Alcohol has been a normal part of our culture and many cultures throughout history. There have been a variety of Christian positions and responses to drinking alcohol over that time, but Christians are most concerned with what the Bible says.
Should Christians drink alcohol? It is not wrong for Christians to drink alcohol according to the Bible. Drunkenness is a sin that should be avoided. Christians should always seek to be wise in their alcohol consumption, avoiding drunkenness and addiction.
This is the conclusion I came to after looking into all the arguments I could find both for and against drinking alcohol.I’ll dig into all of them below.
Arguments for Alcohol Consumption
I want to start with the biblical case that Christians should be able to consume alcohol. There are examples and commands that can be used to argue for the Christian’s freedom to responsibly drink.
Jesus did not oppose consuming alcohol.
This is probably one of the most popular examples of an argument for drinking alcohol.
Jesus’ first miracle was at the wedding of Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. This is recorded in John 2:1-12.
Jesus was sinless and perfect. He never made an unwise decision. He never rebelled against the Father.
One could make the argument that we are not Jesus, but the story actually records Jesus making wine for an entire wedding.
The argument here is that Jesus turning water into wine is Jesus passively approving of drinking alcohol. And anyone who claims that drinking is sinful would have to reconcile that with this account of the Lord.
Paul commands Timothy to drink wine.
This is Paul’s pastoral advice to his young student Timothy.
Apparently, Timothy had been experiencing some pain or health issues.
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.1 Timothy 5:23
The argument is that if Paul would command Timothy to drink alcohol, then it cannot be inherently sinful or bad.
This verse can show at least that drinking alcohol has some purpose or use.
Christians are free to choose wisdom.
The Bible teaches that Christians are free in Christ.
The argument here revolves around the meaning of that. Obviously being free does not mean that we are free to sin.
It does mean that Christians are able to choose wisely.
To put it in biblical terms, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:25).
As the church father Augustine said, “Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”
The argument is that Christian freedom allows for choosing to drink alcohol.
Arguments Against Alcohol Consumption
The arguments against alcohol consumption rely on general principles and commands that Christians should follow. The Bible does not condemn drinking specifically, bur drunkenness.
This does not necessarily mean that it is wise to drink alcohol. There are some weighty arguments to consider before drinking.
Alcohol is addictive.
To be addicted to anything is generally bad. Especially when the addiction is negative.
In this case, alcohol poses a lot of extra risk because it is so addictive. I’m sure everyone reading this knows someone who struggles with alcoholism.
When you are addicted, you are dependent on it. You rely on alcohol to be normal or to be happy.
This is clearly unbiblical. Paul commands us to “rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4).
Our dependence should be on God. Our joy and comfort should be in the Lord, not in alcohol.
Self-control is a virtue. When Paul lists out the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, self-control is the last one mentioned.
Christians should always seek to have control over their thoughts and actions.
Our thoughts are evil. And our actions are prone toward unrighteousness. When we lose self-control, we usually act in sin.
Christians should be careful about the consciences of others.
In Romans 14, Paul explains how we should handle disagreements about whether unclear things are right or wrong.
For weaker brothers and sisters, alcohol might be a big stumbling block.
This means that it bears on their conscience. They feel guilty for drinking or enabling others to do so.
For those who are not weaker, alcohol might be a permissible choice.
No matter what, we should not look down on one another for choosing to drink or not to drink. This is what Paul says.
He asks the question, “Why do you judge your brother or sister?” (Romans 14:10).
God will judge us all, but on these kinds of matters, we should reserve judgment that we might have against one another.
Alcohol impairs good judgment.
The whole question behind whether or not Christians can drink alcohol is asked because alcohol is intoxicating.
It affects our ability to think, evaluate information, and make good judgments.
This obviously occurs on a scale and worsens as you continue to drink more alcohol.
The risk of you making sinful decisions increases and drinking might become a downward spiral to worse sins.
Not everything is beneficial.
Even if we can’t consider drinking unlawful, we could still say that drinking is not beneficial.
How does it strengthen us? How does it help us in our walk with Christ?
Many might cite Hebrews 12:1-2 which tells us to lay aside every sin and the weight that so easily entangles us so that we can run after Christ.
The question isn’t whether it is right or wrong.
The question is: Is it a distraction from things that are more important?
How much is too much?
Everything in moderation, as the saying goes.
Obviously, there are stages to drinking and drunkenness doesn’t happen after a single sip.
How much alcohol is too much? At what point are you intoxicated beyond biblical reason? When is your lack of sobriety sinful?
There are 7 stages I could find of intoxication. You can view them at this link, but I’ll outline them here.
- Stage 1: Sobriety – this stage might see slight impairment in judgment, but it is usually hard to notice
- Stage 2: Euphoria – this is when you might start to tell a person has been drinking, they might become more confident, talkative, or emotional
- Stage 3: Excitement – this stage is might see someone lose emotional control, you might also see drowsiness, sickness, or poor memory
- Stage 4: Confusion – this is when you would see people possibly blackout, lose their memory, or withstand more than usual pain
- Stage 5: Stupor – it’s at this point when people pass out or lose their ability to even stand up
- Stage 6: Coma – this is when you see a high risk of coma and the person’s body begins to shut itself down
- Stage 7: Death – this stage is when you see a very high risk of death
So, which of these stages are permissible for the Christian?
This question definitely might need nuance because these stages sometimes overlap.
They are also different for different people. For most, having a single drink only places them in Stage 1. For some, one drink might affect them even more.
I personally do not go beyond Stage 1. I think that once you get to Stage 2, you risk losing your sober-mindedness.
And you significantly raise the possibility of making poor or sinful decisions.
Pushing the limits for me is not worth the risk.
Addiction According to the Bible
One of the largest risks in drinking alcohol is that you will become addicted.
Addiction itself is a vice. It is a sure harm to your faith.
Addiction is one of the largest reasons why we have seen alcohol destroy so many families, marriages, and lives.
Christians should depend on God alone to meet their needs. When you become addicted to alcohol, Christ becomes not enough.
Your joy becomes tied up in a beverage. Your hope is lost without it. It affects your day-to-day life greatly.
If you need help overcoming addiction, please consider reaching out and not fighting against it alone. You can call 1-800-662-HELP or find many centers near you which will help you in the fight.
Bible Verses About Alcohol and Drunkenness
Some of these will have been mentioned earlier in the article, but I thought it would be helpful to have all of the relevant verses in one place.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.Galatians 5:19-21
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.1 Timothy 5:23, to Timothy when he was sick
Wine is a mocker, beer is a brawler; whoever goes astray because of them is not wise.Proverbs 20:1
Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit.Ephesians 5:15-18
Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.1 Peter 5:8-9
In summary, Christians have a responsibility to choose wisdom.
There are biblical examples of drinking alcohol, and there is no biblical mandate against it. The Christian is free to choose to wisely drink.
However, there are risks to drinking. We need to take steps to avoid becoming addicted to alcohol and hurting the consciences of our brothers and sisters.
We also need to drink responsibly, avoiding drunkenness and insobriety.