“To drink or not to drink, that is the question.” Should practicing Christians (those who go to church regularly, pray, and read their Bibles) drink alcohol? This is a common question to ask and understandably so because alcohol is so prevalent in our society.
It was also prevalent in the society Jesus engaged in during His earthly ministry.
You don’t need to be a Bible scholar to know that in those times the water wasn’t clean. On the contrary, it was filled with bacteria and viruses. Drinking fermented wine was safer than water because it was far less likely to be contaminated.
Safety wasn’t the only justification for the partaking of alcohol back in that day. The Scriptures condoned the activity and even seemed to encourage it! “Drink your wine with a merry heart (Eccl 9:7).” “Plant your vineyards and drink as a sign of God’s blessing (Amos 9:14 – paraphrased).”
The Psalmist so eloquently provided more insight. “You, oh God, cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart (Psa 104:14-15).”
Not only did the Scriptures condone the activity, but Jesus Himself did as well by virtue of both His ministry and reputation in the community. His first miracle was that of turning water into wine at a wedding feast. According to Jewish tradition fermented wine was always served at weddings. Think about it: If Jesus had turned the water into grape juice the master of the feast would have complained. Instead, he said that was a fine wine. Finer than the wine previously served (John 2)! Well, that’s my Lord for sure.
Also, the religious folks of Jesus’ day accused Him of being a drunkard. Jesus Himself affirms their unjustified accusation by stating, “… John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man (Jesus) has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7).’” In this passage Jesus is making a contrast between John the Baptist’s “drinking no wine” and His own practice of doing so.
Of course, we know the Bible teaches that Jesus was never a drunkard any more than He was a glutton. He lived a completely sinless life (1 Pet 2:22) and yet the Bible strongly suggests that He did indeed partake of alcohol. Wow!
I understand how one can object to the argument that it’s OK for Christians to drink. I’m acutely familiar with the verses in the Bible that condemn the partaking of alcohol. Yet it’s vitally important to read passages in their proper context in order to discern whether they’re applicable or not. For example, the verses that instruct one taking a Nazirite vow not to drink alcohol would hardly qualify.
What we can agree on is the following:
• God commands Christians to avoid drunkenness and its effects (Eph 5:18).
• Drinking alcohol in excess is addictive and Christians are commanded not to be under such power (1 Cor 6:12).
• Some Christians believe that drinking alcohol is sinful and it would be unloving (Rom 14:13-23) and wrong to encourage them to sin against their conscience (1 Cor 8:9-13).
“To drink or not to drink, that is the question.” This statement reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s wisdom in 1 Corinthians 10, “Whether you drink or don’t drink, or whatever you do, do ALL to the glory of God.” In light of the above-mentioned bullet points, it would be very difficult for one to say that drinking in excess would bring God glory.
In closing, I would say that for Christians who drink, be careful that you are not using the Scriptures to justify a possible drinking problem. And for Christians who don’t, be careful that you’re not being legalistic and wrongfully judging those who do. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).”
— Paul and Danica Bartelme have been married for 23 years and have three children age 13 years and under. Jacob (13), Lily (11), and Luke (9). They’ve been residents of Escondido for 12 years and love Harley motorcycles and good music. They pastor Escondido’s very own Sanctuary Church. — Any questions or comments regarding the story? Got an idea for a story we should write? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or check us out on the web at www.scesco.net. *** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Times-Advocate staff, and/or any/all contributors to this publication.