Growing up in the church, I have heard many differing opinions on the topic of alcohol. Some argue that the Bible condemns drinking alcohol of any kind. I even had a professor in college who argued that Jesus turned water into grape juice, not wine. Most would agree that the Bible condemns drunkenness, but many teach that drinking in moderation is not a sin. Some would even go as far as to say that drinking is often celebrated in Scripture. So what does the Bible really have to say about alcohol?
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5 Biblical Truths Regarding Alcohol:
- Getting “drunk” is a sin. (Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) Drunkenness, or the overindulgence of alcohol, is always seen as a sin in the Bible. In fact, the overindulgence of anything food or drink related is often seen as a sin. (Drunkenness and gluttony are often paired together in the same passages.)
- Alcohol is seen as a “foolish” and “deceptive” drink. (Proverbs 20:1) Drinking in moderation is never openly defined as a sin in the Bible, but God’s Word does warn us about how deceptive alcohol can be.
Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?” – Proverbs 23:29-35 (NLT)
- Drinking alcohol can often lead us to other sins. (1 Peter 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8) The New Testament tells believers to be sober-minded and alert. And while I don’t believe Paul was specifically talking about alcohol in these passages, the principle still applies. It’s simple really. When you are sober, you think more clearly and are more likely to make smart decisions. Alcohol can cause us to say and do things we wouldn’t normally do. We lose a little bit of our self-control, which can lead us to sin if we aren’t careful.
- We are to avoid alcohol altogether if we are going to cause another believer to stumble in their faith. (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8:9) If I had a friend over for dinner who was once an alcoholic, what kind of person would I be to bring out a bottle of wine? We also need to be careful to avoid alcohol around other believers who feel it is wrong to drink altogether. Many Christians feel this way, and the Bible teaches us to honor and respect their view of alcohol by not drinking around them.
- Never allow alcohol to destroy your Christian witness. (1 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Peter 4:3-6) We are known by the company we keep. Jesus was known for spending time with sinners, but He never took part in their sin. If you spend all your time drinking and partying, you will be known for your drinking and partying. The world is watching. We never want the light of Christ to be clouded by the darkness of this world. If we choose to act like the world by partying and getting drunk, then how are they supposed to see the light of Christ in us?
The Bible does have some positive things to say about alcohol as well:
Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. – Ecclesiastes 9:7
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart. – Psalm 104:14-15
Alcohol is often seen as a celebratory drink in the Bible. In the Law of Moses, God actually told the Israelites to purchase food and “alcoholic drink” with their tithe money so that they could celebrate their plentiful harvest in His presence. (Deuteronomy 14:24-26) Alcohol was also regularly seen in wedding feasts. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding celebration. It’s when alcohol is consumed in excess or causes us to sin (or others to sin), that it becomes a problem.
Drinking in moderation may seem like a simple solution to avoiding the sin of drunkenness, but what exactly does drinking in moderation look like? Is it once or twice a week? A glass of wine with dinner? Drinking only on special occasions? This is where it gets tough. Moderation is impossible to define, and it is different for everyone.
I have many Christian friends and family members who drink, and I do not believe that the Bible condemns moderate drinking as a sin. In the end, alcohol is a very personal issue – one that is between you and God. As seen in the scriptures, alcohol can be a “merry” drink of celebration for us to enjoy, but it can also lead to destruction if we’re not careful. As deceptive as alcohol can be, it may be wise to avoid it altogether.
After reading through all of your amazing comments, I decided to write two follow-up posts to this article to address some of the thoughts and concerns presented. Be sure to check them out below!
- Wine or Grape Juice? What Does History Teach Us About Wine in the Bible?
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.