Should Christians drink alcohol? Different denominations of Christianity take a variety of views on this topic, but what does the Bible actually say about it?
Firstly, a point that comes up frequently within this discussion is the fact that the Bible often talks about drinking alcohol – and Jesus even turned water into wine!
“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”1 Timothy 5:23
“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.”Ecclesiastes 9:7
“and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. “They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.”Amos 9:14
I think this is an important point to start on, because it shows us that to drink alcohol is, as an individual act, not a sin. Naturally, there is some historic context to consider here, as the water mentioned wasn’t lovely clean water from a tap, but would actually have been much less hygienic that drinking wine. But it does suggest that to drink alcohol is not always bad, and that there are certain contexts where to drink alcohol is perfectly fine.
However, I don’t believe that just because to drink alcohol is not a sin, that this whole discussion is over. The Bible has more to say:
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,”Ephesians 5:18
“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”Proverbs 20:1
“It is not for kings, Lemuel— it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.”Proverbs 31:4-5
These verses begin to explore the consequences of drinking alcohol: drunkenness, debauchery, violence, poor decision-making, forgetfulness, being led astray. And here we begin to uncover a deeper layer to this conversation. If we drink alcohol, will it lead us towards sin? I think it’s reasonably easy to see, even just looking at social media or our own friends, that alcohol frequently results in violence, rude speech, unkindness and foolish decisions. Alcohol, being a drug, affects our mental state and can dramatically alter our personalities and the way we act.
“So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”1 Corinthians 10:31-33
The Bible tells us that in everything we do, we should be doing it for the glory of God. Will drinking alcohol, especially in significant amounts, make us more or less likely to be bringing glory to God?
Furthermore, the effects of alcohol can also have a greater impact than simply the time during which we are drinking. Will drinking in an evening lead to a hangover that hinders our ability to serve God the next day? Is that bringing glory to God?
“They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”2 Peter 2:19
Alcohol is extremely addictive, and can easily become something that rules over us, guiding us and being our focus point. This is a position that should only be filled by God himself. We do not want to become slaves to alcohol.
So, should Christians drink alcohol?
From what I have explored in scripture, I believe that the Bible does not forbid us from choosing to drink alcohol. However, I do believe we are called to refrain from drunkenness and addiction, so we must consider both the context, the amount we drink, and when we choose to drink. When drinking alcohol leads us to sin, or prevents us from bringing glory to God, whether in word, thoughts or actions; then we are called to stand against this temptation and turn away.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”1 Corinthians 10:23-24
Dear God, we pray for everyone who struggles with alcohol addiction and drunkenness. Guide them to turn away and seek help. Protect them from temptation and support them as they work to overcome this temptation in their lives. Give each of us wisdom as we choose whether or not to drink alcohol. Speak to us and show us your will for us in this area of our lives. Help us to be obedient to your direction. Amen.