What? You think it’s unfair to start an article about drinking by asking the question, “What is the best way to honor God?” OK then I’ll lead with 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Do you want to know what the Bible has to say about drinking alcohol? Well, you probably know that alcohol’s been around since, like, forever, and that the people of the Bible drank it. But you want to know what the Bible has to say about it. Here we go.

Drinking is never labeled as a sin in Scripture. Drunkenness is. But the Bible also talks about the dangers of drinking, even if it doesn’t involve drunkenness, and I think it’s fair to say we’d all agree with that assessment: Alcohol is not a neutral beverage. Again, let’s look at Scripture, since the Bible is what Christians look to for their authority.

John, chapter 2, verses 1-11. Jesus’ first miracle was changing water into wine. The story, of course, is a festival of symbolism in every corner, but that’s beside the point to the poignancy of our topic of alcohol. I’m not here to do a treatise on the text but to diagnose the teaching about drinking. Certainly the wine here was alcoholic. The wine common at events like this was most likely watered down 2-3 parts water to 1 part wine. That drunkenness is part of this wedding reception is unlikely.

A.T. Robertson, uber-smart guy who knows a lot, makes this comment: “Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus mingled in the social life of the time, and was even abused for it (Matt. 11.19 = Lk. 7.34). But this fact does not mean that today Jesus would approve of the modern liquor trade with its damnable influences. The law of love expounded by Paul in 1 Cor. 8 to 10 and in romans 14 and 15 teaches modern Christians to be willing gladly to give up what they see causes so many to stumble into sin.” [1]

In 1 Timothy 5.23, Paul tells Timothy, a younger and weaker brother, that he should drink wine regularly for this stomach problems. Again, no one would dispute that there are some proven health benefits from controlled amounts of wine. But, in the same book of 1 Timothy (3.3), Paul teaches that the leaders of the church shouldn’t be people who get drunk. Their mind and actions, instead, should be unclouded and under God’s control (Eph. 5.18).

The Bible isn’t blinded to what drinking does to a person. Proverbs 23.29-35 speaks bluntly about bloodshot eyes and needless bruises, gazing at wine that goes down smooth but bites you in the end amid not seeing straight and staggering around out of control.

Other texts in the Bible point to how one’s drinking can create problems for another. Romans 14.19-21 says that even though it isn’t forbidden to drink, drinking may not be the wisest choice. The same thought is expressed in 1 Cor. 10.31. God’s Word, taken as a whole, endorses concern for societal health and personal health, and the foregoing of individual prerogatives if those prerogatives—legitimate in themselves, perhaps—might endanger less robust physical, psychological, or spiritual constitutions. The general availability of strong drink is detrimental to social health, personal health, and lesser constitutions. A biblical case can be made for retaining the option of drinking. A good biblical case can be made for the removal of that option.

I think it’s safe to say that your desire to drink doesn’t stem from your relationship with God, and Romans 14.23 says that everything that doesn’t come from faith is sin. Sin’s ultimate root is in self-orientation. Now possibly you say you drink because you like the taste, but why did you start drinking?

It’s well established that alcohol is technically classified as a central nervous system depressant, capable of producing an intoxicating effect and physical addiction. Often we drink because we want the physiological and emotional effect that the alcohol will have on us. So let’s be honest: it makes you feel better, helps you relax, and helps you deal with life. So you’re using alcohol to do what God says he will do for you. It’s an easy substitution, and it’s also a social lubricant. There’s a lot of peer pressure. But is that the best way to honor God?

It’s also well established that the net effect of alcohol on society is decidedly negative: lost work hours, alcoholism, drunk driving, sexual compromise, undermining family stability, misusing resources, and clouding decisions. Why did you say you drink? I’m back to Romans 14.19: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.”

The decision about alcohol must be made under the lordship of Jesus Christ, submitting ourselves to the sovereignty of God. Instead of asking questions like “Why can’t I drink if I want to?” or “If it doesn’t hurt me, what’s wrong with it?”, the basic question to ask is “What is most pleasing to God?”

Alcohol is part and parcel of a system of cultural values that is at best apart from and at worst hostile to the system of values represented by the Gospel. Feel Good! (At any cost.) Say what’s on your mind! (Whether it’s helpful or not.) Stay young! Check out the associations our society makes between sex and drink sometime. Alcohol has a strength in our lives that should not be underestimated.

Eternal adolescence, mindless good times, carefree wealth and joyful superficiality are what the media links to alcohol. None of these “treasures” can be translated into the repository of eternity and what life is really all about.

So, let’s talk. Let me know what you think. Feel free to comment.

 

[1] A.T. Robertson, A.M. D.D., LL.D., Litt. D., Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 5, p. 37

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