The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is Overdrinking Really That Bad?
THE amiable drunk, played for laughs, has been a staple of stage and screen for years. Although entertainers may just be acting, their type of humor typifies the ambivalence many have toward heavy drinking, considering it a weakness, yes, but virtually harmless.
The reality, of course, is nothing to laugh at. The World Health Organization rates alcohol abuse as one of the top hazards to health worldwide. It is said that with the exception of tobacco addiction, abuse of alcohol causes more deaths and illnesses than the abuse of any other dependence-producing substance, and it drains the American economy alone of over $184 billion a year.
Despite these facts, many continue to downplay overdrinking. While they may acknowledge the harmful effects of long-term abuse, they see nothing wrong with an occasional binge. Among young people in some parts of the world, getting drunk is viewed as a rite of passage. And despite dire warnings by health organizations, binge drinking, defined as downing five or more drinks at a single sitting, is rising dramatically in all age groups. Understandably, then, many individuals wonder whether heavy drinking is really all that bad. What does the Bible say?
Wine and Strong Drink—Gifts From God
The Bible contains many references to wine and strong drink. King Solomon wrote: “Go, eat your food with rejoicing and drink your wine with a good heart, because already the true God has found pleasure in your works.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7) The psalmist acknowledged that Jehovah God is the Provider of “wine that makes the heart of mortal man rejoice.” (Psalm 104:14, 15) It is apparent that wine is one of the gifts included among Jehovah’s blessings to mankind.
Drinking wine was obviously acceptable to Jesus. In fact, his first miracle involved turning water into choice wine at a marriage banquet. (John 2:3-10) He also used wine as a fitting symbol of his blood when inaugurating the Lord’s Evening Meal. (Matthew 26:27-29) The Bible even mentions wine’s medicinal value, for the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of [his] stomach.”—1 Timothy 5:23; Luke 10:34.
Moderation Is the Key
Note that Paul recommended drinking only “a little wine.” The Bible clearly condemns all immoderate use of alcohol. Jewish priests were free to drink in moderation when off duty. However, they were forbidden to drink any alcoholic beverages while engaging in their priestly duties. (Leviticus 10:8-11) Many years later, first-century Christians were warned that drunkards “will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
Furthermore, in instructions to Timothy, Paul says that those taking the lead in the congregation cannot be ‘drunken brawlers’ or be “giving themselves to a lot of wine.”* (1 Timothy 3:3, 8) In fact, the Bible commands that unrepentant drunkards be expelled from the Christian congregation. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) As the Scriptures aptly put it, “wine is a ridiculer.” (Proverbs 20:1) Overindulgence in alcohol can weaken the drinker’s inhibitions and impair his judgment.
Why God’s Word Condemns Overdrinking
Jehovah, ‘the One who is teaching us to benefit ourselves,’ knows that when we abuse anything, we end up hurting ourselves and others. (Isaiah 48:17, 18) This is true when it comes to consuming alcoholic beverages. God’s Word asks: “Who has woe? Who has uneasiness? Who has contentions? Who has concern? Who has wounds for no reason? Who has dullness of eyes?” It answers: “Those staying a long time with the wine, those coming in to search out mixed wine.”—Proverbs 23:29, 30.
Under the influence of too much alcohol, people have done many thoughtless and dangerous things: driving while impaired and putting themselves and others at risk, becoming overly affectionate with another person’s mate and seriously damaging relationships, speaking and acting foolishly or even perversely. (Proverbs 23:33) Alcohol abuse has rightly been called one of the most damaging of all social ills plaguing mankind today. No wonder God exhorts: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine”!—Proverbs 23:20.
At Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists drunken bouts and revelries as “works of the flesh” in opposition to the fruitage of God’s spirit. Overindulging in alcohol will damage one’s relationship with God. Clearly, then, Christians should avoid any immoderate use of alcohol.
Since overseers and ministerial servants should be examples to the flock in their judgment and behavior, displaying Jehovah’s exalted standards to the best of their ability, this requirement would reasonably apply to other Christians as well.