Questions From Readers
◼ Should a Christian avoid coffee and tea because they contain the addictive drug caffeine?
The Bible does not mention coffee or tea. But what it does say can help a Christian to decide whether he will drink coffee or tea.
The drug caffeine can affect mind and body. Millions of cups of coffee and tea are consumed daily, leading Dr. Melvin Konner to say: “[Caffeine] may, in fact, be the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world.” It can increase alertness, raise one’s adrenaline level, and speed up circulation and metabolism. That it is a drug does not of itself establish whether a Christian should shun caffeine-containing beverages (coffee, tea, cola drinks, maté) or foods (such as chocolate).
Alcohol is also a drug that can affect mind and body, yet what do the Scriptures say about it? The Bible acknowledges that wine (or other alcoholic drinks) can make “the heart of mortal man rejoice” or alter the mood of a distressed soul. (Psalm 104:15; Proverbs 31:6, 7) God’s Word does not, though, indicate that true worshipers must avoid all beverages containing alcohol. What the Bible condemns is immoderate use of alcohol—drunkenness.—Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Proverbs 20:1; Hosea 4:11; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 1 Peter 4:3.
What, however, of the claim that a person may become addicted to caffeine? Many who habitually drink coffee, tea, or maté develop some degree of dependence, though it is debated whether this is a true clinical addiction. At least they feel withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches or nausea, if deprived of their normal dose of caffeine. Here again, call to mind the Biblical view of alcoholic drinks. Though many persons have been addicted to alcohol, it is not forbidden to Christians if taken in moderation. Jesus drank wine; he even miraculously made wine at a wedding feast.—Matthew 26:29; John 2:3-11.
Still, a Christian might feel that he would prefer not to risk becoming dependent on caffeine. If being deprived of his regular intake of caffeine makes him irritable (“coffee nerves”), he might consider abstaining from caffeine as a demonstration of “self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Since the Bible does not mention abstinence from beverages containing caffeine, the decision about coffee or tea must be made individually. Moderation is appropriate if a Christian consumes either.—Compare Titus 2:2.
Moderation is also central to the question of possible health risks. There are many claimed hazards of regularly taking in large doses of caffeine (whether from coffee, tea, cola drinks, or other drinks or foods). Yet, for each study linking a particular health risk to caffeine, another seems to point to the contrary.
The logic of moderation is underscored by what the Bible says about honey. It is a natural substance, and the act of eating it as a stimulating energy food is natural (in contrast to breathing smoke into the lungs). (1 Samuel 14:26, 27; Matthew 3:4) However, you can get sick from eating too much of it. The Bible warns: “Is it honey that you have found? Eat what is sufficient for you, that you may not take too much of it and have to vomit it up.”—Proverbs 25:16, 27.
Some people cannot consume any honey at all. Similarly, for health reasons some may need to avoid alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, or other foods and beverages. Others may avoid such things by personal choice or because of widespread local sensitivity, not wanting to offend anyone. This reminds us of the apostle Paul’s comment: “If food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat flesh at all, that I may not make my brother stumble.”—1 Corinthians 8:13.
Consequently, let each individual act in accord with his own resolve without feeling that his decision needs to be imposed on others. Paul wrote: “Let the one eating not look down on the one not eating, and let the one not eating not judge the one eating, for God has welcomed that one. Who are you to judge the house servant of another?”—Romans 14:3, 4.