I’ve answered several variations of this question in the past so I’ve taken excerpts from several answers to give a kind of overall response:
What We Do Know For Sure
First let’s declare what we do know. It is always wrong and sinful to get drunk, period.
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NKJV)
Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, (NKJV)
So that leaves us with the age-old question of whether or not it is WRONG for a Christian to drink. Like most things in the Christian life this boils down to many variables that have to do with the condition of a person’s heart, not one specific act.
Is It Wrong to Have a Drink of Alcohol?
I know that I will be hammered for stating this so matter-of-factly, but here goes: there is nothing innately or inherently sinful about a Christian who takes a drink of alcohol, even on a routine basis. Now remember, I’m speaking of the actual physical act, not the motives, not the condition of the person’s heart, and not whether or not they are being a “stumbling block”.
So when is it a sin to drink alcohol?
- It is a sin if you get drunk (Ephesians 5:18).
- It is a sin if you violate your conscience (Romans 14:1-23).
- It is a sin if you cause a weaker brother to stumble (Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 8:9).
- It is a sin if in any way it shames Christ, if it robs God of glory or if it brings reproach on the church.
We have to be very careful about making a list of times, places and circumstances in which taking a drink of alcohol is okay or wrong because there are many considerations of the heart that have to be taken into account. It depends on the person’s motivation, their use of liberty, their conscience, and their spiritual state at the time. The minute we make a checklist, it becomes legalistic and we sinful humans ALWAYS find the loopholes to anything legalistic anyway.
Given that, I think it is a wise admonition that to avoid alcohol is probably the safest thing to do, but we cannot definitively call something “sin”, when the Bible does not call it such. The Bible has many warnings about alcohol use, and that is another good reason to consider it the wiser choice to severely limit or abstain from its use:
Lev. 10:9; Num. 6:3; Judg. 13:4; Prov. 20:1; Prov. 21:17; Prov. 23:29–32; Prov. 31:4, 5; Isa. 5:11, 22; Isa. 24:9; Isa. 28:1, 3, 7; Jer. 23:9; Jer. 35:2–10, 14, 18, 19; Ezek. 44:21; Hos. 4:11; Luke 1:15; Rom. 14:21; Eph. 5:18; Tit. 2:3
We need to cover both sides of the issue though, and we find a very interesting principle in Psalms. While there are plenty of good and practical reasons it is smart, and safer, NOT to drink at all, the Bible does list wine as one of God’s blessings to man:
Psalm 104:13-15 He waters the hills from His upper chambers; The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works. He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the service of man, That he may bring forth food from the earth, And wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, And bread which strengthens man’s heart. (NKJV)
It’s hard to miss the context. Water is good, grass is good, vegetation is good, oil is good, bread is good… wine is a sin. No, wine makes glad the heart of man.
And let’s not use the silly argument that it was unfermented grape juice, or so mild that you could drink gallons of it and not get drunk. The Bible wouldn’t contain the prohibitions against drunkenness if every mention of wine was really just grape juice. If that was the case, the reasonable nature of Scripture would make that point clear.
If the Bible itself lists wine as a one of the fruits of the earth that God has given us, then we have to consider that point in our answer too. It is not our place to exclude verses that don’t fit our point of view.
Asking the Right Question
Let me give my favorite advice for these types of questions. Instead of asking “what can I do, and it not be wrong?”; try asking “what can I do to bring the most glory to Christ?”
That will answer most questions of this nature for the honest seeker whether it’s alcohol, dancing, movies or physical content with the opposite sex before marriage.
Churches Serving Alcohol at Social or Evangelistic Events
Should churches serve alcohol at casual social events or evangelistic events to make it more appealing and bring more people in? I know you expect me to shout “NO!” but before I do…
Let’s honestly ask: how is that any different than offering a feel-good, positive “Jesus will improve your life” Gospel? How is that any different than the sugary, success-vocabulary presentation of America’s Favorite Pastor that is devoid of any mention of sin or guilt or hell?
This is the natural progression of what is occurring in the Church over the last couple of decades:
- Entertainment to attract the world to hear about Jesus
- Anecdotal, story-telling sermons to attract the world to hear about Jesus
- Worldly events, seminars, workshops and support groups to attract the world to hear about Jesus
- Remove all Christian symbols and vocabulary to attract the world to hear about Jesus
- Create a rock concert atmosphere to attract the world to hear about Jesus
- Expand programs, resources and facilities to attract the world to hear about Jesus
- End all negative teaching about sin, hell and condemnation to attract the world to hear about Jesus
- Offer a comfortable, appealing, success-oriented, self-improvement message to attract the world to hear about Jesus
That’s just off the top of my head. Basically, we have decided that the simple preaching of God’s Word, ALL OF GOD’S WORD, is not sufficient… not sufficient for bringing people to Christ, or for equipping people to live a fulfilling, emotionally healthy and spiritually victorious life.
If rock concert music, lattes, support groups and endless social events attract people to “hear about Jesus” then why not:
- Serve beer and cocktails at a church party then hand out tracts.
- Free drugs for drug addicts; that will get lots of people in the door.
- Perhaps the Apostle Paul should have arranged orgies or prostitutes for the Corinthians who would have come in droves for that
- Let’s create an MTV music video New Testament so the youth will be interested (we’ve already got a comic book version)
- Let’s write a book where God and Jesus are worldly, crude humans that we can relate to (oh wait, that’s been done – “The Shack”)
- Poker is all the rage… I say we conduct a “World Church Series of Poker” tournament, sell a televangelist’s airplane, and use the proceeds as prize money. Given the popularity, that will draw thousands to “hear about Jesus”. We could have poker cards with Bible verses on the back and preach sermons about the “river card of life” and “mucking” the Gospel invitation.
- I know, let’s just PAY PEOPLE to come hear about Jesus… the megachurches could get hundreds of thousands in the door doing that.
If the end justifies the means, then NOTHING that attracts people to hear about Jesus, should be off limits. If ANYTHING is off limits, there has to be a reason why… and if there is a reason why, then we have to determine that reason, and figure out if it applies to offering beer, teaching positive-thinking sermons, or delivering entertainment instead of worship and preaching.
The alcohol being served is just a symptom. The disease is that we have turned to MAN’S MACHINATIONS in some futile and absurd attempt to improve on God’s presentation of the Gospel in Scripture.
Listen folks, there is no difference between offering beer and avoiding sermons about sin. There is no difference between giving out drugs or creating a “positive, comfortable, non-offending” church environment. It all comes from the same mindset: man’s tricks, or the presenting the simple truth of God without manipulation or gimmicks.
Should churches serve alcohol to attract people? No. Should they serve up junk food teaching to attract people? No.
Study the following list about “The Gospel” and tell me if a beer party would make it more appealing to the world. The Gospel:
- Is good tidings of great joy for all people. Lu 2:10,11,31,32
- Exhibits the grace of God. Ac 14:3; 20:32
- The knowledge of the glory of God is by. 2Co 4:4,6
- Life and immortality are brought to light by Jesus through. 2Ti 1:10
- Is the power of God to salvation. Ro 1:16; 1Co 1:18; 1Th 1:5.
- Is glorious. 2Co 4:4
- Is everlasting. 1Pe 1:25; Re 14:6
- Preached by Christ. Mt 4:23; Mr 1:14
- Must be believed. Mr 1:15; Heb 4:2
- Brings peace. Lu 2:10,14; Eph 6:15
- Produces hope. Col 1:23
- There is fulness of blessing in. Ro 15:29
- Awful consequences of not obeying. 2Th 1:8,9
- Gospel of peace. Eph 6:15
- Gospel of God. Ro 1:1; 1Th 2:8; 1Pe 4:17
- Gospel of Christ. Ro 1:9,16; 2Co 2:12; 1Th 3:2
- Gospel of the grace of God. Ac 20:2
- Gospel of the kingdom. Mt 24:14
- Gospel of salvation. Eph 1:13
- Glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. 2Co 4:4
- Word of salvation. Ac 13:26
- Word of truth. Eph 1:13; Jas 1:18
- Word of life. Php 2:16
Torrey, R. (1995, c1897). The new topical text book : A scriptural text book for the use of ministers, teachers, and all Christian workers. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos research Systems, Inc.
I Feel Like Taking A Drink Occasionally
A reader asked: I want to be closer to the Lord but I still find myself wanting to take a drink once in awhile.
This is to be expected for those who have that desire (not everyone is tempted by alcohol). Even the Apostle Paul himself struggled with his flesh wanting to do the things that he should not do. This is not an excuse for allowing ourselves to do it, nor does it keep us from being closer to the Lord. To the contrary, the great temptations that we have should drive us into the arms of the Lord for protection and comfort.
Romans 7:15-20 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (NKJV)
What you have to answer for yourself is whether the Lord wants YOU to abstain 100% from alcohol. As we’ve shown, there is no Biblical command to never drink, only to never get drunk. So each Christian must answer for themselves whether God has allowed them the liberty.
For me, I don’t struggle over alcohol. On a rare occasion, I will have a glass of champagne or wine, and then it doesn’t even cross my mind again for month and months. So the taking that liberty at appropriate times (not causing someone to stumble) is a non-issue for me. Others though, may exercise that liberty and find themselves struggling with drinking too much or too often or being tempted by it all the time. For them, my advice is to abstain, but they should ask God to give them a conviction about it. It is a personal liberty for them to decide, not for me to decide for them.
What About the Office Party or Other Events?
What’s my advice to you about drinking at “events” with unbelievers? I would advise Christians to choose NOT to. It could range from being a “less than the best” decision all the way to being a totally stupid and destructive mistake. This my opinion and I present it as my opinion.
In today’s world of partying, drinking and revelry the person who ABSTAINS WITHOUT PRONOUNCING “HELL BOUND” ON THOSE WHO DO NOT is a person who will stand out. Why would you want to stand out? Perhaps God has prepared a heart who will see your example and it will become an open door for you to talk about God with them.
Choosing not to drink is also the safest choice. If you don’t drink, then you will never have the chance of getting drunk and shaming your Christian testimony. If you don’t drink, you’ll never suffer from impaired judgment or decreased inhibitions that could lead to bad decisions or acts. Choosing not to drink at public events will never cause a weaker Christian to stumble (1 Cor 8.9). The mature Christian will look to be an example and leader for other Christians who may not have the same strength or maturity.
It would not a be sin for you to have a drink at the office party (assuming it does not violate your conscience) but my advice to you is to choose NOT to for all the reasons I’ve stated.
My advice is that if you want to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer, do it in the privacy of your own home. You must do it in good conscience (has God clearly told you “no”?), you must not cause someone to stumble (does it cause unnecessary temptation for your spouse?) and you must never get drunk. It is my opinion that doing it in front of your children is not prudent either because the world is already trying to get them to drink. Is that hypocritical? Only if you lie about it to them.
That is as dogmatic as I believe the Bible allows us to be though my answer will disappoint many who want to simply declare all drinking as sin… and those who want to say “drinking is no big deal”. I’m really good at making EVERYONE mad with most of my answers.
What are your questions about Christian living?