficult to discern exactly how this issue settled out even in the early church. I’ve known several missionary families that treated the dietary regulations as “wisdom” and followed the Law for “non-ceremonial, non-Legal”, presumably health reasons. My mom similarly was raised by a father that was grinding his own wheat in the 60s to avoid the evils of germ-less (and largely flavorless) white (wheat) flour. It is very difficult for her not to nit-pick others eating choices because of that (though she generally reserves that advice for those of us who love her the most…)

    We invent pseudo laws to make life “better” all the time and as a matter “improving” ourselves or others seek to “convince” others (and even sometimes ourselves) to follow them. Jesus condemns–and he isn’t playing footsie when he does it–the religious leaders for adding to the weight of the people (THE people that were “the” chosen to be the primary beneficiaries of his impending sacrifice) without even lifting a finger to help.

    Simply put: unless the Bible specifically addresses an issue, we’re better relying on science than on superstition or hucksterism to describe and constrain behavior. And I’ve run into scientists–like Nobel-winner Linus Pauling who led a campaign promoting ingestion of vitamin C to prevent the common cold–that outside of their fields of study are simply quacks.

    The Bible offers exceedingly little practical advice for day-to-day routines and even less explanation over which laws are ceremonial and which are practical and even less explanation on WHY. You would think that it’s emphasis on humility would lead us to great care in avoiding superstition as a combination of false worship and explicit idolatry. But instead we tend to–in an odd tribute to the nutty strings connecting psychotically-detected patterns in the movie about mathematician John Nash ironically called “A Beautiful Mind” (because of the math, not the psychosis and hallucination)–invent brilliant ideas for ourselves from whole cloth.

    We need better introspection on this as individuals and as a group. You might even think in prayer God would occasionally confront it…does he?

  3. John Fariss says

    I agree: sweetened coffee: UGH!

    The way my Granny fixed coffee was kind of unique. She started not with just any coffee, but with “Luzianne Coffee with Chickory.” She’d fill the strainer with that, and the pot with spring water, and set the percolator on a “hot spot” on the wood cook-stove, and it would perk and perk and perk, and smell so good. After a while, she would remove the pot, dump the grounds, refill the strainer with FRESH Luzianne, and perk through that! I was too little back then to drink coffee, but I remember that it looked so black in the cup, it actually had a greenish tint, and a spoon would just about stand up in it. We used to have her “silverware” (it disappeared in a move), just cheap dime store plated stuff you understand, and there was not a spoon but what the plating was gone from the business end.

    On a serious note, please pray for my wife, Nancy. She was admitted to the hospital yesterday with extremely high blood pressure and is undergoing tests. Thanks!


    • Christiane says

      I will pray for Nancy in the way of my faith. Sorry to hear she’s in hospital.

      • John Fariss says

        Thanks Christine.

        Frankly I was a little disappointed that none of the other regulars posted they were praying for her. Although the effectiveness of prayer is not dependent on that, it would have been an encouragement to me. Perhaps they were just busy or distracted, and prayed for her without posting the fact. At any rate, she is home (and back at work–she works for her doctor, and he expected her at the office the next day), and we are as blissfully ignorant of the cause as ever. Maybe we will find out something at her follow-up appointment.


  4. Ethan Moore says

    “I think the SBC would cease to exist…if we all agreed on how to prepare our coffee on Sunday morning.”

    And I think the SBC would cease to exist if we work to ensure absolute agreement among our members on every single, cotton-pickin’ issue. There is room for disagreement and conviction, as Paul makes abundantly clear over and over.

    • Greg Harvey says

      My not too subtle point is that there is a certain extent to which we wallow in our disagreement so we should be careful about wishing too much of it away…but I agree with your post and this follow-on insight.

  5. says

    I like the smell of coffee.
    I just don’t like the taste.
    I haven’t drank a cup of coffee since I was saved.

    But I make a pot of coffee every Sunday morning at the church I pastor.
    Oh, and I never drank a cup of coffee before I was saved.
    David R. Brumbelow

    • says

      I’m with you on the smell/taste of coffee. I never bothered to develop a taste for coffee, and when I occasionally look at the cost of the stuff, I decide it’s just as well I didn’t.

    • Christiane says


      should you ever have an opportunity, try a cup of Blue Mountain coffee, freshly ground and made. Don’t try the ‘blends’ where a little of it is mixed in with other coffee types.

      You can even drink it black and it is delicious coffee.

      So little is on the market that it is VERY hard to find. (I found it in Georgetown in Washington D.C. at the stores on Wisconsin Ave. where it comes down to join M Street)

      But, truly, I am a coffee drinker of old. On my honeymoon, we drank French coffee with pastries in Montreal, Canada and I was introduced to ‘dark’ roast there. At the time, you could hardly find it anywhere in the United States except for international areas like D.C.

      Now, we are all spoiled with different types of beans and roasts. We all have our own espresso makers at home, and coffee is not at all so special as it once was, no.

      Better not to get hooked on caffeine if you can avoid it. I couldn’t. Coffee got me through university and kept me awake to care for my babies at all hours.

  6. Dale Pugh says

    Maybe this should be our new battleground–coffee black? Coffee with creamer? Coffee with sugar? Type of creamer? Use of sweetener?

    Yes. I think this could replace the Calvinism debate.

    • Greg Harvey says

      In the category of “things that amuse me”: my sister and b-i-l both are Huskies and lived in Seattle after graduation until he completed his PhD (which means, yes, they’re both WAY smarter–and twenty years younger–than I am). I remember while we visited them once hearing a comment on how they “couldn’t stand Starbucks” and preferred an even-more-local coffee shop.

      So, as I noted, we “borrow” the sbux check out experience for some of our user experience testing. I won’t go into exactly how we accomplish that, but the short version is that I can on occasion hand out gifts to other people to test aspects of our system. I recently did that for my wife’s sister on her birthday and then when my own sister’s birthday rolled around just a few days later, I was conflicted: do I do the same for her? Or do I honor my personal knowledge of her tastes and just say HBD on FB and maybe call her, too.

      Instead of deciding…I punted…and asked her if it would be okay to send her a gift so she could help me test the system. Her response? “I love Starbucks!” Of course there is a bit of detail to add…they now live in North Carolina instead of Seattle. And apparently when circumstances change, so do your likes and dislikes. And hence why I now drink coffee with sweetener instead of sugar…my circumstances changed…

      • Dale Pugh says

        Yeah, the Northwest is known for both coffee and beer snobbery. It seems the more local, the better. I wouldn’t know about the beer of course, but in my experience with coffee, I would agree.

  7. Christiane says

    My son used to put milk and sugar in his coffee.
    Then he joined the Coast Guard. Now he drinks his coffee black.
    My husband is USN retired. He drinks it black.
    My father was USN retired. Black.
    My nephew is USN (flight surgeon). Black.
    My niece is a Navy nurse. Black.

    Must be something about the military that produces people who will only drink black coffee.

      • Christiane says

        Thank you for your service, JIM.
        The way I see it, if you were in the US Marine Corps, you can drink your coffee any way you want. And may you enjoy it for many years to come.

  8. says

    I daresay it’s not about coffee. The outworking of social conscience in the US is a practice in double standards. But it illustrates a tension between disparate ethical foundations in the normal course of social conversation in what we call the “marketplace of ideas”. For constitutional rights, it has some bearing on the freedom of speech and the free practice of religion.

    For Christians it has a direct impact on the proclamation of the gospel. One man’s irrational judgmentalism is another man’s objective sin. When what is held to be objective sin differs dramatically between individuals, charges of irrational judgmentalism are likely to ensue. When one of these is entailed in a false gospel, the true gospel is likely to be falsely maligned, for Christ came to save us from real sins, not mis-perceived sins.

  9. Jess says

    First, I would like to point out that only a true Baptist will drink his coffee black and strong, with a heaping tablespoon of black pepper in every pot. No other ingredients please!

    I think what some judge as sin, and what others judge as not being sin has started several wars, which continue today. I think as long as we are in this world, we-being the entire human race, we are going to disagree. We might as well get use to disagreement and learn to live with it.

    • says

      First line..I agree. I had a custodian in one church I pastored who made us “creek bank” coffee. Coffee and water boiled together and then strained through a cheese cloth. THAT was COFFEE.

  10. says

    I enjoyed the article, but most of the comments left me confused and wondering if I did in fact earn a Master’s degree. I think I’ll go get another coffee and forget about it.
    EXCEPT TO SAY… I’m getting my freebie $tarbux today and was already thinking about how much I could “soup it up”. Maybe a double chocolatey chip frap with an extra shot, in a gallon jug?

    Just fyi, my usual drink is a americano with NO SWEETENER!

  11. volfan007 says

    Maxwell House…breakfast blend….best coffee…..it’s in the Bible.


  12. Dave Miller says

    Ethan, this was an excellent post.
    Thank you for joining our little band of bloggers.