Questions From Readers
● Is it proper for Christians to “drink a toast” when they get together?—M. D., U.S.A.
In some lands, when acquaintances are about to part, they have a parting drink of some alcoholic beverage, with glasses raised and touched together and accompanied with an expression of ‘to your health’ or something similar. At wedding receptions frequently a toast is similarly offered to the health and happiness of the newlyweds. Understandably, some have questioned whether it would be Scripturally proper for Christians to share in such toasts.
Certainly there is nothing wrong with a Christian’s wishing a friend happiness and good health. Nor would it be improper to do so as a group. The spiritually older men in the first century concluded a letter to the Christian congregations with an expression meaning, essentially, “Good health to you!”—Acts 15:29.
But is that all there is to “toasting”? Why do the toasters raise their glasses, or lift their mugs and clink them together? Is it in imitation of some custom? Note what The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Ed., Volume 13, page 121, says:
“The custom of drinking ‘health’ to the living is most probably derived from the ancient religious rite of drinking to the gods and the dead. The Greeks and Romans at meals poured out libations to their gods, and at ceremonial banquets drank to them and to the dead.” Then, after showing how such pagan customs survived among Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples, this reference work adds: “Intimately associated with these quasi-sacrificial drinking customs must have been the drinking to the health of living men.”
When most people join in a “toast” they probably do not imagine that they might be copying the custom of lifting up a libation or liquid sacrifice to pagan gods, yet that could be so. Without question, a faithful Christian would not share in an actual pagan sacrifice, realizing that “you cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons.” (1 Cor. 10:21) A mature Christian would also avoid even imitating false religious rituals. This spiritually mature course would please Jehovah. Remember, God specifically warned the Israelites against copying religious practices of the pagan nations round about them.—Lev. 19:27; 21:5.
If a Christian is going to make a request for divine blessing on another, then an appropriate way to do that is through heartfelt prayer to God, not by following traditions based on pagan worship that Jehovah abhors.—Phil. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:11.
Customs and traditions abound all over the earth. If a mature Christian knew that a particular one was directly based on false religion, obviously he would avoid it. But not all customs are objectionable. Some may simply be local practices or etiquette without a false religious origin, such as greeting by shaking hands or bowing. (Gen. 23:7) Each individual can consider what he knows about a particular custom and his own motive with regard to it. Just why is he doing it? He might also ask himself, ‘Will doing this stumble others, or will people in the community link my actions with false religion?’ (1 Cor. 10:32, 33) No one else can serve as the conscience for a particular Christian; hence each one can think the matter over and make a decision so as to have a clear conscience.—Acts 23:1; 2 Cor. 1:12.