The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is It Wrong to Drink Alcoholic Beverages?
“WINE is a ridiculer, intoxicating liquor is boisterous, and everyone going astray by it is not wise.” Does this text, found in the Bible at Proverbs 20:1, indicate that it is wrong to drink alcoholic beverages? Some think so. As further evidence, they point to Bible accounts where bad acts resulted from the misuse of alcohol.—Genesis 9:20-25.
Then there are the disastrous results of overindulgence—ailments such as cirrhosis of the liver, tragic accidents, financial ruin, family abuse, and harm to the unborn. Probably because of such terrible consequences, “many religious denominations taught that drinking alcohol was immoral,” notes The World Book Encyclopedia. But is it immoral to drink alcoholic beverages? Does the Bible prohibit the drinking of all alcoholic beverages and in any amount?
What Does the Bible Say?
The Bible does warn about the bad consequences of overindulgence in alcohol. Ephesians 5:18 admonishes: “Do not be getting drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery.” Also, Proverbs 23:20, 21 exhorts: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh. For a drunkard and a glutton will come to poverty.” And Isaiah 5:11 says: “Woe to those who are getting up early in the morning that they may seek just intoxicating liquor, who are lingering till late in the evening darkness so that wine itself inflames them!”
The Bible also mentions the pleasures and benefits of drinking moderately. For instance, Psalm 104:15 states that one of God’s gifts is “wine that makes the heart of mortal man rejoice.” And the reward for doing good works, says Ecclesiastes 9:7, is to “eat your food with rejoicing and drink your wine with a good heart.” Knowing medicinal benefits of drinking wine, Paul told Timothy not to “drink water any longer, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent cases of sickness.” (1 Timothy 5:23) The ability of alcohol to help one to endure distress is noted in the Bible.—Proverbs 31:6, 7.
Clearly, the Bible does not prohibit the drinking of alcoholic beverages. What it does condemn, however, is drinking to excess and drunkenness. Therefore, Paul admonished Christian overseers, ministerial servants, and older women not to give themselves over “to a lot of wine,” and he advised Timothy to take only “a little wine.” (1 Timothy 3:2, 3, 8; Titus 2:2, 3) All Christians are reminded that “drunkards” will not “inherit God’s kingdom.”—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
Noteworthy is the fact that the Bible associates drunkenness with gluttony, directing that both be avoided. (Deuteronomy 21:20) If it were intended that we should not drink any alcohol at all, would that not also indicate that any eating of food is wrong as well? Rather, it is excess to the point of intoxication and gluttony that the Bible says is wrong—not eating and drinking in moderation.
What Did Jesus Do?
Christ left “a model for [us] to follow his steps closely,” says the apostle Peter. “He committed no sin.” (1 Peter 2:21, 22) So how did Jesus view alcoholic beverages? Well, his first miracle was that of changing water into wine. What kind of wine did Jesus turn the water into? “The director of the feast” complimented the bridegroom regarding this miraculously produced wine. He said: “Every other man puts out the fine wine first, and when people are intoxicated, the inferior. You have reserved the fine wine until now.”—John 2:9, 10.
Drinking wine was part of the Passover celebration, and Jesus used wine when he inaugurated the Lord’s Evening Meal. Handing a cup of wine to his disciples, he told them: “Drink out of it, all of you.” Knowing that his death was imminent, he added: “I will by no means drink henceforth any of this product of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.” (Matthew 26:27, 29) Yes, people knew that Jesus drank wine.—Luke 7:34.
What Should We Do?
Although the Bible does not prohibit the drinking of alcoholic beverages, that does not mean that we have to drink them. There are many reasons to abstain. For instance, a former alcoholic knows the dangers of taking even one drink. A pregnant woman may abstain out of fear of harming her fetus. And knowing how alcohol impairs judgment and reflexes, a driver would refrain from doing anything that would jeopardize his life or that of others.
A Christian would not want to be a stumbling block to anyone whose conscience condemns drinking. (Romans 14:21) Wisely, he or she would refrain from the use of alcoholic beverages when engaging in the public ministry. It is noteworthy that under God’s Law to ancient Israel, the priests were forbidden to “drink wine or intoxicating liquor” when in official service. (Leviticus 10:9) Also, in lands where consuming alcohol is forbidden or restricted, a Christian would obey the law.—Romans 13:1.
While determining whether to drink or not, or how much to drink, are personal decisions, the Bible advocates moderation. It says: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 Corinthians 10:31.
HAVE YOU WONDERED?
▪ What warning regarding the use of alcohol is stated in the Scriptures?—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
▪ Did Jesus Christ drink alcohol?—Luke 7:34.
▪ What guides true Christians in the matter of eating and drinking?—1 Corinthians 10:31.