Should Christians Drink Alcohol?

After sitting around a dinner table with some pastor friends and discussing this subject, I decided I would tackle this controversial topic out in the open. All of us pastors agreed that we get asked this question a lot. People want to know, is it ok for Christians to drink alcohol? Here is my heart on the matter. It is fine with me if you disagree but here are my thoughts.

If you comb through the scriptures, you will not find one scripture that says drinking alcohol is a sin. In fact, you see Jesus drinking wine and turning water into wine at a wedding.

Some people would argue that the wine in the bible was not fermented wine and that it was more like grape juice. I don’t always buy that because the people at the wedding feast, where Jesus performed the miracle and turned the water into wine, even commented that Jesus brought out the good wine at the end instead of at the beginning, when most people would. Why? Because at the end most people didn’t notice it was not as good quality because the wine had affected their senses already. It was not grape juice in that particular instance, anyhow. Grape juice does not affect your senses like that.

So am I making a case that it is ok for Christians to drink? No, I’m not saying that either but to say drinking is a sin, I believe is legalistic. We have to be very careful not to add anything to the bible or to take anything away. It says what it says.

Now, the bible is very clear about not getting drunk and drinking in excess. But even beyond that, there are some things I want for you to consider when it comes to drinking alcohol. I believe if you forget these, you could be negligent.

Consider the culture that you are in. In the part of the world that Jesus was from, alcohol may not have had the stigma that it does sometimes in the U.S. Even today in places like Australia and Europe, it is pretty commonplace for every household to drink wine nightly.  Most Americans would be looked at a little differently if they drank wine every single night.  It’s pretty important to understand culture when it comes to this topic. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t handle their alcohol as well as some Aussies or Europeans do. Our culture and society tends to take things to the excess, thus giving alcohol such a bad rap in the U.S.  We are definitely known for being excessive.

Consider the family you come from. If you come from a long line of alcoholics, you have to consider that in your “Should I drink?” equation. Troy and I both come from a family tree that is full of alcoholism. I personally feel that it would not be a smart move for us to drink alcohol and this is one of the reasons we don’t. We have had many people on both sides of our family who have ruined their lives because of alcohol. In fact, this year Troy’s father died from alcoholism.  It was very tragic. I have never been one for playing Russian roulette.

Consider the “weaker brother” principle. If you are in the company of people whom you do not know or whom you’ve known to have an alcohol problem, then you must be responsible.  The bible tells us that we are to consider those in the faith who are struggling or weaker in an area and make sure we don’t do things to make them trip in their journey. I have friends that have struggled with alcohol addiction. What might be a liberty for me would be very damaging to them. It would cause them to stumble. I have to consider that.

Consider the position you hold.  People who are church/ministry leaders need to be careful of how we conduct ourselves. We live in a fish bowl and people are always watching what we do. Not just those on the outside but those on the inside, as well. A pastor friend was telling me that a man in his church relapsed into alcoholism because he saw a pastor drinking and thought, “If a pastor can drink then surely I can too.”  My heart was grieved because this man’s life was sent in a tailspin because he decided it was ok because a pastor could do it so why couldn’t he? Don’t ever make assumptions like that.

Consider the conviction of your heart. I think often times many things can be resolved if we just listen to our heart. I believe that God still talks to us today and if we get his heartbeat on something I think that is much better than landing at a decision on our own. For example, I was recently at a PUBLIC event and there were a lot of ministry leaders drinking (all from the U.S. I might add). When the camera came around to take pictures, they all hid their glasses of wine. I was really puzzled by this because if they thought it was ok, why hide? It just seemed to me that maybe there was some internal conflict going on in order for them to respond in that way.  It made me feel as if their heart and head might be at war. Just a thought.

In closing, I guess you figured out that I am not going to tell you what is right or wrong for you to do.  I can’t. All I want you to do is consider some things in your decision-making. Be responsible and don’t put your convictions off on other people, no matter which side of the coin you land on. We all have different reasons we do or don’t do things.

What are your thoughts?

~ by pennymaxwell on December 1, 2010.

8 Responses to “Should Christians Drink Alcohol?”

  1. Love this post! Like you and Pastor Troy, my family has a looooong string of alcoholism in it. When I first was saved, I still drank a good bit, but God was definitely working in my heart over it. I could never just have one drink – it was ALWAYS in excess. After I got saved, every time I drank (red wine was my choice beverage) it was like the taste of it became less and less appealing to me. And then we were on vacation, maybe a year after I had started walking with Jesus, and I had way too much to drink one night. And the most awful thing happened – BAM – there was a wall between me and God. I couldn’t feel Him, felt like I couldn’t pray… And then I finally got His message, and understood what it meant for sin to erect a wall between me and God. I had one glass of wine a month or so after that, and it made me nauseous to even sip it. Haven’t had a drink since.

  2. I am glad you tackled this very controversial topic. And here in the U.S., it truly is controversial. I take the stance you do on all counts concerning this topic.

    Personally, I am very convicted in the area of drinking lately not because I am tempted so much by it – but because others I know can be, and are, tempted by it. So if I am drinking, then what example am I setting not only as a Christian leader, but a Christian period? This is a personal conviction, for I am entering into a phase of life where I will be a Christian Counselor down the road. I am in school right now, and I am also a ministry leader of a Christ-centered recovery program called Celebrate Recovery (it is an A-Z program, not just for people struggling with chemical dependencies. And I went through it for depression) at our Church – honestly, it would behoove the very avenue I am going (and slug God in the gut) to engage in behavior that just is not edified to be duplicated. I have to admit, it goes through my mind a lot the scenario you painted about the man who saw a pastor drinking, and this gave the man a “free” ticket to think he could engage in drinking as well. As leaders, we have to be so careful with what we do – and it is just better to follow the Holy Spirit dwelling within, and sometimes just refrain from temptation not so much for the sake of yourself, but for others who look to you as an example.

    Our lives should be living examples of the Holy Spirit dwelling within, and if we even give into any temptation that not only tempts us to sin, but grants others to do the same, we are not being what Christ called us to be as Christians; transformed.

  3. Soooooooo good Pastor P! We’ve had to consider all of these things at our house. For instance, my parents wanted to give little bottles of wine as favors at our wedding. Shane & I had to put our foot down bc we knew some of our friends that would be attending had alcohol probs and we didn’t want to be responsible for their fall. I personally have no alcoholism (that I know of) in my family, have never had any desire to drink in excess, and have no conviction whatsoever about enjoying a little glass of wine w dinner now and then. But I agree with & follow all of your points and think everyone should keep them in mind before having a drink. Well said, indeed! 🙂

  4. Not an easy subject, but you tackled it well! As we covered a story last week on our show concerning a well known Christian leader that admitted to moral failure, a comment from an unbelieving co-worker was made… “what happened to holding up a higher standard”. I thought this was very telling. The question from an unbelievers perspective doesnt seem to be “should” Christians drink, but “why do they feel the need to.” I think sometimes the church forgets that the world is not looking for them to just fit in, look cool and show off wealthy/prosperous lifestyles… but to offer hope in something that works, that brings more peace than a glass of wine, and a hold up a standard that is worth fighting for. I agree with you Penny–I dont think it is wrong to drink and be a Christian. I do not judge those who do–we are all on different aspects of our journey and have different backgrounds in dealing with alcohol. But I would encourage followers of Christ to put the Coors light down, and raise a standard…not because you have to, but because you have the hope, and peace and pleasure that comes from above.

  5. Love it Penny! I agree 100%! Great points and thoughts….I think you have articulated Gods heart perfectly on this often controversial issue.

  6. Pastor Penny – I applaude you for tackling such a topic and I respect your comments. I also agree with you on many levels especially concerning overconsumption. However, I am still pondering the portion of the blog that deals with the man who relapsed after seeing his pastor having a drink. Could it have been possible that the person relapsed becasue he chose to relapse? Are we really buying the idea that the pastor validated the relapsers choice to take a drink? Isn’t this an everyday situation that belivers are faced with? Dosen’t God do this to us all of the time . . .he presents us with the opportunity to choose? And dosen’t God sometimes (or quite often depending on where we are in our walk) put us in situations which put our “Christianity” on the line? I think it is AWESOME that we have the oppportunity to see our pastors and our leaders are normal human beings ( I love to see you and Pastor Troy joke and laugh every Sunday morning), I also love that God gives us the freedom of choice and as we grow closer to him (prayerfully) we can choose Him time and time again.

  7. I remember when Troy and I were in college together. I was young and a little naive in a few areas. One of them cost me a grade.

    Troy and I were in a communications class together. Quite often when it came time to study, I saw Troy didn’t. He said, “Oh that test is gonna be so easy.” I remembered thinking, “Yeah it was just a communications class. It cant be that bad. If Troy does not need to study, then I dont either. I will be fine.”

    I paid a price on that test and learned a valuable lesson. Troy and I are wired differently. I have to study, he retains things much easier than I do. My son takes after Troy. The girls take after me. 🙂

    The point is, sometimes we look at other people and make decisions about our own life, “if they can I can”. It is in error when people do that BUT when you are a leader, there is a responsibility that comes with that role. I think it is important to consider others before you make certain decisions.

    And I do agree with you. Pastors and ministry leaders are just people and nobody is perfect but those who are called to teach ARE held to a higher standard. We have to be more careful with choices we make because our decisions can encourage someone or harm someone and that can be on any topic, really.

  8. Penny, I just discovered your blog, and I signed up immediately. Actually, I came across it because of the issue you address here. I grew up in a teetotaling family with the beief that drinking alcohol in any amount for any reason was the most egregious of sins. I do not blame my wonderful Christian parents but myself for this misconception. I engaged in activities the Bible specifically forbids but felt safe and even superior to others because I did not drink. I made quite a show of it, too. About five years ago at the age of 46, I finally realized that my faith isn’t supposed to be strictly a matter of going to church, putting money in the plate, and refraining from alcohol. I realized that it is about a personal relationship with Jesus, and that changed everything. I certainly believe that we are to be responsible with all gifts from God, one of which is wine. I believe we are to avoid drunkenness, but the freedom I have gained since I changed my focus has truly drawn me closer to Him. I would suggest that two centuries of preaching total abstinence and associating shame and bad behavior with alcohol may actually be responsible for the excess, for the forbidden fruit allure that appeals to many young people. I would suggest that man made rules always get us into trouble.I would also suggest that Jesus is the ultimate role model, and He drank wine undoubtedly. I can set no better example than He did. Perhaps Christians could be more effective in stemming the tide of rampant drunkenness by setting an example of responsible drinking. Clearly, total abstinence has not stemmed the tide. Yes, the culture Jesus lived in had different customs, etc., but in His omniscience, He knew He would set the example for all cultures of all eras. Finally, I would suggest that perhaps the preachers hid their glasses not because they were ashamed but because they knew that they would be unfairly judged and condemned by those who will not afford others the right to make such decisions between themselves and God alone. I feel no shame about enjoying a glass of wine at dinner with friends, but I would hide my glass if someone took a picture my parents might see because they would be angry. I once read that moralists in nineteenth-century Britain issued books declaring that decent women should engage in sex only for reproductive purpose at a frequency of only once or twice a year. Of course, the husbands of these decent women who had been shamed into seeing even marital sex as a degradation turned elsewhere. Prostitution exploded and with it STDs, which the men took home to their wives. I would draw a comparison here with alcohol. Thank you for tackling this thorny subject so honestly and clearly. I appreciate all that you said. Either way, the underlying respect and love among Christians should be tantamount.

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