Christians & Alcohol

My pastor shared on Facebook yesterday an article on Christians and alcohol that made me uncomfortable.  Not because the Holy Spirit was convicting me but because, in my opinion, it lacked grace and killed actual dialogue on the issue.  I understand that this will be an issue that will forever be debated among Christians. The dialogue yesterday prompted me to dust off an article I wrote in 2009 on the subject.

This wasn’t exactly how I pictured re-launching my blog for 2014, but it’s interesting to discuss and debate.  So what is my view on Christians and alcohol?

First, I want to share a little of my background, so you have full disclosure.  I didn’t place my faith in Christ until I was 20-years-old.  When I was at Drake University I abused alcohol.  I went out binge drinking a lot.  My intent was to get drunk, and that I did.  Some highlights of those days – puking my guts out outside my fraternity in a cold October rain, waking up in strange places not remembering how I got there, and people I hardly knew the next day smiling saying “dude you were awfully friendly last night” I had no idea what they were talking about.

So when I came to Christ I quit.  Cold turkey.  It had been an idol and I had to give it up.  I didn’t have a drink (that I can remember) for 10 years.

My belief about alcohol consumption for Christians has never changed in my time of abstaining and now moderate consumption.  Some thoughts:

1.  Underage drinking is illegal and therefore sinful.  We are to obey our governing authorities, (Romans 13:2).  Being 21 is the law of the land, and therefore even drinking without being drunk for somebody who is under 21 is out of bounds.  For countries whose laws are different, then that would be up to a young person’s parents for children are to obey their parents, (Ephesians 6:1).

2.  The Bible prohibits drunkenness and condemns poor behavior as a result of too much to drink.

  • “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise,” (Proverbs 20:1, ESV).

  • Proverbs 31:4-5, Isaiah 28:7-8, and Isaiah 56:12 speak out against leaders who drink irresponsibly to the point, Proverbs 31:5 says that the King forgets what he decrees.

  • “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them… Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink,” (Isaiah 5:11,22, ESV).

  • Ephesians 5:8 says that we are not “get drunk with wine,” but instead be filled with the Holy Spirit.

  • Paul warns Timothy in the selection of deacons that they must not be those who are “addicted to much wine,” (1 Timothy 3:8).

  • Where the Bible prohibits the consumption of wine or “strong drink” it is with those taking a Nazarite vow  and priests in their temple service, (Leviticus 10:8-10; Numbers 6:3; Ezekiel 44:21).

3.  Much of the taboo regarding Christians drinking in moderation seems to be more cultural than biblical.

  • There is a quote from Benjamin Franklin that always makes me laugh, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  While Franklin had other issues both theological and social, he is correct in his sentiment.  Consider Psalm 104:14-15 – “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”

  • Deuteronomy 14:22-27 shares commandments regarding the tithe and how it was to be used, notice verse 26 in particular, “and spend the money for whatever you desire – oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves.  And you shall eat these before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

  • When it isn’t being drunk it is a sign of judgment, “no more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it,” (Isaiah 24:9, ESV).

  • Issac as he blessed Jacob said, “May God give you of the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine,” (Genesis 27:28, ESV).

  • Wine was used as part of the food offering, (Numbers 15:10).

  • “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine,” (Proverbs 3:9-10, ESV).

  • “Go, eat your hand with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved of what you do,” (Ecclesiastes 9:7, ESV).

  • Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana in John 2:1-11.  He turned it into “good wine,” and this was uncommon because typically cheaper wine was given later on in the wedding feasts (which would last seven days) when the senses became dull.  All commentators I have read agree that this wine did have alcohol (as it would still numb the senses).  Some say it was diluted to make it last and to make it less potent.  Other books I have consulted on “manners and customs” make no mention of this.  One thing can be said for certain is that alcohol was not added to it artificially like what we see today in the distilling process.

4.  We have liberty in Christ.

  • We have liberty to consume in moderation, and we have liberty not to.  Paul in Colossians 2:16 says, “Therefore (since Jesus triumphed at the cross) let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath”

  • Also going further Paul wrote, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings?”

  • Those who decide to not consume, and I’m not saying that is a bad thing – I made that choice myself for 10 years – shouldn’t judge when others make a different choice.  Likewise those who decide to shouldn’t look down on their brothers and sisters who decide not to.

5.  We have responsibility in Christ.

  • Primarily we are not to be a stumbling block to those around us.  “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,” (Romans 14:20-21, ESV).  A side note, those who claim “weaker brother” status remember you are claiming you are immature in your faith.

  • I wouldn’t drink around current alcoholics, former alcoholics, or somebody who came from a family of alcoholics.  Not only are you being a stumbling block, but it would simply be rude.

  • I don’t drink around people who believe that it is wrong.  Maintain relationships and unity, (Ephesians 4:3) is far more important to me.  If I’m in a ministry or church that says don’t drink.  I don’t drink.

  • Also we need to be mindful of our witness.  I personally do not attend events where the soul purpose of the event is for people to get completely wasted.  So that would now eliminate about all of the parties I attended in college.  That doesn’t mean I don’t go to a bar because I have for certain functions, but for me personally it isn’t a regular occurrence.

6.  In all things moderation.

  • I generally don’t drink more than 1-2 beers or alcoholic beverages in a setting.

  • Motive check – why do I want to drink?  Is it because it tastes good or do I have another motive?  Am I drinking for comfort or because I’m in a bad mood?  Am I drinking due to stress?  Who should I be going to when I’m in pain, sad, stressed, etc?  Beer or God?  If it is a bad motive, pray don’t drink then.  This could be said with anything.

  • When I say everything in moderation, that is what I mean.  You notice some of those churches that condemn alcohol consumption strangely have nothing to say about gluttony.  Why is that?

So now I personally will have a beer or glass of wine in some social settings.  My conscience is clear.  I have liberty in Christ.  I do not overindulge.  We generally don’t keep it at home though there are times I have, and that is out of respect for my wife who doesn’t drink.  I also don’t want it to always be around.  I enjoy it on occasion, but it doesn’t drive my social life.

That’s my view.  What’s yours?

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  1. Troy Hendrickson says

    Actually having read the words of Christ at length, I can find no justification from him to indicate such a legalistic approach to the issue of drug use. There is nothing you can put in your body that defiles the soul. “Christian” attitudes on alcohol and other drug use is based primarily on their need to point fingers, when Jesus told them to stop pointing fingers and worry about themselves.

    That’s why in Iowa, a dying person can’t legally use a plant God put on earth for our use and benefit, but a teenager can easily go buy enough alcohol to kill himself and his friends. It’s all based on pride and vanity, some people just can’t be content unless they can judge people for the shallowest of critieria.

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