What Does the Bible Say About Alcohol?
- Christy Shipe Ask the Expert for Girls
- 2001 28 Nov
Q. I have always been taught that drinking was spoken against in the Bible and that it was wrong. Recently, I've been talking to a Christian friend who told me that it was actually okay to drink alcohol according to the Bible. Can you help me sort out these conflicting values?
A. There’s a very simple answer to this question when it comes to teens drinking: It’s against the law. Alcohol is absolutely off-limits until you’re 21.
God commands us to obey laws like these when He says, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." (Romans 13:1) If you disobey the law, then you’re also disobeying God.
But what about after you turn 21? Is it okay for a Christian to drink then? Although there are some situations in which the Bible forbids alcohol, it never says that alcohol is always wrong. Since the Bible doesn’t absolutely forbid alcohol, whether or not you should drink as an adult becomes a personal decision you have to make for yourself.
Although I cannot make that decision for you, I can share with you what the Bible does say about alcohol:
The Bible allows Christians to drink alcohol for medical reasons. Paul told Timothy, "Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illness." (1 Timothy 5:23)
The Bible sometimes portrays alcohol as something good and enjoyable. Jesus’ first miracle involved turning water into wine for a wedding celebration. (John 2:3-11) Psalm 104 says, "He makes grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth; wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart." (v. 14-15)
The Bible forbids drunkenness. Although the Bible never says that alcohol itself is sinful, it does say many times that drunkenness is a sin. God says, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:6) In fact, there are many verses in the Bible which speak out against drunkenness. (For a few examples, see Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3.)
The Bible forbids drinking if it offends fellow believers. God explains in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 that we should be considerate of other Christians who have different convictions than we do. Some Christians believe that alcohol is always sinful. And their convictions should be respected. God says, "If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit...Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification....It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall." (Romans 14:15-21) That verse says it loud and clear: Don’t drink alcohol if it will offend a brother or sister in Christ.
The Bible forbids drinking if it hinders the gospel. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 9 that even though he was allowed to eat and drink anything he wanted, he was very careful not to do things that would hinder the gospel of Christ. He said, "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many a possible. "I became all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
If I was trying to witness to someone who thought it was bad for Christians to drink, there’s no way I would drink alcohol in front of that person!
The Bible warns that drinking is often dangerous and unwise. The Bible contains lots of warnings about how tempting and dangerous it is to get involved with alcohol. A wise mother told her son, "It is not for kings, O Lemuel - not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights." (Proverbs 31:4-5) And Solomon, one of the wisest men who’ve ever lived, said, "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." (Proverbs 23:31)
These Bible passages suggest that it is often wise to totally stay away from alcohol since it can be a difficult thing to control. Alcohol can easily seduce you, and before you know it, it controls you. How many girls have had a few drinks and then ended up in bed with a strange man? How many adults have had a few drinks and then ended up in a serious car accident?
These situations are all too common. God is looking out for you when He warns you about the dangers of alcohol and drunkenness. Getting drunk causes you to lose control of yourself and do things - dangerous things - that you wouldn’t do if you were sober.
I think it is possible to live a godly life and enjoy a small amount of alcohol. But the person who chooses not to drink at all also lives a godly life, as long as he does it without condemning those who do.
Bravo to those of you who take some time to seek God’s will about drinking and prepare yourselves for the future.