For many Christians, alcohol is a contentious subject. On the one hand, there are numerous references throughout the Bible to Jesus not only supporting the consumption of wine but encouraging and actively participating in it himself. From the Last Supper to the First Miracle of Cana, Jesus is clearly shown to be supporting and drinking wine. At the same time, messages around drinking, abusing wine (and other intoxicants), and the pleasures of the flesh are clearly not only deemed immoral but expressly forbidden.
Where then, does alcohol fall for the Christian believer? Can we drink alcohol without putting our faith in doubt? Is there a way to ethically consume alcohol while following His teachings? The answer is, yes for most of us.
“Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” – John 2:7-11
Most of us are familiar with the story of the first Miracle of Cana. Jesus, at a wedding, tells the servants to draw 7 jars of water. The water, which comes from the well, becomes good wine. The guests, who were out of wine, never know of the miracle, except that the wine is better than what was served before. Jesus clearly does not disprove of alcohol as a concept.
Similarly, during the Last Supper, Jesus refers to a glass of wine as His blood of the new testament, shed for the remission of sins.
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Mathew 26: 26-29
While the Bible frequently expresses that alcohol can be a positive thing, it shines a very negative light on drunkenness. In fact, with more than 72 quotes on the evils of over consuming alcohol, the Word of God is clearer on this fact. Excessive consumption of alcohol is a sin against God.
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” – Ephesians 5:18
It is not possible to drink heavily, to be addicted to alcohol, or to drink for the purpose of being drunk and to do so in a Godly way. Any time that you do, you stray from His path.
“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:” – 1 Peter 4:3
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians: 6:9-11
The Bible makes it clear that drinking in moderation is not a sin. Yet, you must be careful to avoid the temptation of drunkenness, drinking to excess, and addiction. Alcohol is tempting and it can lead you into sin. Practicing moderation, accountability, and responsibility will ensure that you can drink with your friends and family in a way that is respectful of and honoring to God.
Moderation – Most governments have strong ideas about moderation. Most men are recommended to drink no more than 2-3 units, women to 2. That works out to anywhere from half to a full glass of wine and half to a full bottle of beer for most women. Moderation means sharing and enjoying things together, drinking for the enjoyment of the craft of the alcohol, and drinking to be social and together. While there are certainly occasions where most of us could consume more in honor of something, for the most part, your consumption should be minimal.
Responsibility – It’s important not to drink if you don’t trust that you are able to drink in moderation. Those of us with histories of alcohol and drug abuse should never drink. If you think you will drink more than you should, that you won’t be able to control yourself, or that you will drink to a point of inebriation, it is important to abstain. Many of the modern Christian ideas around abstinence revolve around the fact that many people simply lose control. Most of us never intend to be drunk, to act badly, to become addicted, but we do anyway. If you know that you are not in control around alcohol, take responsibility and do not drink.
Accountability – Accountability is about holding yourself accountable for your decisions, for your choices, and for how you affect others. Hold yourself accountable to what you are planning to drink. Tell others how much you can or will drink. Offer to be the designated driver if you are not allowed to drink. Talk to God and to your congregation and talk about how you feel. Here, it’s important to be honest to yourself about why you want to drink, how much you drink, and what your motivations are. If you want to drink as a release or to destress, you probably shouldn’t be drinking. If you’re craving alcohol rather than simply enjoying it with friends, you shouldn’t be drinking. Recognize how you feel and hold yourself accountable before and after you drink.
Alcohol is not an inherently bad thing. But, it is tempting and many of us are led astray. As a Christian, it is critical to hold yourself to a standard of respect, dignity, and moderation. It’s okay to drink a bit and to enjoy alcohol and friends. It’s not okay to drink for the sake of drunkenness, for release, or for escape. If you’ve had alcohol problems in the past, you likely cannot safely drink without facing immense temptation. You can make that judgement for yourself when it comes up, you can ask for help from your church or congregation, and, if you still think you’re struggling, can seek out help from a Christian addiction treatment center.
No matter where you are in life, remember alcohol is a just a tiny part of socializing and culture. The real joy comes from your friends, family, and sharing moments together. You don’t need alcohol to do that?