Question:What does the Bible have to say about moderate alcohol consumption? Gradually I’m becoming aware of an increasing openness to social drinking in our circle of Christian friends. As a matter of fact, this seems to be the new norm. I’m not sure that I feel comfortable with this, and I’m wondering what your views are on this issue

Opinions on the subject of social drinking vary widely within the Christian community. Equally committed believers often find themselves on opposite sides of the question. Be that as it may, we think your observation is accurate: we too have noticed signs of a growing trend toward acceptance of the casual use of alcohol in evangelical circles, especially among young adults. It’s not our place to "lay down the law" for anyone in this respect. As we understand it, this is one of those "gray areas" of Christian life and conduct where everyone needs to be "fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). But we do have a few thoughts that may prove helpful as you attempt to come to your own conclusions.

The Bible never gives us detailed instructions regarding the consumption of alcohol. It does, however, provide principles that every Christian should consider. First, several passages in God’s Word openly condemn drunkenness (see Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:19-21, I Timothy 3:1-7, and I Peter 4:3). Most notably, Ephesians 5:18 prohibits intoxication, contrasting it with being controlled by the Holy Spirit: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." In other words, Scripture warns us that excessive drink can actually cause us to lose control of our minds and bodies. That is clearly sinful.

On the other hand, though the Bible denounces drunkenness, it does not say that all alcoholic consumption is wrong. On the contrary, Jesus did not hesitate to turn water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12). And Paul actually exhorted Timothy, "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities" (I Timothy 5:23). What is plain is that if a Christian does choose to consume alcohol, it should be done with moderation and self-control.

That said, in our view, this is a matter that ought to be handled with prayer and careful consideration. We would also add that if a person does decide to exercise liberty in this area, they must take steps to guard against the progressive nature of alcoholism (the tendency to move from a free choice to a chemical addiction). It’s particularly important to be aware of any family history related to alcoholism, as this often increases the chances of a person losing control in this area of his or her life. It goes without saying, of course, that underage persons should obey the laws of the land and abstain from any use of alcohol whatsoever.

Finally, the advice Paul gives regarding "scandals" and "stumbling-blocks" in I Corinthians 10:23-33, bears special application here. The question should always be not what might or might not be "permissible" for me – a self-centred approach – but how my choice (and especially how I communicate my perspective) might impact other people (Philippians 2:3-4). To put it another way, Christians have a responsibility to regulate all of their behaviour in every area of life according to the royal law of love (James 2:8).

If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas at greater length, Focus on the Family have a pastoral staff who would love to speak with you over the phone.

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