By Glenn Dunehew
Published April 2, 2008
Dorm Bible Study Series
I spend lots of my time doing Bible studies with students at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and I get all kinds of questions asked about moral issues. But probably one of the most common questions I hear is this: “Can a Christian drink alcohol?”
My first response to this question is always, “Why do people drink, anyway?” The answer is usually 1) “To be social,” 2) “Because it makes me feel good,” or 3) “Why not?” Let’s look at each of these reasons for a minute.
- “To be social.” Do I really have to drink alcohol to be social with people? Can’t I be just as social with a soft drink in my hand? Does it really make any difference what I have in my hand when I talk with people? Lots of people congregate around alcohol, but personally I would rather congregate around a game or an event. Will my friends reject me if I refuse to drink with them? Or will they think that I am pushing my beliefs on them if I don’t drink?
If your friends reject you because you don’t drink, then they are really not your friends. A true friend would not insist that you do something harmful, or something that you just don’t want to do. And why is your decision not to drink classified as “pushing your beliefs” on someone else? In actuality, they are pushing their beliefs upon you by using peer pressure.
- “Drinking makes me feel good.” We have to understand, first of all, that alcohol is a drug. It is a narcotic which depresses the central nervous system and produces the “buzz” that so many people like. At first, this stimulus can make you feel more free in your actions and words. It seems to make your inhibitions leave. This is why people do things after drinking alcohol that they would normally never do. Everything seems to become rosy.
However, when a person comes down off of the effects of alcohol, his problems are still the same, if not worse, because he has not dealt with them.
As a person drinks more, alcohol begins to affect him in greater ways. This is why many people get extremely depressed or become isolated. So much for the goal of being “social.” And if the drinking continues, the “good feeling” also leaves. Anybody that has experienced a hangover after a late-night drinking spree knows that there is nothing to feel good about the next morning!
- “Ok then, why not? I like the taste.” If taste is an issue, then why not drink non-alcoholic beer or wine? But then this provokes another response from many people that I talk to: “So why even drink at all?
If we look in the Bible for an answer, a good place to start is the book of Proverbs. The author of that book says that it is wrong to drink by bringing out the consequences of drinking. Here are three different passages which relate to alcohol:
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1).
“He who loves pleasure will become a poor man: he who loves wine and oil will not become rich” (Proverbs 21:17).
“Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine … for the heavy drinker will come to poverty” (Proverbs 23:20-1).
The author of Proverbs says that if you want to be wise, you should stay away from alcohol. Most students arrive on campus hoping to improve their place in life and to become a success in their future career. Yet these scriptures indicate that if you are fond of alcohol, your chances of becoming wealthy are slim. Sure there are wealthy people who drink, but have you ever wondered how much better off they would be if they did not drink?
Think about all the money that is spent on alcohol each year. In some university towns, more than $250,000 will be spent each weekend by college students on alcoholic beverages. And that number increases, of course, on football weekends when all the alumni arrive to celebrate.
What about the New Testament? What does it have to say about drinking? After all, didn’t Jesus turn the water into wine? Here are just a few scriptures which should help us reach a conclusion:
“For he (John the Baptist) will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor: and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15).
“It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles” (Romans 14:21).
“Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy” (Romans 13:13).
The New Testament has a lot more to say about alcohol than just “don’t get drunk.” Luke tells us that John the Baptist did not drink because he had a vow not to defile himself. This shows that the Lord views alcohol as a defilement – and infers that the person drinking it cannot be under the power of the Holy Spirit.
These scriptures also tell us that our drinking can cause others to stumble. Suppose, for example, that you are a Christian and someone you know sees you drinking. Let’s say you never get drunk because you know when to stop; but the other person does not have the same amount of self-control that you do … and they end up getting drunk. You have therefore encouraged their drunkenness!
On the subject of alcohol, the Bible tells us to “act like it is day.” People tend to drink more at night or in dark places because deep inside they know it is wrong. And there is often a progression from drinking to carousing, which later leads to sexual promiscuity. Habakkuk 2:15 says, “Woe to you who make your neighbors drink, who mix in your venom even to make them drunk, so as to look on their nakedness!” Many young men drink at parties so they can encourage their date to get drunk and loose.
Where does “just drinking” stop and drunkenness begin? Let’s look at a good illustration for this:
In the drawing, we see that God is way up at the top. The devil is like a dog who is tied up in someone’s front yard. He has limited power, as seen by the path he has worn on the grass. Some people see how close they can get to sin without stepping into the path of the dog. But suppose the dog is pretty smart. He lunges only part of the way out, and the next time not as far. This lures us into believing that we can get closer and still not get caught. But then he attacks – and we are his target!
People are always telling us what is a sin and what is not a sin. But the question should always be: Is this action bringing me closer to God or further away from Him? What is my motive in wanting to do this? Is it to please myself or to give glory to God? These are the real issues we need to address when talking about alcohol.
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