Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should Christians drink alcohol?

Originally published March 13, 2017

 

I wanted to know what is your stance on drinking alcohol? Meaning drinking not to get drunk but having wine with dinner etc.

Great question, but just to tweak it a little, let’s look at the Bible’s stance on drinking alcohol. I don’t want readers to base their beliefs about alcohol usage (or anything else) on my opinions, but on what the Bible says about it.

The Bible does not prohibit Christians from drinking alcohol, only from drunkenness. Christians are not required to partake of alcohol, but may do so in moderation if they like, so long as their use of alcohol does not violate any other Scriptural principles, such as:

Evangelism
Would your drinking alcohol in some way hurt your witness to lost people? If a lost person came to your house and saw alcohol in the fridge, or saw you buying alcohol at the store, or drinking alcohol in a restaurant, would it inhibit your ability to share the gospel with that person due to her perceptions about people who drink alcohol? Could you hand a person a tract with one hand while holding a bottle of beer in the other?

Love for the brotherhood
Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ enough to deny yourself alcohol if that would set a better example for them, if it would confuse them or cause them to violate their own consciences, or if it would be more conducive to your discipleship of them? There are many people who have had such bad experiences associated with alcohol that your drinking would destroy their trust in, and respect for, you. There are new Christians who aren’t yet mature enough to understand that seeing you – a godly person they look up to – take a drink doesn’t mean that any and all drinking is OK for Christians. Read what Paul had to say about eating meat offered to idols and apply these principles to your consumption of alcohol.

Flaunting Liberty
I occasionally see Christians (usually in the YRR camp tribe) post pictures of bottles of alcohol, intentionally posed pictures of themselves drinking, and so forth, on social media, and I have to wonder – especially for those who are well aware that this is a difficult issue for many Christians – why? Is it to throw their liberty in the face of other Christians whose consciences prevent them from drinking? Is it to prove a point? Is it a result of being puffed up with the knowledge that they have the liberty to drink? Is it to dare onlookers to take them to task in order to excoriate the person with the Scriptures regarding liberty and alcohol? None of these are godly attitudes.

Authority
Has your husband, employer, school, government, or anyone else in rightful authority over you asked you not to drink? We are to submit to those God has placed in authority over us.

Ambassadorship
Would your drinking in any way tarnish the reputation of Christ, your church, or Christianity as a whole? God is jealous for His holy name, and we are commissioned to represent Him well.

Self Control
One of the fruits of the Spirit is self control. Obviously, if you’re drunk, you’re not really in control of yourself, but there’s another aspect of drinking which requires self control. Are you able to deny yourself your right to have a drink when spiritual concerns, such as the ones mentioned above, outweigh your liberty to imbibe?

Drinking alcohol is a far deeper question than just “Can I or can’t I?” The question we should be asking about drinking (and all other activities) is: “Will doing this further the cause of Christ in my life and the lives of others?”.

Additional Resources:

What does the Bible say about drinking? at Got Questions

Do Not be Drunk with Wine, Part 3 by John MacArthur

Christians and Alcohol by Tim Challies


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

5 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Should Christians drink alcohol?”

  1. I really like this article. May I make a suggestion, and if you agree, and an addition? Under “authority”, it may also be your church who has asked you not to drink. In my case I understand the Christian liberty to drink however, for all of the reasons you have stated I choose not to. An additional reason I choose not to it’s because my church asks us not to, and I agree to come under that authority as a member of my church.
    Thank you for considering this.

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    1. Hi Lisa- Thanks so much for your kind comment. I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I respect your decision.

      While there might be occasions when it would be appropriate for church leaders to ask members not to drink and for church members to graciously abide by that (ex: “We’re going out to evangelize at this street fair. We ask that all participating church members please not stop by the beer tent in order to remove any hindrances to witnessing.”), I don’t think it’s biblical for a church to make a generalized, blanket prohibition against drinking for their entire membership (ex: Writing it into their church covenant or requiring abstinence as a condition of membership). That goes beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6) and binds Christians to a man-made law that’s more restrictive than what Scripture requires, which is exactly what the Pharisees of Jesus’ time were doing. The church is the bride of Christ. Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23-24). Christ did not see fit to prohibit his bride from any and all consumption of alcohol. The church doesn’t have the authority to impose laws on the bride that Christ has not imposed. Doing so implicitly says, “God didn’t get it right. We know better.”

      I would say, however, that if you already belong to a church that prohibits drinking and you joined that church knowing full well, and agreeing to, that prohibition, that you should keep your word and refrain from drinking as long as you’re a member of that church.

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  2. I have a friend who is quite the wine drinker. She is a Christian who considers herself a mentor to younger women in her church. She has also been divorced 5 times but that’s another issue. She has posted photos of her full wine in a glass on her Facebook page several times and of course some of these younger believers from her church are friends on her page. She has no consideration who she might stumble, yet sh e considers herself a mature leader in her walk and in her church. I would disagree with that.

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