Is Alcohol Sinful?
Alcohol is a subject that touches a lot of folks, and we hear varying opinions today on whether or not it is okay for a Christian to indulge. But as we all should know, the opinions of people are not what matters. It is what God has to say that’s important. So I’d like to lead a discussion here based upon scripture.
A visitor to our congregation informed me that the last church he attended told Him he was going to hell because he liked to drink a beer while shooting pool. It’s what he did twice a week to unwind from work. I can tell you with absolute confidence that it was sin for them to say that to him. They took God’s role of judging a person’s salvation unto themselves. That was the devil’s original sin: trying to take the place of God. In fact, that church’s leadership said the man’s recreation was three sins. That’s putting it to him a little bit better, yet they were still wrong on two of their accusations against him.
*Side Note* Satan is called: “The Accuser”.
These are the sins the congregation had listed against the man. One, he was drinking alcohol. Two, he was mingling with the ungodly. Hmm, I’m wondering…How did they know who was in the bar when that man was present? And three, he was harming his witness for Christ. Well, today he no longer goes to bars or shoots pool for recreation. He took that last judgment to heart, because they were right on that one. Whether or not the beer was a sin, he, and we are to remain above reproach. In other words, we guard against any situation that may be construed to look like we are sinning. I know, that’s a bummer, but that’s just the way it is. Oh don’t worry, God more than compensates for anything we give up for Him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anytime you go into a bar you are committing some heinous sin. Individual people and circumstances make that determination. The supernatural gifts Jesus offers are mountainous compared with catching a little buzz. We cannot allow ourselves to publicly do what may cause another person to stumble. For more on this, check what Apostle Paul has to say in 1st Corinthians chapter eight.
One of the go-to passages for answering our questions about alcohol is Ephesians 5:18. And I’ll offer it here in two different translations. The King James says: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit…”
New International Version renders the verse: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…”
Straight out of the gate, the thing that stands out to me is the word DRUNK. Nowhere in scripture does it say that drinking alcohol is a sin. However, anything that would conflict with the 9th fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL, would be counterproductive to our relationships with Jesus. Getting drunk and losing control is excessive and there’s just no way to candy coat it and still be standing for truth. Getting drunk and weakening our restraint is sin. Whereas having a few drinks to calm your nerves, or to relieve our sadness over the loss of a loved one, for instance, is not sinful.
Anything that vies against the Holy Spirit of God is of the flesh, is evil, of the world, and is to be avoided. When we are obedient we are rewarded. “Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” The Spirit always dwells within Christians, yet when we are “filled” with the Spirit it feels far better than any buzz alcohol could ever give us. Whenever you feel the need to reach for something to help your mood, ask God for a super abundance of His Spirit, and buckle up. You’re in for a treat.
If we become drunk to the point that we are no longer being obedient to the Spirit of Christ, we step out from under His Lordship. We are acting contrary to what the Spirit commands us to do, such as to treat everyone with love. That is when it becomes sin.
Let’s take a hypothetical for example’s sake. Let’s say that for me, watching the old television show Bay Watch is a sin. Why? Because I have a weakness, and I am aware of my weakness—God has shown it to me. So if I watch that show, I know I am going to look at those hot babes in bikinis and start to have thoughts that are not Christ-like. Now if that show does not affect you the way it does me, then it’s not a sin for you to watch it.
But the crux of the matter is this: Do you see how something can be a sin for one person (me), but the very same thing can be okay for another? The same is true of drinking alcohol. It becomes sinful when you do it in excess. Drunkenness, by the bible’s definition is EXCESS. It means losing control. Jesus is our Master, and anything that denies or takes away His dominion over us is sin.
Paul discusses our liberties in Christ in 1st Corinthians 6. Verse twelve says, “I have the right to do anything,’ you say… but not everything is beneficial.” Apostle Paul acknowledges the freedoms we have in Christ. Yet he goes on to say, in essence, that just because I am free to do something does not mean that I should do it. We need to apply wisdom and discernment and prudence to every decision we make. Now here’s the rest of the verse: “I have the right to do anything—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Do you see the part about being mastered by things of the world? When something else takes control away from God, then it becomes our master. That activity has become sinful to us. It may also become an idol if we put it before our relationship with God. As Christians, Christ is our Master!
So let’s answer our question, “Is alcohol sinful”? No, it is not. But how we use or abuse it will determine whether or not it is sinful for us as individuals. If you are an alcoholic, you already know that you cannot take just one drink. When you drink, you get drunk. Face it, you drink to get drunk. Sorry folks, I cannot in good conscience dance around the issue. For alcoholics it is best to simply leave the alcoholic beverages alone altogether. Much easier said than done, I know. I’ve been working as an AA and an NA sponsor for many years now. So if you or someone you love has a problem with the stuff, I just want you to know, that I care very deeply about all people. I don’t judge any person, and I am here for consultation or counseling anytime. But be advised, as the Spirit leads and according to God’s word, I do judge actions to be right or wrong.
“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things.” 1 Cor. 2:15a
As a sponsor helping other men to slay the dragon of addiction, I have to be very careful about alcohol or any type of medicines. I must remain standing tall in the eyes of the men I counsel if they are to trust my words. So for me, I might have one or two drinks once or twice a year, and I am a servant of the Gospel of Christ.
I do enjoy a good draft beer now and then. And I have a taste for very expensive wines, though it’s not often I’ve had the pleasure of tasting them. Maybe when you and I get to heaven we can ask Jesus to whip up another batch of that miracle wine!