Let’s face it—alcohol is back. No longer is alcohol demonized in Christian circles. We even find churches using beer as a gathering agent during Bible studies in local bars. Is that practice sacrilegious, going too far or taking hold of my liberty and tramping all over yours?
How much alcohol is too much and do we know our personal limits? Just where do we cross the line? Is getting a little drunk a little wrong or simply not a sin? The Bible, our source as believers, gives some very clear guidelines. I’d like to offer you a few more—if you’ll indulge me.
First, in taking a close look at God’s Word, it is absolutely wrong and sinful to be inebriated. Jesus Himself said, “Watch out! Don’t let me find you living in careless ease and drunkenness” (Luke 21:34).*
Apostle Paul warned believers not to participate in wild parties and get drunk (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21). Paul said drunkards would not share in the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:10). He told the Ephesian church—and therefore that includes you and me—not to be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 5:18). Peter stated in 1 Peter 4:3, “those who drink to drunkenness share in evil desires;” and such behavior is to be treated as a sin that we completely eliminate from our lives. He actually called those who participate in drunkenness “godless people.”
I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not want to find myself in eternity and discover that I have been involved in “godless” activity of any kind. I desire to live my life in a way that leads others to my Savior, an attractant, not a distraction from Christ. At this point, you might think that I am against any alcohol consumption by a believer. I am not. That is between you and our heavenly Father. So, the first question is to ask Him: “Father, is it okay with You that I consume alcoholic beverages?” It is important to know God’s will for you. Just because you are of legal age to drink does not mean that you have the liberty to partake. Has your heavenly Father given you permission or do you have some form of conviction in your heart that you are dismissing?
While I was in the military some decades ago, I observed a lot of alcoholism and other addictions. The military taught that alcohol is a drug—the most frequently abused drug in the world. In graduate school, I heard many drug and alcohol counselors say that alcoholism started with one drink, just like drug addiction starts with one joint or pill. Does everyone become addicted? No. Does everyone have the potential of addiction? Yes.
The second question to ask yourself might be, “Does alcoholism exist in my family history?” If it does, the potential of addiction is even greater. Why? That spirit of addiction is already introduced to your family line and may have been part of it for generations. Carefully look at your family history. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to break off any generational spirit of addiction in the name of Jesus.
Third, who are you hanging out with? Are they encouraging you to drink and/or to drink too much? Did you know that Proverbs 23:19-21 admonishes, “My child, listen and be wise. Keep your heart on the right course. Do not carouse with drunkards and gluttons, for they are on their way to poverty.”
Speaking of poverty, how much money does it take to drink alcohol and can you actually afford it? Does the expense of alcohol limit your ability to purchase necessary items? Listen to Proverbs 21:17, “Those who love pleasure become poor; wine and luxury are not the way to riches.” Drinking too much can be a road to poverty, loss and brokenness.
Fourth, are you hurting a weaker brother or sister in the faith? If someone has recently become a Christian and their background was drinking to the point of drunkenness, then part of their freedom might require them to never drink again. Your freedom to drink might offend them; or worse, encourage them to drink again and bring destructive forces back into their lives. Apostle Paul said he would abstain from eating meat and drinking wine if eating or drinking would offend a weaker brother. “Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything if it makes another person stumble” (Romans 14:21).
On occasion I have heard Christians boasting about their liberty to drink, freely admit that they drink too much at times but feel no conviction about it. For those who feel this way, please consider the wisdom of Isaiah 5:22, “Destruction is certain for those who are heroes when it comes to drinking, who boast about all the liquor they can hold.” Do not be led astray by these persons because, “Wine produces mockers, liquor leads to brawls. Whoever is led astray by drink cannot be wise” (Proverbs 20:1).
Someone told me that drinking alcohol or offering it to minors is no different than introducing them to coffee or being addicted to caffeine. I have never observed inebriation among coffee drinkers. Can we be addicted to caffeine? Yes. Is it comparable to alcohol addiction and what the Bible forbids in drunkenness? That, to me, is quite a stretch.
On almost every occasion that the subject of alcohol comes up for discussion, someone quickly retorts, “But didn’t Jesus Himself turn water into wine? Wasn’t He by His action an advocate of drinking?”
It’s true, Jesus turned water into wine. Focusing on the subject of the miracle rather than the miracle itself is less about why the story is in the Bible. However, take it a step further will you? Do you believe that Jesus turned the water into wine so that the attendees of the wedding could become drunk and unable to find their way home, commit adultery with another man’s wife, speak crudely or end up regurgitating all over the wedding feast?
We also know Paul told Timothy to have some wine for his stomach’s sake. Are you sick every Saturday night and does your stomach need a little wine? To be fair there is, however, a Proverb that actually encourages a drink for those who are “dying” and those who are in “deep depression” or anguish (Proverbs 31:6).
Here are a few more questions to ask yourself as you personally think about alcohol consumption:
- Has alcohol ever caused you any problems in life such as a DUI, being late for work, a broken relationship, an unclear mind, slower reaction time or influenced you in some way to make a wrong decision?
- Do you feel the need to defend your actions concerning alcohol?
- Do you know how much drinking is too much?
- Have you set a consumption limit for yourself? Have you ever gone over the limit? If so, what have you now changed as a result?
- Can you afford alcohol?
- Do you turn to alcohol when you are stressed, worried or can’t sleep rather than turning to God?
- Is alcohol an answer for anything in your life?
- Does drinking alcohol (in your mind) help you to fit in, be more social, make you feel older, help you to be less inhibited or more popular?
- Do you feel that you need to drink alcohol to relax?
- Is alcohol an excuse in your life for anything?
- Are you developing a tolerance to alcohol?
- Does alcohol need to be a part of all of your social occasions? Can you say “no” to a drink when you are with friends and not sense any judgment from them about your choice?
- How do you relate to/judge peers who have chosen not to drink alcohol?
What if your friend is at your home, your birthday party or your wedding reception and in celebration they drink too much, as you know they have a tendency to do at times. Your friend then hops into their vehicle to drive home. Due to too much alcohol, they have an accident and are killed or kill someone else. Can you control other people’s actions or decisions? Not really, but how responsible might you feel? We can supply an environment to either help or hinder them.
Consider the following if you choose to drink alcohol:
- Set a limit on the number of drinks for yourself. Know your personal tolerance.
- Set a limit on the frequency of times for partaking.
- If you are driving or attending an event where alcohol is being served, consider not drinking.
- If you have friends who drink too much and then get behind the wheel, never ride with them.
- If you know that you have had too much alcohol and have become giddy or drunk, ask yourself if this is the person of Christ who you desire to represent.
Romans 12:1 clearly discusses how we are to use the body God has given us. We are told to offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice” that is “holy” and “pleasing to the Lord, as an act of worship.” It is amazing to realize that how we treat our bodies, abuse our bodies or care for our bodies can either bring glory to God or be harmful to ourselves and to the cause of Christ. To offer ourselves as a living sacrifice is to worship God. In all environments and in all of our actions, we should desire to bring glory to our Savior.
Finally, consider Paul the Apostle’s advice that he gave to us as a very clear outline for our life and how to live it, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
*All scriptures taken from the New Living Translation, 1996, Tyndale Charitable Trust