If you want to start a lively debate at church, tell everyone what you think about Christians drinking alcohol. Many Christians-—especially those with roots in the Bible belt-—believe that Christians should never drink alcohol under any circumstances. Other Christians believe that drinking in moderation is part of our freedom in Christ and should be enjoyed without any concerns of conscience.
So, who is correct? Is it okay for Christians to drink alcohol or not? Is it possible to follow and serve Christ with a beer or glass of wine in hand? After studying this issue recently, I’ve become convinced that the most biblical answer is “it depends.”
For starters, it’s important to recognize that we never find a universal “thou-shalt-not-drink-alcohol” command in Scripture. Some Christians who are die-hard abolitionists claim that drinking alcohol under any circumstances is forbidden in Scripture, but that’s simply not true. However, the Bible does give several clear commands that restrict our drinking. Under any of the following four circumstances drinking is a sin.
#1: Drinking alcohol is wrong when it leads to drunkenness. Although the Scriptures never forbid drinking in any and every circumstance, the Scriptures definitely do forbid drunkenness. For example, in Ephesians 5:18 we read: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” Similarly, Galatians 5:21 names drunkenness as an act of the sinful nature.
#2: Drinking alcohol is wrong when it’s against the law. God’s word makes it very clear in passages like Romans 13:1-2 that the Lord expects us to obey the laws of the land. Therefore, we are compelled as Christians to obey the laws regarding drinking that exist in our city, county and state. For example, in California it is against the law for minors to drink alcohol under any circumstances, even while at home under the supervision of a parent or guardian. Therefore, when teenagers in our state drink, it is an act of rebellion against both the laws of our land and God Himself.
#3: Drinking alcohol is wrong when it’s in defiance of your conscience. In Romans 14:14 the Apostle Paul writes, “I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.” Paul could just as easily have said, “I am fully convinced that no wine or beer is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards alcohol as unclean, then for him it is unclean.” So, it’s clear from this verse that if you have a conscience issue with drinking alcohol, then under no circumstance should you drink. To defy your God-given conscience is sin.
#4: Drinking alcohol is wrong when it causes someone else to stumble into sin. Paul writes in Romans 14:20, “It is wrong for a man to do anything that causes someone else to stumble.” Even though I may be able to drink a beer, glass of wine or margarita responsibly, the person across from me at the table or in the booth next to me may not be able to do the same. I realize that drinking is contagious, and I don’t want to be anyone’s excuse for ordering an extra drink themselves. I may be able to call it quits after one drink, but the person across the table from me may not be able to do so. I may be able to drive home safely with a low blood-alcohol level, but the stranger across the room perhaps cannot.
The reality is that problem drinking is at epidemic levels in our country today. According to CBN.com, there are some twenty million problem drinkers in the United States today, and according to another source, 3.3 million of these problem drinkers are high school students. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each year in our country 2.7 million doctors’ visits, 1.2 million ER visits and 88,000 deaths are alcohol-related. Sadly, alcohol is involved in approximately ½ of all homicides, ½ of all domestic violence arrests, ½ of all crimes leading to incarceration, ½ of all birth defects and ¼ of all suicides.
Without a doubt problem drinking has produced a tidal wave of misery in our country. This cannot be disputed. So, I have come to the conclusion that even if I drink responsibly in moderation, the negatives of doing so far outweigh the positives. For that reason, I have chosen to err on the side of caution and practice abstinence.
However, if you are able to drink responsibly without breaching one of the four aforementioned conditions, then drinking falls underneath your freedom in Christ. You are welcome to do so. But make sure that as you drink, you do so with a thankful heart and with God’s glory in mind. All Christians-—both those who practice temperance and those who drink in moderation—-are compelled by God to obey 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Dane Davis is the lead pastor of First Christian Church of Victorville and the author of Holy Huldah! Lessons You Should Never Forget from Bible Characters You've Never Heard Of. To hear Pastor Dane's messages for for more information about the church, visit www.fccvv.com.