To Drink or Not to Drink

four draft beers

We’ve covered all sorts of topics here, from the general site motif of sexuality to the entertainment value of foam weaponry. Christian life is far from boring, and Christian marriage is even further, despite how wound up some sticks-in-the-mud are. If they enjoy that lifestyle, more power to them. For me, I’m all for enjoying the things God has given me, including my children, my job, my friends, my church, and every square inch of the undefiled marriage bed.

Given our broad range of topics, it was inevitable that we’d come to this topic. What about alcohol? Is wine divine? Is beer to fear? Can I drink whisky when I’m frisky and sip rum ’til I’m dumb? Is alcohol an abhorrent sin as often described or a gift from God to be prescribed? What can we find in Scripture on drinking alcohol?

The body of Christ is all over the place on this one. Some denominations violently denounce the consumption of any alcohol whatsoever while others refuse to consider the Eucharist to be valid without authentic wine to be consumed and therefore serve it in the sanctuary itself. Each feels biblically supported in their opinions, and everyone in the middle is left wondering what the truth is.

Forbidden: Drunkenness

Let’s start out with what’s certain. The bible very clearly forbids drunkenness.

Paul’s letters are rife with warnings against this habitual addiction. He ties it to orgies in Romans 13:13, calls it an obvious act of sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, mentions that drunkards won’t inherit the kingdom in 1 Corinthians 6:10, and warns believers to distance themselves from habitually drunken “brothers”.

Jesus warns that drunkenness can weigh us down (we all know alcohol is a depressant, right?) and calls it a trap. Clearly, a lifestyle oriented around the consumption of alcohol is spiritually dangerous.

Accepted: Drinking

However, the Bible repeatedly and reliably depicts the presence and consumption of alcohol in daily life.

Despite the occasional misguided attempts to claim otherwise, the wine used at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:27-29) was not likely of a virgin variety. Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to drink a little wine instead of just water (1 Timothy 1:23) shows recognition for its medicinal value. The option to include wine as a drink offering (Numbers 15:10) shows it can even be sacred.

If a sinless Christ drank, a pastor of pastors who teaches against drunkenness encourages a young apprentice to drink, and it’s even used in sacred rituals from both the Old and New Testaments, it’s unreasonable to claim it’s universally sinful to use or drink alcohol.

The truth is that alcohol permeated the biblical culture despite the risks of drunkenness. Wine was safer to store than water. It was used in everything from feasts to weddings. Remember Christ’s first miracle? That’s wasn’t grape Kool-Aid He made.

Wisdom in Application

The Word offers a great deal of wisdom on the topic of moderation, though. The Law indicates priests weren’t permitted to drink when on duty (Leviticus 10:9), leaving a reasonable assumption they were permitted to drink when off-duty. The same book of Proverbs which tells us that wine makes mockers and beer makes brawlers and those that are led by either are led astray (Proverbs 20:1) offers practical situational advice, too: kings shouldn’t drink because it could negatively affect the performance of their responsibilities while the perishing poor should be permitted to use alcohol to soften the burdens of lack. Naturally, this isn’t cause to go buy that homeless guy down the street a bottle of Jack; the prohibition against drunkenness still stands and only self-discipline stands between vaccine and vice.

Furthermore, Paul teaches we must consider our audience (much as in the way we dress) if and when we decide to drink. He tells us drinking wine or eating meat is all kosher to mature believers, but we should be aware of what we show to fellow believers (1 Corinthians 10).

So, if we invite one couple of friends over for dinner, we might serve some wine and I might have a beer or two with my buddy. Yet when we invite over other friends — former alcoholics — it’s a perfectly dry meal. We won’t pretend we don’t drink using any deception, but we won’t do it in front of them out of consideration for their walks.

So, yes; I’m in favor of drinking under a few conditions.

  1. It never rules over me, and I give others veto rights in case I lose objectivity.
  2. I’m not spending intimate time with a new believer or a former addict.
  3. Someone is a responsible party if necessary (one sober driver, parent, etc.)
  4. I’m not going to alcohol for something I should be getting from God; I’m not comfortable using it as a frequent source of comfort.
    So, we drink at times. Not a lot, even over time, but a little lowered inhibition can be great for overcoming self-consciousness, whether in social situations or even the undefiled marriage bed.

Originally posted 2015-02-20 08:00:04.

About Phil (251 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.