The Beverage You Drink

Yes, people drank wine in Bible times. Yes, Jesus turned water into wine. But what does the Bible say about the beverage you drink?

Joseph Greve 350488 Unsplash

A Sip or a Sin

Getting drunk may be common and even "cool" in some social groups, but God says it is sin. The Bible paints a dot-to-dot of people ruined by alcohol. From Noah to Lot to Benhadad to Belshazzar and beyond, you hear the Biblical siren screaming warning of the awful effects of alcohol. Some lost their usefulness, some lost their families, and some lost their souls.

Drinking is also a common stepping-stone to other sins such as murder, fornication, and idolatry. Sin always begins with one look, one word, or one action. James said, "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:14-15). It is a process that begins like a forest fire with just one spark. In this case, it begins with just one sip.

The Bible says drinking is dangerous because it could waste your money (Proverbs 21:17), keep you out of the local church (1 Corinthians 5:11-13), and lead you to sin (Proverbs 20:1). Ultimately, it could ban you from heaven. God has declared, "nor drunkards ... will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:10).

Tylenol or Tequila?

In Bible times, people did not run to a 24-hour pharmacy with a headache, a wound, or indigestion. When the Good Samaritan saw the beaten and half-dead traveler, he pulled out his first-aid kit of oil (likely olive) and wine. The alcohol in the wine served to sterilize the wound and kill bacteria. Oil soothed and softened the injury.

Timid Timothy was facing major stress in his ministry; this was taking its toll on his stomach. Pepto-Bismol and Tums were not readily available in those days. The general treatment was to drink wine. Perhaps it killed bacteria from bad water or parasites in the stomach or intestines. Timothy, Paul’s convert and co-worker, saw the dangers of alcohol and this is why he had avoided taking a few swigs to cure what ailed him. Wanting above all to maintain a blameless testimony, he chose to suffer rather than even get near the line where he might jeopardize his spiritual usefulness. Paul eventually had to write and tell him, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (1 Timothy 5:23).

Paul gave this advice when wine was the only medicine available. He waited as long as possible (frequent infirmities) to speak to Timothy and even then, he told him to drink "a little wine." Therefore, wine would be a last resort. In our day of advanced medical technology and available medicines, it is only Biblical and best to seek all other treatments first. The very specific purpose of "for ... your frequent ailments" is not a basis for cocktail consumption. Paul’s wise counsel supports the conviction to avoid alcohol as much as possible and to seek Tylenol rather than Tequila.

Controlled by the Spirit or the spirits?

Alcoholic beverages affect the brain and the body. At some point (some say immediately), it starts to inhibit self-control. Take the extreme case of the person who has had too much "liquid lunch." They will almost do or say anything without inhibition. The hangover and the embarrassment of what they did under the influence show the potential danger of losing self-control.

"The contrast is between a substance that controls you or the Spirit who guides you."

But how much is too much? God says, "do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). The contrast is between a substance that controls you or the Spirit who guides you. Drunkenness never leads a person to do the will of God or to obey His Word. So, will that margarita or martini on your vacation lead you towards obedience or disobedience? Will it make you more sensitive to the Spirit and lead you to further study of the Bible or will it increase your desire for the distilled spirits bubbling in the bottle?

A Shot or Not?

Your first shot of whiskey could be moral suicide. If science is right, certain people’s bodies have a predisposition to alcoholism. The first drink may start a train ride that could wreck your life. Far better to never leave the station. Why would you want to risk so much for so little?

Just suppose you could handle a drink without any problem. But what about your friends, younger brothers and sisters, or other Christians? What about the children you hope to have some day? What if one of them were to drink because you drink and ended up with a life shattered by alcohol or moral failure? The devastation of the first shot may not be in your life, but in that of someone else. All Christians are to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 19:19) and "love the brotherhood" (1 Peter 2:17). Therefore, all your choices should be regulated by how your actions will affect others. The prophet warned, "Woe to him that makes his neighbor drink" (Habakkuk 2:15). God holds you specifically responsible if you cause another to fall. In the New Testament, Paul wrote, "It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Romans 14:21).

The Bible principle for moral situations is Proverbs 6:27, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” Considering the tremendous danger for you personally and your responsibility to seek the best for others, would you really want to take a shot or not?

More Waste and Less Willing?

Ask any unsaved person if it is acceptable for a Christian to drink. Usually, they will see a conflict between a believer and a beer. Alcohol is most likely a detriment to a believer’s testimony.

But some people reason, "The Bible does not say I cannot drink alcohol, so what’s wrong with one alcoholic beverage?" Even if it were permissible, Paul said, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up." (1 Corinthians 10:23). Paul is not asking, "Can you?" but "Should you?"

Everyone agrees that drunkenness is sin. However, it is hard to quantify exactly how much alcohol intake constitutes drunkenness. In our day, there are plenty of alternative beverages and plenty of alternative medicines. Considering the potential effects on your body, your testimony, your spiritual usefulness, your assembly, your friends, and your family, why would you even want to take the first drink?

King Lemuel’s name means, "dedicated to God." His mother was burdened about his life and encouraged him so that he might live up to his name. Her advice? "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed" (Proverbs 31:4-5). She understood the tremendous danger of alcoholic beverages which could produce waste in her son’s life and make him less willing to be dedicated to God.

So then, if you are looking at a menu and an alcoholic beverage is calling your name, what will you do? Get it in your heart and soul that dedication to God will only be harmed by giving in to the temptation and pressure to drink alcohol. In other words, just say, “NO” when you are faced with the challenge and choice as to the beverage you drink.