Is it right for a Christian to drink alcohol? Is it wrong for one to do so? When I first started in ministry the answer seemed to be a given, at least in the group I primarily serve. Everyone I knew and those with whom I partnered were against alcohol. The few who defended it didn’t really surprise us. Some did so from a purely argumentative position (“You really can’t Biblically say it is entirely wrong,” they would argue). Some did so from an experiential position (“Even Spurgeon wasn’t a tee-totaler,” these would point out). And so forth. Today, more and more seem to be embracing the use of alcohol with the only limitation being that one doesn’t become drunk by it. I personally don’t drink and I don’t think others should either. Here are my reasons why:
- Because of the warnings against doing so.
I don’t drink alcohol because of all of the warnings found against its use. For every verse that would seem to permit the use of alcohol, there are many others that warn against its use. Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 23:29-35 offer very strong warnings against its use. It brings woe and sorrow and arguments and wounds. It bites and stings like a poisonous snake. It can damage purity and pervert our speech. And it is addictive! Proverbs 31:4-5 teaches that leaders should abstain from alcohol because it can damage their ability to handle their responsibilities well! And so forth.
- Because of the Biblical texts that are cited in its favor.
I don’t drink alcohol because even the passages that are cited in its favor are not necessarily making that case. For one thing, the word wine in the New Testament can be both a general word for fresh juice (just made and therefore unfermented) and also old juice (that had been stored and naturally had fermented). Fermented juice was very common because of the lack of refrigeration. Unless it was “harvesting” time, any juice would have included fermentation. As a result, the best wine could have been the best in the sense that it was the freshest, and even if it weren’t, fermented wine was often “watered-down” to make it less so.
In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul tells Timothy to “use a little wine for his stomach’s sake.” Use a “little.” Use it for a medical issue (“for his stomach”). Use it when the water is not good to drink. There is no evidence that he is making a case for Timothy to drink alcohol. He could have meant that he should use fresh juice, although that would not always have been available and perhaps that explains why he clarifies that it should be only a “little.” At any rate, this verse is not a permission to drink alcohol unless it is also a challenge to stop drinking water! Since it doesn’t make sense to stop drinking water, then it seems reasonable to me that this was a special case unique to an issue with Timothy’s stomach.
Another challenging passage is Deuteronomy 14:26 which permitted the use of alcohol as part of the celebration “before the Lord.” I don’t believe it gives us permission to use alcohol for several reasons. First, it is Old Testament law and it is not wise to accept this one verse and ignore the rest of the chapter’s teaching. Second, it is unclear as to how fermented the drink would have been and exactly how they would have used it in their celebration. Finally, just because it was permitted still doesn’t make it “best” (like Moses permitting divorce but Jesus later teaching that God’s plan was different). There are simply too many warnings in other passages against the use of alcohol. For instance, Moses permitted divorce, but many other passages (including the specific teaching of Jesus) would reveal that it wasn’t the best. I will concede, though, that this passage did permit the Jews to drink “strong drink” and, as a result, I offer grace to those who disagree with me in this matter.
- Because of its associations.
I don’t drink because alcohol is frequently associated with many negatives. It is usually associated with sinfulness and wickedness. It flows freely in the casinos of Vegas and in Gentlemen’s clubs. Beer joints are always places where there is cursing, drunkenness, and other vices. Its use is often connected to accidents, to adultery, to domestic abuse, and to homelessness and poverty. It can damage one’s health and can become highly addictive. It can easily cloud one’s judgment. And the list can go on and on.
- Because of my children.
I don’t drink because of my children. I want them to remember me as one who abstained. I want them to abstain themselves and I never want to be the reason they would begin a lifetime of drinking that could lead them in a direction I have prayed they would never go. I am aware that perhaps they could drink occasionally, and it never become a huge issue for them. I am also aware that every person who has been negatively affected by its use started with only an occasional drink.
- Because of the negative affects it has had on my relatives and so many others.
The final reason I don’t drink alcohol is because it has had so many negative affects on people I know. I have relatives whose marriages and families have been damaged by its use. I have relatives who have been hurt by drunk drivers. I have a neighbor who died from his alcohol abuse (although he had stopped drinking and had become a believer several years before his death). His wife is alone now and has no one to care for her. I know too many stories of how alcohol has negatively affected a life and many other lives as well!
So, for me, I have chosen not to drink. I urge you to join me!
Thanks for reading.
Your sincere friend,