Is drinking alcohol wrong or not? For some of you the very fact that I asked that question is puzzling. Believe it or not there is actually a lot of discussion that goes on among Christians about whether or not it’s a sin for Christians to drink alcohol.
My intention with today’s post is not to stir up controversy, but to ask a few questions in regards to whether or not drinking alcohol is sinful and/or appropriate for Christians. I pray that this article causes you to think and, as always, your comments are welcome below whether they agree with what I present here or not (I’ll reply to as many comments as I can). Here are three questions Christians need to consider when it comes to drinking alcohol:
Can We Agree That Drunkenness is Condemned?
Christians may disagree on whether drinking alcohol is permitted or not, but one thing both sides should be able to agree on is the fact that drunkenness is sinful as the Bible explicitly condemns drunkenness quite a few times:
“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Rom. 13:13)
“Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:10)
“Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:21)
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18)
It’s important that we, when discussing differing views on Scripture, define our beliefs at the beginning of the discussion, and identify the beliefs that both sides share. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “drinking alcohol is not sinful” only for the other person to say that “he must be a drunk.” It’s important that we start where we all agree. The person who says “drinking is okay” is often not saying “drunkenness is okay”. Let’s remember that in our discussions our goal should not be to win the argument, but to find out what the truth is.
Is It Really the Wisest Thing to Do?
One popular talking point from those who are pro-alcohol is the benefits you can receive from drinking. That may be true of wine to a degree, but the benefits you receive from wine aren’t any different than what you can receive from eating the grapes themselves.
The potential health benefits aside, is drinking alcohol really the wisest thing to do? Scripture is clear that drunkenness is wrong; do you really want to toe that line? Do you really want to risk alcoholism, an addiction that far too many fall prey to? Furthermore, have you considered all of the health detriments that alcohol brings with it? Maybe wine is heart healthy, but what is it doing to your liver, your judgment, and ability to make decisions?
We’ve asked several questions in this last paragraph, but they all fall under the umbrella question of wisdom. Something may be permitted, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.
Have You Considered Your Fellow Christian’s Conscience?
Paul, in two different books, wrote about Christians and how they ought to exercise their rights. In both sections of this discussion, Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul focuses on whether or not Christians were allowed to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. To make a long study short, Paul says that the Christians have the right to eat it, but they ought to avoid it for the sake of their fellow Christians. In other words, if one brother who is a meat-eater invites his non-meat-eater Christian friend over, the meat-eater ought not to serve steak because doing so could lead the non-meat-eating brother to feel as if his brother is sinning. How does this apply to the drinking of alcohol? Let’s let Paul answer that:
“Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God…” (Rom. 14:20-22a)
Think drinking alcohol is okay? Unless asked, you ought to keep that to yourself. Why? One, because bringing up your approval of drinking could lead to your brother sinning (or thinking you’re in sin, or leaving the church, etc.) and two, because “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). It’s not always easy to be silent about our “rights” (especially as American Christians), but it is necessary in the church at times in order to achieve peace and the building up of the church (Rom. 14:19).
The next time you find yourself in the discussion over alcohol establish that no one is promoting drunkenness, and ask yourself whether drinking is wise and profitable for building up the church. I’ll close this article with the words of Paul in Romans 14:17-18. Let’s be sure that we don’t get so caught up in the eating and drinking that we stop being those that spread the righteousness, peace, and joy of God in the Holy Spirit.