Surprisingly, the Bible has a lot to say about drinking. And whether you’re a social drinker, a teetotaller or someone struggling with an addiction to alcohol, you’ll find wisdom, encouragement and even humor in the scriptures.
Most of the scriptures that talk about drinking alcohol make a reference to wine. Although there’s been some debate through the years about whether or not the wine of the Bible was fermented, the scriptures laid out here make the issue pretty clear. The wine of the Bible had an effect on people. So we’ll presume the Bible is referring to fermented wine.
So, what does the Bible say about drinking?
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What Does the Bible Say About the Benefits of Drinking Alcohol?
While we often hear about the negative aspects of drinking and the Scriptures referencing drunkenness, there is much to be said in the scriptures about the benefits of drinking. Actually, the Bible is clear about the benefits of drinking alcohol!
Drinking is Enjoyable
Many people enjoy a glass of wine, a beer or a drink of hard liquor. Solomon (the author of Ecclesiastes) was no exception.
In essence, Solomon points out that accumulating wealth for the sake of being rich doesn’t bring much satisfaction. But taking the time to enjoy what God has given us is not only pleasurable but wise.
Good food and drink are gifts to us from a gracious God. How bland life would be without a seasoned meal or cold ice cream! They are gifts to be enjoyed.
Well, one thing, at least, is good: It is for a man to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, accept his position in life, and enjoy his work whatever his job may be, for however long the Lord may let him live.Ecclesiastes 5:18
Drinking has medicinal value
In both the Old and the New Testament the Bible encourages the use of alcohol for medicinal purposes. It’s no secret today that alcohol has healing properties. When my grandparents came down with a cold, they poured a little honey and lemon into a shot of whiskey instead of running to the drugstore.
Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 1Timothy 5:23
In the book of Proverbs wine is suggested for dealing with emotional issues like depression. Even medical doctors are known to prescribe a glass of wine to someone who is anxious or coping with difficult issues.
Hard liquor is for sick men at the brink of death, and wine for those in deep depression. Let them drink to forget their poverty and misery. Proverbs 31:6
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Drinking is a blessing
In the Bible, wine is sometimes seen as a sign of God’s blessing.
God give to you—from the dew of the sky and from the richness of the land—an abundance of grain and new wine. Genesis 27:28
The absence of wine was a sign that God had withdrawn His blessing.
You will sow but not reap; you will press olives but not anoint yourself with oil, and you will tread grapes but not drink the wine. Micah 6:15
Clearly, the Bible points out some benefits of drinking alcohol. But when we ask “What does the Bible say about drinking?’ we can’t stop with the positive aspects. Instead, we must take into account what the Bible says are negative aspects of drinking.
THE BIBLE IS CLEAR ABOUT THE DANGERS OF DRINKING ALCOHOL
Because alcohol affects the mind and body, it is defined as a drug. And because it suppresses the system, it’s considered a depressant. The Bible is clear about how drunkenness is an open invitation for the enemy to come in and tempt us towards sinful thoughts and acts.
Effects on the body
There’s not much argument that alcohol adversely affects the body. Blackouts, behavior changes, slurred speech, addictions, and liver and heart damage are just a few of the effects alcohol can have on the body.
In 2018 an estimated 88,000 people died from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third leading cause of preventable death. Besides that, alcohol is a contributing factor in many cases of physical and sexual assault and alcohol-related traffic accidents.
Wine gives false courage; hard liquor leads to brawls; what fools men are to let it master them, making them reel drunkenly down the street. Proverbs 20:1
Woe to you who get up early in the morning to go on long drinking bouts that last till late at night—woe to you drunken bums. Isaiah 5:11
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has conflicts? Who has complaints? Who has wounds for no reason? Who has red eyes? Those who linger over wine; those who go looking for mixed wine. Don’t gaze at wine because it is red, because it gleams in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end, it bites like a snake and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and you will say absurd things. You’ll be like someone sleeping out at sea or lying down on the top of a ship’s mast. “They struck me, but I feel no pain! They beat me, but I didn’t know it! When will I wake up? I’ll look for another drink.” Proverbs 23:29-35
Effects on the mind.
Since alcohol is a depressant, it suppresses the ability to judge and choose properly. For that reason, the Bible gives a clear warning not to over-use it.
In the temple, priests were prohibited from getting drunk because it was critical for them to be able to “distinguish between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean” (Lev 10:9-10 CSB)
For the same reason, church leaders in the New Testament were required to be people who didn't drink heavily.
Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect, not hypocritical, not drinking a lot of wine, not greedy for money. 1Timothy 3:8
Effects on the spirit.
Even casual use of alcohol can depress self-control, judgment, and a sense of balance. By contrast, the Holy Spirit produces self-control, good judgment, and balance.
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws. Galatians 5:22-23
That’s why we can’t be controlled by alcohol and the Holy Spirit at the same time. We must choose.
And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit: Ephesians 5:18
In summary, when we ask “what does the Bible say about drinking?” there is plenty of instruction.
BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION ABOUT DRINKING
Drinking is good in moderation but dangerous in excess.
According to the Bible, there is nothing inherently wrong with food or drink. In fact, when it comes to drinking the Bible encourages us to do what we think is right.
Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. Colossians 2:16
At the same time, the scriptures call us to be wise in assessing whether or not to drink as well as how much to drink.
Clearly, drunkenness is prohibited.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious….envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:19, 21
For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the Gentiles [unbelievers] choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 1Peter 4:3
Be careful not to cause someone else to stumble.
Sometimes it’s not about whether it's okay to drink. Instead, it’s about whether you're willing not to drink if someone else is offended or confused by it.
According to the Bible, we may choose to drink. But if there’s a chance that someone else may “stumble” because of our choice, then we should choose to refrain.
It is a good thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. Romans 14:21
The scriptures are clear that the welfare of others is more important than whether or not we decide to have a glass of wine. If someone else is offended by our drinking, we should abstain. If someone in our presence is battling an alcohol addiction, the choice should be clear. And if someone else is convicted that the Bible says drinking is wrong, we should yield to them.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
More from our Bible Truths Series:
- What Does the Bible Say About Simple Living
- What Does the Bible Say About Loving Like God
- What does the Bible Say About Procrastination
- What does the Bible Say About True Manhood
A side note to parents.
The Bible is clear that parents are to model biblical behavior for their children.
Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting at home, when you are out walking, at bedtime, and before breakfast! Deuteronomy 11:19
The mandate to parents is to live out the Word of God all day long.
You can tell your kids they don’t need alcohol to be sociable, but do you model that for them?
You can tell them to drink responsibly, but do you do the same? Do you cross the line? Do you say things after a couple of drinks that you wouldn’t say beforehand?
Do you “need” a drink to relax? To cool your anger?
While my daughters were young, I made the decision to abstain from the use of alcohol so I could model for them how to live without it. I wanted them to see for themselves that we could laugh and enjoy life without a beer or a glass of wine. I also wanted to show them that being sociable, handling stress and dealing with anger were things God could help us with.
Although I didn’t take a Nazirite vow (Nazirites in the Bible were prohibited from drinking) I’ve continued to abstain. And even though I don’t believe the scriptures frown on responsible drinking, my decision not to drink was the best decision for me. As a Bible teacher and a staff member of a Christian recovery center I knew I was responsible for not causing someone under my teaching to stumble in their faith simply because I insisted on taking a drink. All that time, God has proven to me that I can enjoy life and handle its difficulties under the power and control of His Spirit.
It would be helpful for everyone to consider “What does the Bible say about drinking?” before making a decision about the use of alcohol. Without a doubt, the scriptures are clear that the use of alcohol can have either beneficial or harmful effects on a person’s life.
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