Should Christians Drink Alcohol?
Should Christians consume alcohol or should they abstain from it? This is a question that is often asked in evangelical circles. One view is that drinking alcohol is ok because the Bible speaks about drunkenness being wrong, but not having a drink. The other view is drinking alcohol at any time is sinful. Believers with this view say the Bible speaks against more than drunkenness, and that believers should abstain from alcohol. Christian liberty is often cited as the reason some Christians feel it is ok to drink alcohol on occasion. Christian liberty can mean that Christians are free to do things that are not expressly forbidden in the Bible. Most of the debates of Christian liberty revolve around social “dos” and “don’ts” like social drinking, getting tattoos, smoking, etc. Wayne Grudem says “The Bible clearly forbids drunkenness and contains frequent warnings against the dangers of alcohol, but other passages view the moderate use of alcohol more positively.” So which view is correct?
Recently in in an article I read, Brett McCracken said, “Christians have had a decidedly love/hate relationship with alcohol. The infamous “drink” has been regarded by Christians at various times with awe, horror, religious devotion, fear, obsession, prohibition, addiction, and temperance. It has been one of the most divisive issues within modern American evangelicalism, creating rifts within churches, within families, within Christian institutions. Mark Noll has noted,
Some evangelicals have made opinions on liquor more important for fellowship and cooperation than attitudes toward the person of Christ or the nature of salvation. This is particularly unfortunate since the Bible speaks clearly about Christ and salvation, but not about the question of total abstinence”
The secular world views drinking as a fun time to socialize with friends, to take the edge off, and to just “let your hair down”. Alcohol is advertised to people regularly and the people drinking it in commercials, movies, or other forms of advertisement always seem to be having a great time. Only the positive is ever shown when it comes to alcohol. What a person will not see are the dangers associated with alcohol. But because it is “legal”, nobody thinks there is anything wrong with it.
The world believes that as long as you are not getting extremely drunk, then it is ok to drink alcohol. The only problem is, what does the world actually view as being “drunk”? I recently asked students what they thought of when they heard the word drunk. The answers I received were: “passed out on a sidewalk”, ‘throwing up”, “falling down”, and “beating spouse or being violent”. So, in short, the world’s view of drunkenness is really when you just get out of control. But, according to the law, being drunk is considered a .08 blood alcohol level. That amounts to a few drinks. A person will likely not feel out of control and will not exhibit some of the behavior the students describe as “drunk”. You may be thinking this is just a small sample size of students but I hear the same thing from people of different walks of life and different ages. As broken human beings, we tend to think everything is ok in moderation. As with most other things, the world’s view is as long as a person does not go to the extreme, most things are ok.
In America, there was once an extreme divide in the way the world viewed alcohol versus how the church viewed it. That no longer seems to be the case. Lisa Anderson, from focus on the family says, “Lately, I’ve seen a lot of Christians get super pumped about alcohol. I’m hearing more people talk about it, and I’m seeing more people drink it more often and in greater amounts. It’s not that alcohol is in their lives, it’s that it’s become more central to their lives; it’s a focus of many of the things they do.” Lisa cited as examples, Christian moms getting together to have wine while the kids play, church events advertising pub crawls, beer and wine tastings, and Bible studies with brew, and a much greater presence and focus on alcohol at Christian gatherings.
Regardless of what the world thinks about drinking, as Christians, we are to go to the Bible for our instruction on how to live our lives. The Bible has everything we need to know to live this life on earth. In the area of drinking, it may not be as direct as we would like, but the Bible still has quite a bit to say about it. Some people may be surprised to find that the Bible does not forbid drinking. But it also does not give detailed instructions about drinking. So, what we are left with is a gray area on the matter.
Scripture may not condemn drinking but there is no debate about drunkenness. The Bible forbids drunkenness. Most Christians clearly understand that it is wrong to be drunk. So, then the question becomes, how much can a person drink without crossing the line of drunkenness. Well, that is where the danger comes in. The Bible has some pretty strong things to say about the dangers of drinking:
Proverbs 20:1, (29-33):
“Wine is a mocker, string drink is a brawler, and whoever is lead astray by it is not wise.
- Strong drink disrupts to brain and all those around whoever drinks it. V. 29-33: Sorrow is brought along from strong drinks and wine deceives.
- “By not using alcoholic beverages, my wife and I have not been tempted to get drunk; we’ve also been examples to believers who might stumble if we did drink. These two blessings are worth more to us than whatever pleasure there may be in drinking alcoholic beverages.” (Warren Wiersbe)
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
- This section of the letter to the Church in Ephesus is discussing “Walking in Love.”
- All forms of intoxication are seen as prohibited throughout the Scriptures.
1 Peter 1:13-14:
“So, think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the World. So, you must live as God’s obedient children. Do not slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You did not know any better then.”
“It is good not to… drink wine or anything that causes your brother to stumble.”
These are just a few passages on the dangers of alcohol. But the one that really answers the question of should a Christian consume alcohol or not, is 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. Paul starts out in verse 23 saying, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up.” He is telling these believers at the church of Corinth that just because the Bible does not forbid something does not necessarily mean that it is good for them to do. There are certain dangers that come along with alcohol. Alcohol is addictive and it is a mind-altering drug that causes people to lose control and make poor decision. Those are only two of the top dangers, there are many more.
People often do not like to acknowledge these dangers because they simply think they have control of things or it will not happen to them. But the scary fact is, it can easily happen to anyone. When I took a drink around the age of 15 I knew then, that I loved it. I went on to struggle with alcohol abuse for close to 15 years of my life before the Lord saved me. I would have never imagined, that what I thought was just a fun night, would turn into 15 years wasted, and almost destroy my life. The dangers are very real and it can take control of even the strongest person.
Then Paul moves on to verse 24 and says, “No one is to seek his own good, but the good of the other person.” He gives a simple rule of thumb to help in making decisions—we should be sensitive and gracious to others. While some things may not be wrong, they may not be in the best interest of others. We should not exercise our right to do something if it will potentially cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble.
The chapter closes with verses 31-33, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jew or Gentiles or the church of God, just as I also try to please everyone in everything, not seeking my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.” As Christians, our motives must be centered on God’s love. And that love will drive us to do everything for His glory, not our own pleasure, but His glory. We must ask ourselves in every action, “Is this glorifying God” or “How can I honor God through this action.” Paul was concerned with bringing glory to God and doing what was best for those around him. All Christians should have that same mindset.
Ephesians 5:17 says "Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” John Piper says “The mature believer does not ask: How many enjoyable things can I do and still not transgress God's will? But rather: Is there anything at all that I can do or stop doing which will refine my ability to recognize and do the will of God. In general, drinking alcoholic beverages does not increase one's sensitivity to the will of God.” These are wise words for all Christians to ponder.
We know from everything that is going on in our world that Covid-19 is dangerous. If I ask you would you invite someone in your house that knowingly had Covid-19 and had symptoms, what would your answer be? Would you put your family at risk? Your answer would likely be No! I have seen the way people have reacted to this dangerous virus. You most certainly would not put your family in danger. It is serious, and you wouldn’t want to take the risk knowing what Covid-19 has caused. So, my question is, why would you put your life, your family, and those you influence at risk by consuming alcohol. The Bible speaks of the dangers of alcohol, what it can do to families, the addictive nature of, and still some are willing to risk it all in the name of Christian liberty. Let me remind you while the Bible most certainly does not say that you cannot have a drink, it definitely reminds us over and over that it is dangerous and not wise. If we are willing to pay attention to so called “health experts” when it comes to this virus, why do we have such a hard time listening to God’s inspired Word when it comes to alcohol?
We each battle pride and selfishness daily. Those are two things that will rear their ugly heads as long as we live on this earth. We love to think that we know best. If we want something we think it is our God given right to enjoy it as long as God’s Word does not forbid it. Galatians 5:13 say, “For you brethren, have been called to liberty; but do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another”. In everything we do we are to bring glory to God. Consider what Christ would have you do, put others before yourself, and do everything out of love.