Should You Drink Alcoholic Beverages?
1-4. (a) Do any of the young folks with whom you are acquainted use alcoholic beverages? (b) How do people in our area feel about the use of alcoholic drinks? Is the use of such drinks viewed the same everywhere?
MORE and more, young persons are facing this question today. Why? Because the use of alcohol has been growing among teen-agers, with many turning to it in place of drugs. In view of this, let’s examine some facts, and see if they can help us in looking at this matter sensibly, for our own lasting good.
2 Alcoholic beverages—that covers a wide range. Some drinks, such as beer, have quite a low alcohol content. Others are a bit stronger, as is true of most table wines. Then there are what are called “distilled spirits,” with high alcohol content. These include brandies, whiskeys, gin, vodka and others.
3 Regional attitudes and customs are also of wide variety. In some lands—France, Italy, Spain, Greece and other countries—wine is a common beverage at the family table. This may have developed because of a problem in obtaining good water supplies or may just be due to custom. But even in these lands the attitude toward the use of alcoholic beverages will vary. Not only this, but the results from using alcoholic beverages also vary from country to country and from person to person. You need to keep this in mind in developing a sensible viewpoint toward such beverages.
4 Well, then, in view of all this variety, is there any stable, consistent standard to guide you in this matter? Yes, the Bible provides this. In noting what it says, see if you don’t agree that it is wise and balanced advice.
A BALANCED VIEWPOINT
5-7. (a) What does the Bible say about the use of wine among God’s people in times past? (b) Could you give an illustration showing how a thing that is good can cause serious problems if misused or used too soon?
5 The Bible shows that from ancient times wine was a common beverage with meals, being used by such persons as Abraham, Isaac and many others. Jesus provided wine for a wedding feast, and the apostle Paul counseled Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent cases of sickness.”—1 Timothy 5:23.
6 Rightfully, the Bible lists wine as among God’s provisions and blessings for the enjoyment of humans. A Bible psalm says: “He is making green grass sprout for the beasts, and vegetation for the service of mankind, . . . and wine that makes the heart of mortal man rejoice.” (Psalm 104:14, 15) The Bible also shows that God’s people sometimes used other alcoholic beverages, including beer and liquor.
7 Does this mean there is no need for caution on your part as to drinking alcoholic beverages? By no means. For God’s Word shows the ‘other side of the coin’ as well. There are many things in life that are not wrong in themselves but that can bring serious consequences if misused or used too soon. God gave humans procreative powers, but these are to be used only in honorable marriage and their use can bring the heavy responsibility of caring for a family. Fire, steam, electricity and various tools can be very helpful to men and women in their work, but, used carelessly, they can also be very harmful. The drinking of alcoholic beverages, too, can have serious effects if caution is not exercised.
EFFECT OF ALCOHOL
8-11. (a) When taken into the body, what effect does a small amount of alcohol have? What happens as the amounts become larger? (b) How does Proverbs 23:29-35 describe the effects of drunkenness? Have you ever seen anyone act like that?
8 Consider the effects of alcohol on the human system. Unlike other substances, it needs no digestion. It begins to be absorbed into your bloodstream as soon as it enters the stomach, though most absorption takes place in the small intestine. It is quickly carried to your brain, your liver and other parts of the body. Since alcohol contains calories, your body set about metabolizing it, that is, transforming the alcohol into a chemical form that your body can, in effect, burn up as fuel. Most of this work is done by the liver. Your lungs and kidneys lighten some of the load as they expel some of the alcohol through the breath and urine.
9 Once in the bloodstream, what effect does alcohol have on a person? In small amounts, the effect is that of mild sedation, relaxation or tranquillity. In larger amounts it depresses the brain’s ‘switchboard controls.’ So it may, at least in some people, cause a person to become very talkative, excessively active and even aggressive. Haven’t you seen that happen to people?
10 With still greater concentrations of alcohol, the brain becomes severely depressed. The central nervous system is affected. And the individual begins to have difficulty in coordinating his movements. That is why he has trouble in walking, seeing and speaking clearly. He also becomes confused in his thinking. The problem is made worse by the peculiar effect alcohol has in making the person imagine that his senses are really operating better than usual. So, he is generally the last one to realize that he has taken too much. And once he reaches the point of intoxication, only time can bring any relief.
11 Note this very accurate picture of the dangers and the discomfort that come with overindulgence in alcoholic beverages. It is found in the Bible at Proverbs 23:29-35: “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, those coming in to search out mixed wine. . . . Your own eyes will see strange things, and your own heart will speak perverse things. And you will certainly become like one lying down in the heart of the sea [experiencing confusion and helplessness like that of a drowning person], even like one lying down at the top of a mast [where the rocking back and forth of a ship is most keenly felt]. ‘They have struck me, but I did not become sick; they have smitten me, but I did not know it [for a drunken person is insensible to what is going on and often is not aware of his wounds until he has become sober].’” That doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? But that is what happens when someone gets drunk.
A GROWING PROBLEM
12-17. (a) How extensive is the problem of alcohol abuse among young folks? How do they get started? (b) If someone tries to pressure you to drink, what motive may he really have? (Habakkuk 2:15)
12 But are young people in any real danger of getting drunk or even becoming alcoholics? Yes, they are. Donald G. Phelps, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Washington, D.C., said:
“The [ratio of] alcohol abusers among our adolescent population is about the same as among the adult population. Ten per cent of all the 13-year-old boys (interviewed in a national survey of teen-agers) get drunk at least once a week. That’s 52 times a year.”
13 France has for a long time faced a serious problem of alcoholism among children, some persons showing signs of cirrhosis of the liver at an early age. In Hungary (a country with one of the highest rates of suicide), medical centers in recent years have been treating thousands of children annually for intoxication.
14 Why do young people get into this situation? In many cases there is someone in their family who is already an excessive drinker. In many other cases, it is because other young people urge them to begin drinking. Sometimes a young boy is pressured by others of his age to ‘prove he is a man’ by drinking a lot of some alcoholic drink, or a young girl is made to feel she is socially backward if she does not drink.
15 But ask yourself, Does drinking an alcoholic beverage really prove anything as to the kind of person you are? Obviously not, since even animals can be induced to drink it and get drunk. Really, what do persons want who would pressure you to drink? Are they seeking your good, something that will benefit you? Or are they just trying to put you in the same class with themselves? Might they be hoping to have the “fun” of seeing you lose control and act, not like a grown man or woman, but like a small child who cannot walk, talk or see clearly and who does and says foolish things?
16 Note what one authority, Dr. Giorgio Lolli, said:
“The alcoholic is retreating from the adult world into infancy, physically and psychologically. His mental perceptions and bodily sensations become indistinguishable. Like the infant, he becomes helpless and requires a baby’s care.”
Furthermore, persons seeking sexual immorality may also encourage a companion to drink so that his or her self-control deteriorates.
17 Surely giving in to any of these pressures would show—not that one has strength or is grown up—but that one is weak and lacks moral courage. With good reason Proverbs 20:1 warns that wine can become “a ridiculer, intoxicating liquor is boisterous, and everyone going astray by it is not wise.” You do not need to experience drunkenness to know how undesirable it is—any more than you need to break a leg to know how painful that can be.
18, 19. Even though a person may not be an alcoholic, what can result from just one bad experience with alcoholic drinks?
18 It is not merely the danger of becoming a “problem drinker” or an alcoholic that calls for caution. Just one bad experience with alcohol can bring lasting damage. It may be a serious auto accident, possibly with loss of life or limb—your own or that of some innocent person. Or it may be an act of immorality that puts a stain on your whole life and that may bring thorny complications. Or it may be some violent conduct that you will long regret. Why take an unnecessary risk?
19 The possibility of such tragic results is clear from the fact that, of the some 50,000 persons dying each year on the highways of the United States, more than half the deaths are from accidents that have alcohol-related causes. And a New York Times report says that “more than 80 per cent of homicides and aggressive assaults are committed by intoxicated persons.”
WEIGHING THE MATTER WITH WISDOM
20, 21. (a) Why do some persons prefer not to use any alcoholic beverages at all? (Hosea 4:11) (b) Why is it unwise to use such drinks to try to escape from problems?
20 In weighing the matter, remember that alcoholic beverages are not one of life’s essentials as are air, food and water. You can get along without them, and many prefer to do so. Remember, too, that the person who wants to have the approval of Jehovah God, the Life-Giver, must serve him with his ‘whole heart, soul, mind and strength.’ (Luke 10:27) Misuse of alcohol can, not only rob one of mental clarity and alertness and physical strength, but also affect one’s heart, leading to the development of bad motives.
21 True, the Bible speaks of the moderate use of such beverages as wine. But what if one looks to such alcoholic drinks as an escape from the reality of life or from boredom? Or as a personality medicine to ‘brace one’s nerves’ in overcoming timidity or fear? He may well find that the cure is worse than the ailment. What good is money if it proves to be counterfeit? And what good is a feeling of happiness or courage if it proves to be only artificial?
22. According to one report, under what circumstances is it least likely that the use of alcoholic beverages will lead to problems?
22 An enlightening report by the National Institute of Mental Health* shows that dangers of the misuse of alcohol were least likely to appear where the following circumstances prevailed: (1) Where the individual’s earliest contact with alcoholic beverages came within a strong family or religious group and where the beverages usually were of low alcohol content (such as table wines or beer) and usually taken at mealtimes as just part of the meal. (2) Where use of these beverages was viewed as neither a virtue nor a sin, drinking not being considered as any measure of adulthood or of one’s being a “real man.” (3) Where no one was pressured to drink and where turning down a drink was no more looked down upon than turning down a piece of bread. (4) Where drinking in excess was strongly disapproved, being considered neither “stylish” nor comical nor something to be tolerated. And, perhaps, most importantly, (5) where there was united and consistent agreement on what is right and what is wrong as regards the use of such beverages, parents presenting a good example of moderation.
23, 24. (a) What guidance does the Bible provide you on the use of alcoholic drinks? (Proverbs 23:20; 6:20; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) (b) How would you apply the counsel on this matter that is given at Romans 14:13-17, 21?
23 Your finest and safest guide, of course, is God’s Word. As we have seen, it provides examples of the proper use of alcoholic beverages and strong warnings against their misuse. It counsels young persons to respect their parents’ judgment. So be wise, listen to what they say as to whether you should drink alcoholic beverages or not, or under what circumstances you may do so. You are also wise if you avoid indulging in these beverages when those partaking are all young persons, and there are no parents or relatives present to provide a guiding influence.
24 To get the best out of your youth, and to enjoy lasting happiness, you need to look to God’s Word for guidance. So, “whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 Corinthians 10:31.
Published by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.