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What Does the Bible Say about Alcohol and Drunkenness?

Many of us have negative experiences with alcoholic relatives and think the best option is for Christians to avoid drinking altogether. But what does the Bible tell us about alcohol and drunkenness?

Contributing Writer
Updated Sep 07, 2023
What Does the Bible Say about Alcohol and Drunkenness?

When I was about eight years old, I remember going to work with one of my family members who I knew had a history of drinking too much alcohol. As we were driving home at the end of the day, I noticed a change in how he was driving. He seemed to be under the influence of alcohol, which made me nervous. I couldn’t drive and wondered if we would make it home. Thankfully, we made it home safely. Moments like these have shaped my opinion about alcohol and drunkenness. However, if I am going to do this topic any justice, I must view it from the perspective of what the Bible says. While I can’t forget my experiences, I want to focus your attention on what the Bible says about drunkenness.

Where Does the Bible Talk about Drunkenness?

Here are some verses that talk about drunkenness.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)

“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” (Romans 13:13)

“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1)

“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Proverbs 23:20-21)

Does the Bible Specify that Drunkenness Is a Sin?

The Bible clearly defines drunkenness as a sin.

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

There are two key realities to recognize in how the Bible defines drunkenness. The first is that it connects it to our sinful nature. A person who gets drunk appeals to a longing or lust for the flesh. While we know alcohol can have an addictive nature to it, that addiction is tied to a longing that dwells within our sinful nature. The alcohol and the drinking function as an attempt to satisfy that desire. Unfortunately, it does not accomplish it.

What is also fascinating about what the Bible says about drunkenness is it warns that those who live in this fashion will not inherit the kingdom of God. A statement that strong requires further understanding.

If someone is living in a state of drunkenness, it means they are not showing signs of being saved. We are not talking about someone wrestling with alcohol, who wants to change, and seeks help to change. We are talking about the person who likes what they are doing, has no desire to change, and wants to continue their current lifestyle.

When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your life, he begins to work on those works of the flesh that might still exist within you. Drunkenness and alcohol could be one of them. Most importantly, he will work on your desires to change them. If you do not have a desire for holiness and to reject fleshly things that harm you, then you know you have a problem.

Does the Bible Differentiate Between Drinking and Drunkenness?

We know that people drank wine in biblical times. Jesus drank wine and even turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Paul encouraged Timothy to drink wine for his stomach ailments. Some took a Nazirite vow, which included a restriction never to drink wine, a Nazirite vow—most famously, Samson took this vow. However, the vow did not apply to everyone. The issue, therefore, is not if you drink but if you become drunk, which is speaking to drinking to excess. When that happens, drunkenness becomes a sin.

If we are going to look at the scriptures objectively, it differentiates between being drunk and having a drink. They are not the same thing. This is where this conversation can become controversial. Some Christians would argue that Christians should never drink alcohol in any circumstance. I admit I had this opinion for many years, but it was more from my personal experiences than scripture. Honestly, I am still a little uncomfortable around Christians who drink alcohol, but I realize it is not automatically a sin.

Before you run off and think the Bible gives us a license to drink alcohol freely, you must hold your horses. The Bible does not say, “Do not drink.” It warns against getting drunk. Even with that, sometimes Christians drinking alcohol can be sinful even if they don’t get drunk.

Here are some scenarios when drinking can be sinful, even if you don’t get drunk.

If drinking alcohol becomes a stumbling block for others

Some Christians never drink alcohol; if they see you drinking, it might offend them. It could even be a stumbling block because of how they view the drinking of alcohol. If you know this and choose to do it anyway, you are sinning against your brother or sister. Our responsibility is to consider our brothers and sisters in Christ above ourselves. If you know this will offend, you can choose not to do it. You do this for their sake and not for yours.

If drinking alcohol becomes a coping mechanism for you

Some people say, “I like to end my day with a glass of wine because it helps me calm down from the day.” The danger in this is alcohol becomes the way you choose to deal with your stressful days or situations. In these moments, drinking can become a dependency, so you must be careful.

If drinking alcohol damages your testimony for Christ

Just as drinking can be a stumbling block, based on the scenario, it could also damage your testimony for Jesus. Sitting in a bar taking tequila shots is probably not good for your testimony. Whenever you are in a social situation, you must consider first how your actions will affect your witness for Jesus. Any negative action that affects your testimony is not worth taking. You may be free to do it, but that does not mean you should.

What Are Some Ways Christians Can Celebrate without Getting Drunk?

In the world, parties and celebrations often include alcohol. For some, there is no party if there is no alcohol. Again, the Bible does not say “don’t drink,” but warns against drunkenness. One main reason is because of the influence alcohol can have on a person. It may cause them to act differently.

If you choose to have alcohol at a celebration, here are two practical suggestions. You should limit the type of alcohol you make available and, if possible, limit the amount people may drink. Unfortunately, the second option is not always possible, so you must weigh whether it is worth having it available.

We know what the Bible says about drunkenness, but when it comes to drinking alcohol of any kind, that decision is personal. Remember, the decision to drink alcohol is not always made in a vacuum. Your decision may affect someone else, so if you choose to drink, then be responsible and remember these words from the Apostle Paul.

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NLT)

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/nixki

Clarence Haynes 1200x1200Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com


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