To Drink or Not to Drink
By Dan Franklin
At the most recent Deeper event, I had the privilege of teaching what God’s Word says about alcohol. It is an important topic not only because many people have strong disagreements about it, but also because our decisions about drinking have a big impact.
If you’d like to get the full info from the Deeper event, you can watch it here. If you don’t have time for that, however, let me give the big picture:
- Drinking alcohol is not only permitted by God, but alcohol is seen as a good gift from God, a blessing, and a tool for joy and celebration.
- Drinking alcohol can have horrible effects if we drink too much, become addicted, or fall into sin as a result of its impact on us.
With those big picture facts in mind, we can conclude that we can drink, but this doesn’t always mean that we should drink. In light of this, I want to share some biblically-inspired counsel on questions each of us can ask when we are considering whether or not to drink.
Why am I drinking? In Scripture, positive depictions of drinking surround occasions of joy and celebration. Alcohol enhances the joy. As Psalm 114:15 says, it “gladdens the heart.” Are you drinking because you are celebrating and giving thanks for the good gifts that God has given? If so, you are acting in a way that is very consistent with how Scripture talks about drinking. If, however, you are drinking in order to dull your pain, in order to escape your loneliness, or in order to cope with deeply-felt anxiety or anger, you are walking on the edge of great danger. When we drink out of joy, we celebrate God and His good gifts. When we drink out of pain, we create unhealthy habits of escape and avoidance. This is not reflective of the abundant life that Jesus came to bring.
What impact is my drinking having on me? While Scripture does not give a hard definition of drunkenness, several passages describe it. Scripture speaks of people staggering and vomiting. There are stories of people getting drunk and then falling asleep naked, stories about people getting drunk and then engaging in sexual immorality, and stories about people getting drunk in the night and then remembering nothing the next morning. If your drinking is a cause or a precursor of you making destructive and sinful decisions, then you need to pull back and reconsider your habits. If your drinking is becoming a habit that you cannot break, then you need to make sure nothing is enslaving you (1 Corinthians 6:12). If your drinking has become a coping mechanism, then God would call you to deal with your problems head-on instead of medicating yourself in order to avoid them.
How is my drinking impacting others? In the United States we have freedom of speech. This means that people can say stupid things without fear of imprisonment. But we act unwisely when we use our freedom of speech in order to say ugly and hurtful things to others. Legally you can say it, but this doesn’t mean you should. Similarly, Christians are allowed to drink alcohol. But before doing so, we should ask if our drinking will hurt anyone else. If you’re drinking around people who have battled addiction, are you exposing them to extra temptations? If you’re drinking around people who choose not to drink, are you alienating them? If you’re drinking around younger Christians, are you confusing them? Believers are called to love one another and to bear one another’s burdens. This doesn’t mean that it is always wrong to drink. This simply means that we must consider the impact of our drinking on others. Our calling is to act out of love, not out of selfish indulgence and license.
Just for the sake of full disclosure, I drink alcohol. I enjoy it as a good gift from God. I have never been drunk and I never intend to be. I choose not to drink when I am feeling depressed or discouraged. And I am happy to abstain from drinking if I think it would result in temptation or discomfort for others. I invite you to approach alcohol with joy, with caution, and with thoughtfulness. And wherever you land in your decision-making on this issue, I invite you to give thanks to God for the good (and undeserved) gifts that He gives to His people.