by Matt Slick
Yes, it is permissible for Christians to drink alcohol. It is not a sin to have a drink. But, in saying this, we have to be careful not to encourage the misuse of alcohol upon ourselves or by using it to cause others to stumble. We have freedom in Christ (Gal. 5:1) and all things are lawful (1 Cor. 6:12). But again, we are not to use our freedom to sin or to cause others to stumble. We have to realize that God wants people to be responsible for their actions and to consider the welfare of others. Let's take a look at some scripture that warns us about intoxication.
- "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise," (Prov. 20:1).
- "Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink," (Isaiah 5:11).
- "Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink," (Isaiah 5:22).
Clearly, the Scriptures teach against intoxication. Again, the reason is because we are to be responsible for our actions. The misuse of alcohol impairs judgment and this can have dire consequences upon our families, ourselves, and others. This is why intoxication is bad. However, there are some verses in the Bible which may shock a lot of Christians regarding the proper use of alcohol.
- "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter, 7 Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his trouble no more." (Prov. 31:6-7).
- "He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, 15 And wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart," (Psalm 104:14-15).
We can see that there is a proper use of alcohol. We could categorize this use as medicinal. The ancients did not have the medicines like we have today. So, alcohol was used as a kind of curative. Consider this verse...
- "No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments," (1 Tim. 5:23).
Jesus is our example of holiness, but some may be surprised to find there are Scriptures which would strongly imply that Jesus hung out with people who consumed alcohol and even consumed it himself. Consider this verse:
- “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds,” (Matt. 11:19).
Now, this verse does not explicitly state that Jesus consumed alcohol. But Jesus does say that he came eating and drinking and that they accused him of being a drunkard. It seems to be the most natural understanding to say that Jesus, according to his own words, was hanging out with those people who were looked down upon by the religious elite -- and they drank alcohol. We know that Jesus went to heal the sick, not the well (Matt. 9:12), so he was with those who needed him and in so doing he ate and drank with them.
What does this mean for Christians? I'm forced to conclude it means that Christians, like Jesus, should be involved in the world, involved with those who "need healing," and like Jesus should be able to be accused of being someone who would eat and drink with unbelievers (yet without sin). Am I advocating having a "let's party" mentality by going out and carousing with the lost? Not at all. The Scriptures tell us we are to avoid sin. We are not to participate in sinful behavior. However, as Jesus has said, it is not the healthy who need to be healed. It is the sick who need him. We need to carry the message of Christ to those who are lost. This is what Jesus did and he was accused of being a drunkard for it.
Drinking alcohol is not an automatic sin. Instead, it is to be used wisely, with consideration of others (so as not to cause them to stumble), and without intoxication lest we injure ourselves and others.