One Sunday morning after Church service a young Christian brother named James asked me a question. He was going to a party that weekend, and wanted to know if it was ok for him to drink a beer at the party. This is an interesting question that really poses two points we should consider. First is drinking beer a sin? Second, is it wise for a Christian to drink beer?
Let’s start with the question of sin. Yes drinking alcohol is referenced in scripture as sinful, usually describing people as drunkards. On the other hand we have Jesus Christ himself turning water into wine at a wedding party (John 2:1-11), and sitting with his disciples and drinking wine at the last supper (Mark 14:22-25). We also see Paul recommending wine for medicinal purposes (1 Timothy 5:23). In today’s world it is common knowledge that Red Wine has several heart benefits. So we KNOW that drinking is NOT always a sin, but certainly CAN become sin in a persons life rather quickly.
How do you know if drinking alcohol is a sin for you?
This is where the Holy Spirit comes into play, you need to let Him guide you on your path and He will reveal your sin to you. But here is a general rule of thumb to help you make decisions, if you have to justify your behavior or find yourself getting defensive when the topic is brought up, you probably have a problem. When is the last time you justified a behavior that glorified God? You don’t have to justify going to Church, or singing a song of praise, or feeding the homeless. When you go into a pattern of trying to justify your behavior, that is normally your flesh battling against the questions raised by the Holy Spirit within you. As you mature in Christ, you will learn to follow that guidance more and more bringing you closer and closer to Christ.
Is it wise for a Christian to drink Alcohol?
Beyond the medicinal use of some alcoholic beverages such as Red Wine, this is a very simple question to answer from my perspective and the answer is a resounding NO. When we talked about this subject in our Men’s Group I asked everyone in the room to raise their hand if they had an alcoholic in their family. Every hand went up. Alcoholism DESTROYS lives, marriages, families, health… it takes away everything you love and holds you in bondage until you are able to break free. Just like all the other sin we are tempted with, alcohol feels real good when you get that buzz, and then as you get drunk all of life’s problems seem to fade into the background.
This was my experience, as I spent all of Army years as a heavy drinker. But just like all other sin, that moment of pleasure quickly passes and the earthly consequences begin to pile up… starting with the hangover. If you are married or trying to hide your drinking habits from family or church friends you learn how to lie very well. Fortunately it is very difficult to hide alcoholism… you may think no one knows, and that you are very clever in your deceit, but I promise you that the people close you to know something is wrong.
This is always how sin works in our lives, it appears as a beautiful shiny thing that we really desire, and then when we start to engage in it, we discover the darkness and destruction it brings with it.
What about having a casual drink with my friends?
This question seems to always follow when we have these conversations, and my response usually goes like this: If we look back in all of human history we see countless men and women who have been destroyed by alcoholism. From Kings to Peasants, from Presidents to the homeless and everyone in between. Every social class, every ethnic group, nearly every age group… there are no safe places to hide from the potential dangers of alcoholism… except of course through abstinence.
If we were able to ask all of those alcoholics one question… did you set out to become an alcoholic? What do you think their answer would be? How many people in history said to themselves, today I am starting down a path to alcoholism as they took their first drink of beer? Not one. Zero. Zip. Nadda.
THAT is the danger in casual drinking. There is no set number of beers it takes to make someone an alcoholic, that number is different for everyone. When you are hanging with your friends, drinking at a party, is their any pressure to drink more and more as the night progresses? Is one beer your limit and after that will you politely say no when they most assuredly offer you another round?
Let’s keep something in mind as we explore this issue, as Christians we are called to be a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16), which means our light will shine in the dark world we inhabit. We should be set APART from the world, we should learn to HATE all of the things of the world that God hates and love what God loves. If we go to a party and our behavior is exactly like all the non-believers in the room, how exactly have we set ourselves apart?
What if I have a drink of beer in the privacy of my home after work?
This was a follow up question from my brother James, who stated that he really liked the taste of beer. Sometimes after a long day of work he liked to unwind with a beer in front of the TV. No one would see him so what was the harm? Two issues immediately come to mind. First, if we have to hide a behavior behind the closed doors of our home, should we be behaving in that manner to begin with? If we are glorifying God in our choices, there would be no reason to hide them. Second, if you are drinking beer to “unwind” isn’t that really another way of saying, I had a long day at work and I want to drink to cope with my day? If that statement is true, then I cannot warn you enough to stay away from alcohol.
But I can drink one beer, I know my limits and just one won’t get me drunk!
Most addictions start with “self-medication” and when one beer doesn’t help you “unwind” enough after a stressful day at work, it might take two, or three or six or twelve. Here is my point, alcohol by its very nature lures one to take another drink in pursuit of that buzz or drunkenness. Our bodies are very adept at building up a tolerance to continued drinking making it harder and harder to get drunk and requiring more and more drinks as time progresses. This is a vicious and deadly cycle I hope you never find yourself in, which is why I am such a strong opponent of the use of alcohol in general.
If you have identified alcohol as a problem in your life then I recommend you reach out immediately for help. Check with your local church and see if they have a Celebrate Recovery program, which is a Christ-centered 12 step program that will work wonders in your life IF YOU WORK IT. You can also follow this link to search for a Celebrate Recovery program near you.
Stay Strong & Stand Tall