Is it right for a Christian to drink alcohol?
Howard Coles, Coleford, England
Total abstinence from alcohol is not taught directly in the Bible, but there are plenty of verses warning against excessive drinking, such as Ephesians 5. 18 and Romans 13. 13.
Some of the reasons scripture condemns the excessive use of alcoholic beverages are that it:
– distorts the perception of reality, Isa. 28. 7; Prov. 23. 30-35.
– impairs the capacity to render spiritual service, Lev. 10. 9-11.
– weakens moral sensitivities and inhibitions, Gen. 9. 21; 19. 32.
– causes poverty and physical debility, Prov. 23. 20-21; Hos. 7. 5; Isa. 19. 14.
The difficult question to answer however is how much alcohol if any should a Christian drink? Is it permissible to have the occasional social alcoholic drink with friends, the celebratory champagne at weddings, or the once-a-year Christmas wine with the family? Many Christians see no problem with an alcoholic drink accompanying a nice dinner, and many churches use alcoholic wine for communion. To support their position they would say, ‘what is the problem as long as by doing so it doesn’t result in drunkenness?’
Firstly it is worth stating that alcohol is a habit-forming narcotic that weakens one’s capacity for selfcontrol. This is beyond dispute. The question might therefore be asked, ‘Is it right for a Christian to undermine his or her sense of judgement to any degree?’ A connected question might be ‘How would we know when to stop if our judgement is already impaired?’
But perhaps the overriding argument against the Christian drinking alcohol is that we exist in a world society where it presents a big problem. In the UK and many other western countries, alcohol is a major underlying cause of violence in the home, marriage breakdown, street crime, deaths on the road and a host of other social problems.
Is it not therefore best for the Christian to take a positive stance against it for these reasons alone and steer clear of it altogether? This sets an example that cannot be contested. Positively the word for us is, ‘Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved’, 1 Cor. 10. 31-33. Negatively we are commanded to fulfil this scripture before the Lord, ‘It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak’, Rom. 14. 21.
Clearly, the apostles refrained from using alcohol as a normal daily drink although it was freely available to them as is illustrated by Paul’s advice to Timothy when he told him to break his abstinence and use wine for his medical condition, but even so to use only a little, 1 Tim. 5. 23. What would be the point of this advice if it were not their practice to refrain and is it not better for Christians today to take the safer ground and follow their good example?
Many Christians take the view that they can handle alcohol and see no compromise of testimony to go to public places and drink socially with unbelievers. However we do have to ask the question, ‘But what about those who look on?‘ Can these believers be so sure that their brothers or sisters in Christ, or indeed those who are not Christians, can do the same? Supposing they were more susceptible to its influence and effects and having been led down the road to drink end up under the control of alcohol?