Is Drinking A Sin?
The issue of drinking alcoholic beverages can be quite controversial.
Certainly Jesus partook of wine (Luke 22:20), and He even miraculously
turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). We also know that Jesus never
sinned, so how could it be wrong to drink?
Whether or not it is wrong to drink, the Bible explicitly forbids
drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Corinthians 6:10). Drunkenness distorts
one's thinking, so how can we learn God's Word and please Him without a
However, the consumption of alcoholic beverages was widely practiced by
first century Christians, so what does the Bible say about drinking,
short of becoming drunk? Is it forbidden?
There are three passages in the Bible that suggest abstinence from all
alcoholic beverages. The first is in Proverbs 31:4-5 where "kings" are
forbidden to drink because their judgment would be impaired. In those
days of monarchies, kings were the ultimate court judges, like one-man
supreme courts. The Bible said that they shouldn't drink because of the
important decisions they were expected to make. In the same way, who
among us today is not responsible for decision-making to some degree,
and unsure when he might have to make a decision?
The second reference suggesting abstinence is 1 Peter 4:7 which tells
us that, since the end is near, we should stay sober and clear-minded
so that we can pray. How many drinks does it take to distort one's
thinking? Isn't the mind-altering effect of alcohol one of the major
motivations for most drinking?
The third reference is Romans 14:21 where we are charged not to drink
if it offends someone else or bruises their spiritual confidence. Even
if a Christian has personally searched the Scriptures and decided that
he is not violating God's Word by drinking, he may still choose to
abstain to keep a fellow Christian from stumbling; who may not
the same level of understanding. This is where one must be accountable
for what he believes and how he interprets scripture. This is one
daily Bible study is so important.
On the other hand, one could argue that none of the above passages
explicitly says that Christians must not drink. In fact, some
passages even appear to be imperatives to indulge. Consider the
Proverbs 31:6-7 is directed toward the distraught: "Give beer
to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish;
let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their
misery no more."
1 Timothy 5:23 is a comment by Paul to Timothy: "Stop drinking only
water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent
In 1 Corinthians 11:22, Paul tells the believers at Corinth that if
they choose to drink, they should do it at home rather than at a church
service, implying that this would be acceptable.
Of the six passages referenced above, the former three lean toward
abstinence, especially for leaders, and the latter three lean toward
indulgence, especially for the distraught. Either way, drunkenness is
forbidden. If you're a Christian drinker, you probably emphasize
Proverbs 31:6-7 and 1 Timothy 5:23. If you're a Christian abstainer,
you probably prefer Proverbs 31:4-5 and 1 Peter 4:7.
The deciding factors, however, are the mind-altering effects and the
long-term health risks of alcohol (Romans 12:1). If one drinks in
moderation without altering his thinking capability to the extent that
it affects his decision making, and his drinking doesn't present a
long-term health risk in his particular case, then he has not violated
the Scriptures. If he experiences mind-altering effects when he drinks,
so that his decision making rationale is impaired, he has violated
Regardless, we are each accountable for ourselves. In general, a
person's drinking is between him and God. Of course, there can be
extenuating circumstances when intervention is required and / or if
that person is doing harm to others. However, in most cases, it is
nobody else's business unless that person seek help (1 Timothy 4:11).
To be sure, there are many who place too much emphasis on this issue
simply because they're not minding their own business. Too often, the
pious abstainer may be displeasing to God by his Pharisaical pride than
the indulger is by his drinking.
Owen Weber 2009