For the Christian, drunkenness is a sin and not to be pursued in any way. Period. It’s not expected of a man or woman to be under the influence of alcohol and be without self-control. Both the Old and New Testament are crystal clear on the subject matter so the problem isn’t so much as to whether drunkenness is acceptable or not; the issue really is whether or not it’s permissible for Christians to drink in moderation. Is it okay to drink but not get drunk? Well, let’s get on with it.
Nowhere in scripture are we told that drinking alcohol is sinful. However, there’s a lot of admonition on how we handle alcoholic beverages. King Solomon described wine as a “mocker” and a “brawler” because of the havoc it wreaked on people’s marriages, families, friendships etc. He was right. Alcohol is very addictive and can have disastrous effects on us. It has the potential to impair one’s judgment often leading to unrestrained behaviours. Already, it’s a struggle to keep ourselves in check even under perfectly sane conditions. MORE GRACE! *looking up to God*. Throwing alcohol into the mix, to me, is like trying to quench fire with petrol. Many people have suffered serious health problems, relationship troubles and premature deaths due to excessive drinking. In US alone, nearly 88,000 people die every year from alcohol-related incidents (check link). Don’t get me wrong. Alcohol isn’t inherently bad. As a matter of fact, God told the people of Israel that they could exchange their tithes with money and use it to buy whatever they liked INCLUDING wine or other fermented drink (see Deuteronomy 14). The Psalmist said that God brings forth food from the earth, and wine that makes glad the heart of man. As I said earlier, drinking isn’t sin but how we handle it determines whether it’s going to be beneficial or harmful to us.
It’s always been my fear that one may cross the line and do something regrettable in their attempt to drink in moderation. I feel like it’s the same story with the many alcoholics out there. They probably intended to drink only soberly but unfortunately became mastered by their booze. It’s one of the many reasons I for one prefer to stay away from alcohol because it’s very addictive plus I can’t really trust myself on staying within limits. But it’s not just about you or me. It’s not so much about knowing our alcohol intake limits. We need to be very mindful of how our actions affect the people around us. Jesus was really strict with the warning against causing others to sin. He said, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come BUT WOE TO THE PERSON THROUGH WHOM THEY COME!” It means you’re not only responsible for your actions but also how your actions affect and influence others. Apostle Paul also addressed this same issue of causing others to stumble in most of the letters he wrote. In Romans 14, Paul spoke against eating or drinking or doing anything lawful in a manner that might cause another person to stumble. Oh yes! It’s very possible to do lawful things unlawfully. Eating meat was offensive to the new converts then even though meat in itself wasn’t sinful (they perceived meat as something sacrificed to idols). According to Paul, it was wise for the strong Christians to abstain altogether from eating meat if it was going to hurt someone’s conscience and by extension cause that individual to sin. Paul expected the believers who are strong in faith to apply this same wisdom in their dealing with alcohol. It makes a lot of sense considering the fact that we’re examining the lives of people who prior to salvation performed religious acts of worship to gods in a drunken state. It means most of them were probably drunkards and you sure didn’t want to in anyway reintroduce them to what once a heavyweight in their lives. There’s absolutely no greater love than this: that we do nothing to offend or weaken our neighbor’s faith no matter how permissible or lawful that thing in question may be.
It appears to me that there’s a lot of controversy over the subject of Jesus turning water into wine in the New Testament (see John 2). First of all, if you’re wondering whether Jesus drank wine or not, He probably did. In Luke 7, Christ Himself said He came eating and drinking and the religious leaders tried to launch sham attacks at him by calling him a glutton and a drunkard. In addition to that, wine was used during the Last Supper prior to Christ’s crucifixion. In all these occasions, you can say Jesus probably took in some wine. Ok, so you want to use those instances to excuse your drunkenness? Don’t get it twisted! Nothing about what transpired in any of those instances should endorse anyone to indulge in alcoholism. Wine in those times was quite indispensable in their culture. It was often served alongside meals at home and at ceremonial functions. It had a lesser alcoholic content as compared to what we have in modern times (the process of distillation we use today increases the alcohol content). And what amazes me is the fact that there was the strong urge to drink soberly in an era where drunkenness was a hard feat to achieve. Bruh! you had to chug down lots of wine before you could become intoxicated…an unfortunately easy achievable feat in our time. Anyway, it was pretty hard to do away with wine considering the fact that it was the best healthy liquid alternative they had in a community with little or no safe drinking water. Furthermore, wine had its healthful benefits in the past (as it does in modern times too). Do you remember when Paul instructed Timothy to no longer drink water but use a little wine for the sake of his stomach? Exactly! Paul wasn’t trying to contradict the bible’s warning against intoxication. He urged Timothy to use wine to treat the ailment in his stomach. The fact that Jesus made more wine available at a wedding feast or Timothy drank a little wine for the sake of his stomach doesn’t mean it’s license for anyone to be hooked on to alcoholic beverages. Bible frowns on drunkenness that leads to dissipation – uncontrolled speech and actions – and anyone involved in such illicit acts (according to scripture) would have no place in heaven.
In my opinion, I wish everyone would go with abstinence. It isn’t because abstaining from drinking wine will draw one closer to God. No. Your abstention or involvement in moderate drinking will not make you less/more righteous before God. I just feel abstinence is a better choice looking at the rate at which drunk driving, homicide, sexual assault, violence and other alcohol-related incidents occur. It may not be you or I engaging in these dangerous activities but is it really worth it to lead someone else astray just so we can enjoy some few glasses of wine? We shouldn’t shrug our shoulders and whisper ‘well that’s their problem’ under our breath. If we’re really concerned about the well-being of others, it shouldn’t be a big deal to relinquish our right to do certain things. Not to spite you dear reader, but it’s not like anyone became deficient in vitamins or mineral salts because they did away with alcohol. All I’m saying is we shouldn’t be too keen on wanting to exercise our freedom to either satisfy our personal convictions or prove that we are at liberty to do lawful things. Paul gave up his rights to do so many things just so he could bring salvation to many. I believe it was very tough for him but he rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the propagation of the Good News of Christ. No matter what, love must always lead.
When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said that the first was to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. And that we ought to love our neighbours as ourselves. It’s my sincere prayer that whatever choice(s) we make with respect to drinking wine brings peace and mutual edification to the glory of God. May God grace us with the needed wisdom so that the exercise of our freedom doesn’t hinder the gospel of Christ. Let’s do what we do for the sake of the gospel, so that many may share in its blessings.