Season: 10 Episode: 150
Listen to episode 146 in Spanish:
Some topics are heavily debated by Christains and when it comes to drinking alcohol, the debate can get heated. The real question isn’t, “Did Jesus drink wine?” And it’s also not, “Did Jesus turn water into grape juice?” Shanda dives into the real issue when we talk about the freedom we have in Christ. She also talks about who we should consider when drinking alcohol. This episode may ruffle some feathers, but that’s not the intention. While we do want to be agreeable, the most important issue is that we are truthful when it comes to what the Bible tells us to do.
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Hey guys! Welcome back to another episode of Her Faith Inspires podcast where we take cultural issues and we tackle them with biblical truth. Today we’re talking about drinking alcohol and whether or not it’s considered a sin. I grew up being told is was wrong to drink, or a sin to drink, and although I do not drink – EVER, not even a sip or a drop of alcohol, I do have a biblical perspective to share with you on drinking and alcohol.
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A friend and I were discussing drinking alcohol a few weeks ago and specially getting drunk.
She had a conversation with someone who drinks daily and they were discussing a fine line of drinking to intoxication, getting a buzz, etc, and we talked about why drunkenness itself is a sin.
I was raised to believe drinking was a sin and then I got older and studied this topic for myself and based on what I read from the Bible, alcohol itself isn’t a in. Again, I don’t drink. I have no desire to drink. I think it’s an acquired taste that I don’t have time for, but I don’t think drinking alcohol is a sin.
So here’s what we’re going to discuss today:
- What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol?
- Why is drunkenness a sin?
- Why does this matter to the Christian? How does this set us apart from the rest of the culture who drinks and parties? Should we look the same?
What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol?
First, the Bible does not say Christians are to refrain from drinking alcohol. When I’ve heard Christians speak on the topic, I’ve heard them say two things. The ones in the, “It’s okay to drink alcohol camp” always say Jesus drank the wine. The ones in the, “It’s never okay to drink alcohol camp” say it wasn’t wine, it was grape juice. That’s just silly. It was fermented so it was intoxicating if you drank too much of it.
Just like we talk about here all the time, you have to understand the culture of the time and who the Bible was written to. In the first century (although the Bible talks about alcohol in Proverbs and other books of the Bible, but let’s just go back to the first century) the water wasn’t filtered like ours. They didn’t have modern technology where water ran out of faucets and they could purchase bottles of water. So the way they drank could give them stomach issues. Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach problems.
We see here that alcohol was used for medicinal purposes as well as leisure purposes.
There are several verses that talk about wine in a positive light, like God providing wine and it being attached to a merry heart. However, I am not going to start with that verse. I think the best verse to start with is 1 Corinthians 6:12 and it says, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Now a lot of people will use this verse to say it’s permissible for them to drink alcohol, and we will get back to the full context of this verse and the verses surrounding it later but I what I want to first draw out here is that Paul says that although things are permissible for me, I will not be mastered by any of them.
The key word here is mastered.
And that’s where the difference between drinking and getting drunk comes in. If you are mastered by something, it means it has control over you. You do not control it. If you have to have a drink every day, or you exceed the limits where you start buzzing from alcohol, it shows a lack of self-control and self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. And that’s why this is so important. When someone is drunk, they are under the influence of alcohol consumption.
Many times they throw up, they get hangovers, they don’t remember a lot of what happened, they can’t walk straight, they slur their words. That’s why God doesn’t want us to get drunk – because self-control is a fruit of the spirit and it separates us from being beastly.
Albert texted me something after the episode with my husband, Dean, last week. He said this and I think it’s fitting here. Albert said, “Sinfulness or rebellion is beastly. So we can be the image of God, or the image of a beast. Self control allows us to choose to be God’s image, self control in regard to our desires. Or we can choose unfettered desires, making us beasts.”
This applies to food, sex, fame, money, possessions, etc.
That’s why drunkenness is a sin. Alcohol is a thing, a substance. It’s controllable. It is not out of your control to keep it within the proper limits. So is food. Food is not bad. It’s necessary for survival, however, gluttony is sinful because it shows a lack of self-control. When we no longer control the thing and the thing controls us, we are giving into fleshly desires and serving the God of our bellies. That verse is from Philippians. Now here’s the thing: our stomachs can be filled temporarily, but they will hunger again. We might enjoy the tasted of wine or alcohol, but we will thirst again.
For the believer, God satisfies the spiritual thirst and hunger but for the person who does not serve God, there will never be satisfaction. This is often why people try and fulfill a spiritual desire with physical means – food and drink.
We must look different from the rest of the world.
I can sit here and tell you, yes, it’s okay to drink alcohol. Or no, it’s not okay to drink alcohol but don’t you want to get to the reason why God places healthy boundaries on things so that we can enjoy them within those limits? When you think about it, everything God has made is healthy and good within the boundaries – sex is good in the boundaries of marriage. Wine is good (it seems to those who like it) within the boundaries of self-control. Food is good when we don’t push past the limits of overeating. When we keep them within those boundaries we are operating as the master of those things … we show we have self-control. When we do not, we are showing ourselves to be like the rest of the world whose God is their bellies and we become mastered by them.
So why is drunkenness a sin?
I already said that drunkenness is a sin because it shows you are masters by alcohol rather than controlling it. Now again, I don’t drink and I have reasons for them other than the fact that I don’t like the smell or taste of alcohol:
I come from a family of people who could not control their alcohol consumption. Two of my uncles died off sclerosis of the liver, and the other drinks and smokes. I had four uncles on my mom’s side and they all drank and left their families and were drunks. I just saw too much of the effects of what alcohol can do and I didn’t want to put myself in that situation.
The other reason is because I teach young kids and I have young boys, none of which are of drinking age. I don’t want to cause anyone to stumble and there are a lot of my own family and people I went to church with who think it’s wrong to drink.
Now, those are my reasons.
I’m not saying anyone has to do what I do and stay away from drinking a glass of wine. But I also know there are people who think life is more fun or that they are more fun and outgoing when they drink. Is that a good reason to drink? I think we have to ask ourselves what’s the purpose of drinking? What’s my limit? My friend also told me that some people say drunkenness is relative because someone can have 8 drinks and not get drunk and another might have 3 drinks until they get drunk. What are we debating here? I know people can tell when they start to get a buzz because I’ve heard people say they notice when they are buzzing.
You know your limits and although the quantity is different for everyone before that buzz takes place, the fact that drunkenness is wrong is objectively wrong for everyone. Of course a man weighing 200lb is going to be able to consume more alcohol before he feels it than a 100lb woman. If I eat a 10oz steak, I’m going to be hurting because my stomach capacity is a lot smaller than my husbands. But that doesn’t meant that gluttony is not objectively wrong for either of us just because I eat less before I get to my limits.
And we know this, right?
It’s really just an excuse not to face to real issue when it comes to self-control and indulging the flesh. Drunkenness is indulging the flesh – it’s giving in to the god of our bellies.
Proverbs 23:31-33 says, “Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things.”
So although we have verses that talk about the delights of wine and fermented drinks, we also have the warning. This verse shows that we must be careful because the bite of intoxicating drink can cause drunkenness and worse yet, it can cause addiction. And addiction happens when you can’t go a day without drinking it.
Web MD says here are the warning signs that you might have a problem with alcohol:
- You drink more than you planned.
2. You spend a lot of time on the alcohol – planning, buying, recovering from it.
3. Your tolerance has gone up. You drink to get a buzz and it takes consuming more to get it.
4. You crave it. “There are times when you want a drink so badly, you can’t think about anything else until you get one. That strong need or urge can be triggered by people, places, things, or times of day that remind you of drinking. Certain emotions or physical sensations can also trigger a craving. When you have a drinking problem, your brain reacts to these triggers differently than a social drinker’s does.”
5. You give up other activities. You replace what you used to do for fun with drinking alcohol.
6. You’re dropping the ball on life. You show up to work with a hangover or get behind on tasks because of alcohol.
7. It causes friction in you relationships.
8. You have withdrawals. Sleepless, shaking, anxiety, depression, nausea.
9. You could have been hurt. You make poor decisions.
10. You want to stop but can’t. Maybe now you’re concerned but you just can’t stop.
Why does this matter to the Christian?
Well first, there are a lot of Christians who debate this issue. I think it’s an important discussion to have but we have to come at it the right way. I don’t drink but I am not going to tell another Christian they can’t enjoy a glass of wine. My conviction is not the same in that regard. And the Bible is clear that drunkenness is a sin, not drinking itself.
I’ve talked recently how the pendulum swings wide. Balance is key here. So there are those who want to condone drinking and take it way too far, and then there are those who become legalistic about it and take it way too far. God has given us freedom to balance out certain things in our lives with self-control.
Paul makes this clear when he says in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 that there is an exception to your freedom. Do you know what that is? Your brothers spiritual well-being.
Here’s what Paul says and then we’ll discuss it:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
Paul first says here that everything is permissible by God – meaning, we can eat and drink anything.
But he goes on to say that not everyone’s conscience has given them that freedom. Some felt like if food was offered to idols here, they should not eat it. Paul said that he didn’t see a problem with it because he thanks God for all of the food because he knows who his God is. Does Paul say to the one who won’t eat, “Tough luck! I’m digging in.” No, he doesn’t. He doesn’t eat. He said he’s not eating for the sake of the other person’s conscience. In verse 28-30 he says, “But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?”
Isn’t he asking what the Christians who drink ask?
Why are you getting mad at me for enjoying some wine? God gave it to me to enjoy. I gave God thanks for it. But Paul goes on to say – glorify God and don’t cause anyone to stumble. Paul said he can forego the meal offered to idols, even if there’s nothing wrong with him eating it, because he doesn’t want to cause his brother to stumble.
Christians, we cannot be selfish in the freedom we have in Christ just because we have it. If our brother or sister in Christ is watching and their conscience bothers them when having a drink, then don’t drink around them. That is the right thing to do even if you have the right to drink it.
My husband didn’t drink when we first got married.
He couldn’t actually. He was only 20. But he does have a drink every now and then. However, we do not have any alcohol in our home. I don’t want it around our boys. I don’t want to send the message to impressionable young minds that sitting around and drinking casually is something we do. Why? Because they are young and I know that having alcohol around young people can be tempting or cause trouble. I don’t want to be a stumbling block to my kids. Now, does that mean I think you should do what I do? No. Not in this case. There are clear lines of sin and there are times when the freedom we have in Christ must cause us to pause and use discernment.
My husband also knows that some of our family members do not think it’s okay to drink. He doesn’t have a drink around them. And when he started to have an occasional drink, he and I discussed these things: that it won’t be in the house, that it’s only for when we have dinner out together, or a special occasion. It brings accountability and responsibility to the decision.
But we’ve also discussed when it’s appropriate because of the company we keep and when it’s not, but I’ll be honest, it took us some talking through the subject of alcohol and me digging through the word to come to that point because like I said, I don’t drink and I grew up thinking it was a sin to drink. I didn’t want to feel like I was compromising on something that was a sin. Once I studied the word, I realized how to approach it from a Biblical perspective.
So what are the takeaways from this episode?
- Drinking alcohol is not a sin. Now if you want to debate hard liquor, I’m with you on that because why does someone need to sit around and drink whiskey? That’s hard liquor and hard liquor gets you there faster, right. But again, that’s debatable.
- Getting drunk is sin and the Bible is clear on that.
- Although we have the freedom to eat and drink and enjoy the things God has given us, if it causes our brother or sister to stumble, and we know that and we do it, it’s wrong and it becomes a sin because that’s when it’s selfish.
These are conversations we should have as Christians but we need to remember to keep the main thing the main thing. Otherwise, we’re arguing foolishly and it’s unproductive. If you’re listening to this and you completely disagree with me that Christians can drink alcohol, I’ve been there. I totally understand. But God’s word matters to me more than being agreeable. I want to be agreeable, but we have to communicate what God’s word actually says.
If you drink and you’re like “Yes! I love that Shanda just affirmed that I can drink,” I didn’t necessarily say that. I am saying that first things first: keep others in mind before you pop open your bottle of wine. If it causes another to stumble or you know your friend struggles with driving too much, you are a stumbling block and that’s sin.
So, what am I saying?
Whether you drink alcohol or don’t drink alcohol, do it or don’t -but make sure it’s for God’s glory and no other reason.
Thank you for your questions! I love being able to make a podcast episode for you, answering all of them when I can. I have some amazing guests and episodes coming up soon – Albert will be on next week to talk about the unseen realm, we have a guest coming on to talk about the furry movement and the underlying motivation of the trans ideology, and I will be teaching you about versions and translations of the Bible and which ones might be easiest to understand, which ones are watered down, and if we can actually trust the Bible if, as they say, it’s been rewritten over and over and over again. If you have any other questions for me, email me at email@example.com and I’ll catch you on the next one.