Should Christians Drink?

A quick Google search for "Should Christians drink alcoholic beverages?" yields some interesting results. For example:

  • "There is clear evidence in the Scriptures that believers should not drink alcoholic beverages." (Full article).
  • "I do not drink alcoholic beverages for one major reason: My conduct might cause someone else, who is weak, to stumble." (Full article)
  • "The Old Testament is unambiguous that wine and other alcoholic beverages are a blessing, and their absence is considered a wasn't until the Protestant social reform movement of the 1800s that temperance was equated with complete abstinence." (Christianity Today)
  • "I am not calling on everyone to become teetotalers. But I am asking us to consider temperance as a valid and thoughtful option." (Christianity Today)
  • "Who is it that enjoys a drink more, the moderate man or the drunkard? The latter man ends up miserable with his face on the cool porcelain." (It's Vespers Somewhere)
  • "In recent years, it has become increasingly common--even trendy and vogue--for contemporary evangelicals to imbibe the produce of the vine and extoll the virtues of craft beers and specialty mixed drinks." (lewinkler)
I don't want to be an apologist for the improper use or abuse of alcohol. It is clear that alcohol can be very destructive (as can cars, bacon, tobacco,
, and American football). For those who have no interest, don't like it, or have other reasons not to drink, I see no reason to start. However, for those who are able to enjoy it as a gift from God, I see no reason to abstain, except in certain circumstances which I'll discuss below.

"Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable."
-- G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton's view seems to be consistent with Deuteronomy 14:22-26 (NIV):

"Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine, and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice."

We need to realize that God is passionate about celebration. It is easy to miss what is being said in the passage above: in certain circumstances, the Israelites were to sell their tithe, then use the money to buy "whatever you like" in order to have a feast, to rejoice, to celebrate in the presence of God. The spiritual discipline of celebration certainly doesn't require alcohol, but it isn't prohibited, either.

We should be able to enjoy the good things that are a part of life on this planet, including "wine or other fermented drink." If we do this in the right way, enjoying these and other goods in harmony with reason and holiness, then we display our Maker's mark (sorry, I couldn't resist).

What is the most important consideration in all of this? Love.

Love for God and for other people is central here, as it always is. As Augustine tells us, if we love God above all else, we can put the other aspects of our lives into their proper place. Alcohol, like many good things, can be abused, misused, and valued too highly. Followers of Christ should not get drunk (Ephesians 5:18), and they should avoid doing things that are harmful to themselves and others (1 Corinthians 8). Alcohol should not be used as a crutch, as something to dull the pain that we ought to be taking to God and those in our community of faith. If we are to display Christian character in our lives with respect to alcohol, these considerations are essential.

Like many other goods, we may choose to abstain from alcohol for the sake of our relationship with God or our love for others and their welfare. But we may also choose to enjoy it, if we are able to do so in ways that are honoring to God.

For thoughts on how to drink virtuously, see this article.
Maker's Mark, J. Novak, CCL