Sunday night over 114 million people watched the Denver Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers in the 50th Annual Super Bowl. After the fairy tale ending, the Denver Broncos future Hall of Fame quarterback Payton Manning (a self-proclaimed Christian) was interviewed. When asked what was next for him he responded, “I’m going to kiss my wife, hug my family and drink a lot of Budweiser tonight. I promise you that.” This comment took many by surprise and set off a social media firestorm among Christians. Some were laughing at his comment (those who really don’t care). Some were renouncing his faith because of it (the teetotaler crowd), while others were praising him (those who are Christians and like to take a drink now and then). His comments were being talked about all over the internet and news stations across the world. If there is this much diversity when it comes to drinking alcohol within Christianity, I think it may be wise to look at what Scripture says and not just what grandma Susie thinks.
First I would like to say that I am not a drinker. To be fair, you might want to know that I grew up in a culture where if you accidentally made a wrong turn and ended up on the beer isle in the supermarket and were seen, at the next church business meeting you may very well be called upon for excommunication (maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but you get the point). Nevertheless, I have tasted a variety of different types of alcohol and it does not agree with my pallet. I do not see the purpose in drinking personally. I have been told that it is an “acquired taste” but I have no desire to acquire it. However, I know plenty of Christians that drink (some to excess, but most in moderation). Christians have agreed and disagreed about this issue for centuries, but if we want to end up on the right side of the argument we must agree with the Lord. What does Scripture actually say about it? Is it wrong to drink, or just get drunk? Should it be avoided at all times, or can it be done in moderation? Is it wrong for some and not for others, or is there a set standard found in Scripture across the board? I believe we can find all of these answer in God’s Word. Here are three things to consider before inviting your pastor over for some fresh brew or disowning and disfellowshiping your friends because they have a glass of wine at their anniversary dinner.
Is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol?
There are certainly times when it is sinful to drink alcohol.
- If you have taken a vow not to drink for a certain period of time or in certain places, then it is sinful to drink during those times. The Lord told Aaron and his sons not to drink wine or strong drink when they went into the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:9). If a person was to take a Nazarite vow, they were forbidden from drinking any type of intoxicating drink (Numbers 6:1-3, 20; Judges 13:4-7).
- The idea of abstaining from intoxicating drinks is not just an Old Testament concept. Paul warned believers against getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18) and wrote that deacons should not be “addicted to much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8). He instructed Titus that the older women should not be “slaves to drink” (Titus 2:3). It seems that Scripture does forbid consumption at certain times; but whatever the case, drunkenness is always forbidden.
- Today these things still apply. The truth of the matter is, if you are under the age of 21 in the United States it is illegal to drink (most state have small exceptions). It is illegal, and thus sinful, to violate the laws of the land (Romans 13). It is a governmental right to forbid anything that doesn’t promote human flourishing.
- If drinking alcohol goes against your conscience, then it is wrong and sinful as well (Romans 14:14). For some people, drinking is simply unacceptable. If you have a deep personal conviction, then to go against that conviction would be sinful.
- Likewise, if you know a weaker brother that you are around has a problem with drinking and you do it in front of them just to spite them, then it is you who are in sin. (Romans 14:13-23).
In summary, if you have made a vow not to drink and you drink, it is sin (James 5:12). If you drink to the point of drunkenness, it is sin. If you are not of age according to the governmental authority and you drink, it is sin. If you drink and it is not in good conscience, it is sin. Finally, if you drink to spite your weaker brother, this too is sinful. In these cases, yes, drinking alcohol is absolutely sinful.
Drinking alcohol itself is not sinful according to Scripture. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine (the good stuff nonetheless – John 2:10). Paul told Timothy (an elder) to “take a little wine for your stomach sake” (I Timothy 5:23). Melchizedek drank alcohol and it was blessed (Genesis 14:8). The clearest prohibition in Scripture is that a person is to NEVER get drunk on it (and I would add that being “tipsy” is stage one of drunkenness). Scripture says that wine is good (Psalm 104:15), but all too often people take what is good and turn it bad and into something sinful. It appears that Scripture is okay with the consumption of alcohol as long as it is done in moderation and with respect for others. So, is it okay to burst out that bottle of champaign to celebrate your wedding nuptials? As long as it meets the scriptural criteria, it appears to be permissible.
Now, before you go and crack open that long-neck bottle, I would like to offer a few caveats.
- Just because you can, does not mean that you should (I Corinthians 6:12). You may have the freedom in Christ and by the government to drink but you should first ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”, “Can this bring glory to God?” If you cannot come up with a good answer, then maybe you should put the top back on the bottle.
- If you know you have a tendency to take things to excess, then you should simply stay away. Paul says that he will not let anything master him. If you have had a problem with alcohol in the past, wisdom would say to stay away from it altogether (Proverbs 20:1).
- Will this help or hinder your witness? Your personal witness is a big deal. It has been said that it takes years to build your witness, and only seconds to ruin it. Is taking a drink of that beer going to aid in your witness to others or will it make you lose your credibility? Unless it helps, or at least makes it remain neutral, then my advice would be to just leave it on the table.
- Remember your brothers in Christ. We live in a land where not everyone agrees on this issue, so please use discernment for the sake of your fellow Christian if you decide to take a drink. Ask yourself, “Will this hurt my brother? And if so, would it be better to forgo it for something else?” While your brother may be wrong in their stance, it is not worth stirring up dissention because of your personal freedom.
Personally, I don’t care for alcohol, however that is simply my personal preference. At the same time, I do not believe it to be sinful for someone within the church to have a glass of wine for a special occasion. While I don’t drink, there are others whom I consider close brothers who have no issue with it at all. So, is it sinful for Christians to drink alcohol . . . in some cases yes, but for a person to make the blanket statement that “all drinking is sinful,” is a sin within itself. For that is calling something that God has called good, evil, and that is a dangerous place to be. My advice to you . . . whatever you decide to drink, drink it in such a way that it honors the Lord.
To read more on my personal conviction feel free to check out my blog “4 Reasons I Abstain from Drinking Alcohol.”
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell