The Bible’s Viewpoint
Does God Condemn the Use of Alcohol?
‘FORGET crack, smack, acid, and pot—alcohol is still the biggest demon society has to wrestle. Alcohol causes far more deaths and social destruction than does use of all other drugs combined.’ These were the sentiments expressed at the 31st triennial convention of the World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Canada two years ago.
Such delegates see in the growing consumption of alcohol worldwide an appalling cost in human health and life, as well as in millions of dollars that will be spent annually by national governments to combat alcoholism. Convinced that God condemns their use, many well-meaning people argue for the outlawing of all intoxicating beverages. But does the Bible support this viewpoint?
Use of Wine in the Bible
Long ago God promised his obedient people: “Your stores of supply will be filled with plenty; and with new wine your own press vats will overflow.” (Proverbs 3:10) Yes, he is the One who gave us the fruit-bearing vine, even providing tiny yeast organisms that coat the grape as it nears the time for wine making.
The process of producing a fine wine was explained in part by God’s prophet Isaiah. Previewing the blessings of the coming new world of righteousness, Isaiah wrote: “Jehovah of armies will certainly make for all the peoples . . . a banquet of wine kept on the dregs . . . of wine kept on the dregs, filtered.” (Isaiah 25:6) Experienced wine makers know that wine “kept on the dregs,” undisturbed for long periods of time during fermentation, gradually clarifies itself, improving both the bouquet and the flavor.
Enjoyment and Health Benefits?
God outlined both the enjoyment and the health benefits derived from wine. His prophet Jotham spoke of “new wine that makes God and men rejoice.” (Judges 9:13) King Solomon wrote of ‘cheering his flesh even with wine.’ (Ecclesiastes 2:3) And in the well-known account of the marriage feast at Cana, Jesus, in his first miracle, turned a large amount of water into “the best wine,” to the delight of the wedding guests.—John 2:6, 7, 10, The New English Bible.
Jesus’ recognition of the medicinal use of wine is apparent in his illustration of the neighborly Samaritan. Binding up the wounds of an injured man, the neighborly Samaritan poured “oil and wine” on them. (Luke 10:30-34) The recommendation by the apostle Paul to young Timothy to ‘use a little wine for the sake of his stomach and his frequent cases of sickness’ harmonizes well with modern recognition of wine’s dietary and medicinal value.—1 Timothy 5:23.
Dr. Salvatore P. Lucia, a former professor at the University of California School of Medicine, stated in his book Wine and Your Well-Being that “wine [is] not only the oldest dietary alcoholic beverage but the most important medicinal agent in continuous use throughout the history of man.” And research nutritionist Janet McDonald said that wine drunk in moderate amounts seems to be effective as a mild tranquilizer, an appetite stimulant, and an aid to digestion and to absorption of minerals in food eaten.
Moderation and Self-Control Needed
However, despite such favorable references to wine and intoxicating liquor in both the Bible and secular medicine, alcohol abuse has heaped terrible woe on much of mankind. Does that make God responsible for all the tragedies that have followed in the wake of the misuse of alcohol? On the contrary, in his Word, the Bible, he has given comprehensive guidelines governing the use and abuse of wine.
Consider, for example, the following strong warning against the abuse of this gift: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh.” Certainly this does not mean that only vegetarian teetotalers are pleasing to God, nor does the text condemn those who use a little wine or eat meat moderately. Rather, the Bible’s warning is against overindulgence in both eating and drinking. This is evident as another proverb states: “Who has woe? Who has uneasiness? Who has contentions? Who has concern? Who has wounds for no reason? Who has dullness of eyes? Those staying a long time with the wine.”—Proverbs 23:20, 29, 30.
The Bible writers Peter and Paul advised moderation by counseling the early Christians to avoid “excesses with wine” and not to “be getting drunk with wine.” This admonition was to be taken seriously, as the apostle warned: ‘Drunkards will not inherit God’s kingdom.’ In other words, habitual abusers of alcoholic beverages do not have God’s approval and lose out on everlasting life.—1 Peter 4:3; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
Thus, if individuals lack self-control in the use of alcohol, they should abstain from it entirely. (Compare Matthew 5:29, 30.) Besides physical deterioration, increased dependency on alcohol can cause grave spiritual damage. Hence, God wisely cautions us against overindulgence in alcoholic beverages.
Contrary to the point of view of the prohibitionist, the Bible does not require, or even indicate, total abstinence from wine or alcoholic beverages for all persons. (Deuteronomy 14:26) The psalmist says of Jehovah: “He is making green grass sprout for the beasts, and vegetation for the service of mankind, to cause food to go forth from the earth, and wine that makes the heart of mortal man rejoice.” Indeed, God has appointed wine for a good and honorable purpose, when taken in moderation.—Psalm 104:14, 15.
[Picture Credit Line on page 26]
L’ Absinthe by Edgar Degas, 1877—E.R.L./Sipa Icono