Many have questions whether Christians should or should not drink alcohol. This issue has caused division among church denominations and misconceptions and judgment between Christians. We try to give you a clear picture of both biblical and Christian perspectives on the topic, tackling the question: Is drinking alcohol Right or Wrong?
DRINKING OPENS UP THE GREATER POSSIBILITY OF SIN, SUCH AS IDOLATRY
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. – 1 Corinthians 10:6-8 (NIV)
“As a Christian I think that there is nothing morally wrong with consuming some alcohol, even on a daily basis. If alcohol becomes an idol however, takes you away from God, or leads you into sin, then you must cut it off and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for the sin you fell into,” says Matthew Bivens, art educator in Granada Hills, CA. It is possible for alcohol to become an idol or a bad habit, something you reach for instinctively, a crutch for escape—becoming an addiction. Especially if you have a family history of falling into that specific sin over generations, it’s important to keep an eye on all habits, including drinking alcohol and making sure they don’t become your idol before God.
JESUS DRANK WINE
(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
“To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“ ‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” – Luke 7:29-35 (NIV)
Jesus defied all logic, broke all barriers and pulverized stereotypes. Scholars and “religious” leaders of the day were all about abstinence and doing things written in their “law” down to the letter, often forgetting God’s intent behind the law in the first place. Jesus came to change all that, allowing for grace and inclusion of imperfect people into His kingdom and into His life. The religious leaders were resistant, first to John the Baptist, not believing a word he said (which was foretelling about Jesus’ coming and his identity as God’s Son and the Son of Man). In this scripture, it seems the religious leaders balk at Jesus being an apparent wine drinker and eater of whatever he wanted, rather than following their set of strict guidelines.
DRINKING CHEMICALLY CHANGES YOUR THINKING, PERCEPTION & JUDGMENT
The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I lay with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went and lay with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. – Genesis 19:34-35
Drinking, even if not to the point of drunkenness, can impair judgment, cloud thinking, and affect decisions. Does that leave us in a good place to be a Christian example? An argument for abstaining from alcohol may be that to chemically alter the state of one’s body could increase our chance of saying something we regret or being an ineffective witness for Christ in certain situations. “It makes me wonder,” says Crystal Lassegard, an actuary in Cypress, CA, “If I’m OK with alcohol and even caffeine, even though they can chemically change your thinking or perception, then I wonder if that would extend to something ‘natural’ like marijuana or tobacco being OK along that same line of thinking. I don’t think God wants us to smoke or use marijuana, but then shouldn’t that extend to alcohol and caffeine also?”
HEALTH BENEFITS IN MODERATION & HEALTH DETRIMENTS FROM EXCESS
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. – 1 Timothy 5:23 (NIV)
Paul recommends that Timothy add a little wine to his diet to improve his health. Wine and beer carry with them many additional health benefits. Besides reducing stress, they carry antioxidants that fight disease, especially cardiovascular disease. When eaten with a meal, they help slow down your pace as you sip and can aid in digestion. Of course this only works when drinking in moderation. Drinking too much can have the reverse effect, such as weight gain from high caloric intake and liver damage.
DRINKING CAN LEAD TO THE SIN OF DRUNKENNESS
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV).
When someone is an excessive drinker, they can become inebriated. God clearly does not condone drunkenness and the slew of issues that piggyback on it. “There is a distinction between drunkenness and having a drink. In drunkenness there is a loss of control and you open wide the door that leads on a path to sin [going against God]. Others may say that just one drink can open that door,” Matthew says. This makes it important to evaluate yourself, your tolerance and your behavior.
SOCIAL OCCASIONS & CELEBRATIONS
Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields’ produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. – Deuteronomy 14:22-27 (NIV)
In this scripture God encourages the consuming of alcoholic beverages as an expression of blessing, celebration and gratefulness. Wine and beer are most often used during celebrations like weddings, sports victories, graduations and other achievements. Taking time to worship is a big deal to God and in this passage it sounds like we can worship Him with alcohol if we choose to.
DRINKING FOR THE WRONG REASONS
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! – Psalm 103:1-5 (NLT)
Peer pressure or drowning pain should be the least reason for drinking. It’s impossible to fill any need without God. “I think it’s fine for people to drink socially, but they shouldn’t be drinking just because everyone else at the social event is, or to ‘let loose.’ They should still be in control of themselves,” says Crystal. “It is true that many drown their sorrows in alcohol, but that is not the way a Christian should [live],” says Matthew, “But instead [they should] dive into the [Bible], seek God, fellowship and worship.”
JESUS’ FIRST MIRACLE: TURNING WATER INTO WINE
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.”
“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time 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.”
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. – John 2:1-11 (NIV)
Today when visiting friends for a dinner party or going to a housewarming event, wine is often given as a gift, a gesture of worth and friendship, much like bringing beer to a Superbowl party. In Jesus’ time, the abundance of wine was a symbol of hospitality and a warm receiving. At a wedding especially, serving wine communicated that this was a special event and you would share your best with the party you were entertaining, such as using your best china or silverware today. In those days, wine was also more sanitary than water, having gone through the fermentation process, and discarding a lot of the bacteria and organisms that might have been present in the local water. This made wine a more proper drink to serve guests. Since Jesus turned water into wine, rather than wine into water, it stands to reason that he wasn’t appalled by the act of drinking alcohol.
IN PROVERBS IT SAYS NOT TO DRINK ALCOHOL
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!
In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange sights
and your mind imagine confusing things.
You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.
“They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up
so I can find another drink?” –Proverbs 23:29-35 (NIV)
This passage is often quoted as a argument against drinking. It seems clear that this passage is not referring to your average occasional drink, but rather a drunken stupor—alcohol as an obsession. It appears from this scripture that in fact it’s not the use of alcohol, but the misuse of alcohol that God really condemns. Drunkenness is the real sin of drinking.
A CHRISTIAN BEGINNING IN BREWING: MONKS PERFECT BEER-MAKING
May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. – Genesis 27:28
God’s followers have been making wine for centuries. Jesus speaks favorably of vineyards and often uses the behavior of the grape vine to communicate his points in his parables, like the following:
He then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.” – Mark 12:1-2
Perhaps that’s why Christian monks turned God’s abundance of new wine into a new alcohol entirely, made from hops and barley, among other things. According to Beermasters.com, “In the early Christian era, monks perfected the brewing of beer, offering the beverage as an aspect of service for the hotels they ran for pilgrims and other travelers.” These monks continued that hospitality aspect of offering alcohol to guests that Jesus modeled in his first recorded miracle. “At a church event we went and toured a brewery, finding out that most of the innovations in brewing were made by Christian monks. Trappist Ales are actually made only by monks, are very potent, and fund good ministries bringing the good news of the salvation offered by Jesus,” says Matthew.
Crystal adds, “I don’t think alcohol is inherently right or wrong, just like money isn’t inherently good or bad. How people let alcohol affect them is what can make it a problem. If it becomes their master or their desire, then they shouldn’t be partaking in it.” Moderation is key. It’s the sin, not the substance that God is really against.
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